What is an abusive relationship?
Let's start with the word "abuse". Abuse is when one person tries to control another person in a non-consensual way. It is difficult to define because there are many kinds of abuse.
Abuse can be physical (hitting, kicking, punching, choking, slapping), or emotional (teasing, name-calling, public humiliation, threats of physical violence, isolation from friends and family, jealousy and possessiveness).
Research shows that the cycle of abuse begins with minor and infrequent occurrences. If there is no intervention, the power of the victimizer increases. This can lead to increased frequency and degree of violence. Abusive incidences begin with minor and infrequent occurrences, and if those are successful, they become more frequent and more intense. It is about control and power. Emotional abuse erodes your self esteem, your sense of worth, and if it continues you will start to believe that it is your own fault and you deserve it.
The third kind of abuse in a relationship is sexual abuse. Many people think that if you are in a relationship with someone, or if you are married, then sexual abuse isn't assault. This isn't the case. Any non-consensual, forced sexual contact from a partner is assault.
A fourth type of abuse is economic abuse. It is controlling, exploiting or limiting another person's access to financial resources, misuse of another's funds, cheating or stealing from a family member. This is often how the elderly are abused. Are Women the only people that are abused? NO – there is a growing number of men that are abused by their partners! Whereas a woman can fight back, a man cannot. There are laws in place that prevent a man from any kind of retaliation – they will be charged. Many women use this to abuse their men – they know that the man cannot fight back, or hurt them, or they will be charged with beating a woman. The only recourse for the man is to leave as quickly as possible, and to get help immediately.
Let's now discuss the second word in the title of this article – "relationship". The relationship would complicate matters, because it may be someone that you trust, and they can gain quite a bit of control over you, over a length of time. It could be a relationship with a parent, spouse, boy/girlfriend, in-laws, siblings, peers or friends, your boss or co-worker, or your own children (the aged are abused by their own children in many cases). Let's focus on your relationship with a partner.
What are some signs of an abusive relationship?
- Does your partner: - Make you account for your time away from him/her?
- Consistently ridicule or insult you?
- Become extremely jealous if you talk to other people or go out with friends without him/her?
- Threaten to hurt you or him/herself if you break up with them?
- Kick, slap, punch, hit or shove you?
- Force you to touch or have sex with him/her?
- Blame you for provoking his/her violent behavior?
If you can answer yes to any of the above, you are in an abusive relationship – get some help. If your partner comes from an abusive family, they themselves could be abusive – counselling is highly recommended. Abuse doesn't go away on it's own, and you don't deserve it!
Some Facts About Violence in Relationships
It is difficult to acquire accurate stats – there are many reasons why they would not be A person who is being abused may be reluctant - or unable - to talk about or report abuse for many different reasons. For example, they may be emotionally attached to the abusive partner or have strong beliefs about keeping their relationship or family together. They may fear that the abuser will retaliate (against them or their loved ones) or they may fear being stigmatized by others. They may be economically dependent on the abusive partner. They may live in an isolated area, or be socially isolated from others. They may face communications, language or cultural barriers. They may feel ashamed or powerless and lack access to information, resources and support.
- Violence and abuse in teen dating relationships is much more common than most people would like to admit. The startling facts are that 1 in 10 high school students will experience physical violence from a partner and many more will suffer psychological abuse.
- Of women between the ages of 15-19 murdered each year in the U.S., 30% are killed by their husband or boyfriend.
- 26% of all female murder victims in 1995 were killed by their partners.
- 40% of teenage girls age 14-17 report knowing someone their age who has been hit or beaten by a boyfriend.
- In 1998 in the U.S. approximately 1,800 murders were attributed to intimates; nearly 75% of these had a female victim.
- An excellent website that explains the problem of spousal abuse, and the laws that the Canadian government have in place, and are working on, is: Spousal Abuse: A fact sheet from the Department of Justice Canada
Where can I get help?
Help for men that are abused:
Intimate Partner Abuse Against Men – Public Health Agency of Canada
Where Do I Go From Here?
Take precautions not to leave yourself vulnerable! When an abusive partner is aware that you are seeking help, their violence will escalate. Make some wise choices here – protect yourself and your children! If you have to leave your household, there are some precautions that you need to be aware of.
- Keep emergency numbers with you
- Be ready to leave quickly (e.g. cash, documents, keys)
- Make a plan for your children's safety
- Change travel routes and routines
- Let people know you are not feeling safe
Call a shelter for more safety advice.
How Can I Put My Life Back Together?
See our next article about Getting Back On Track
Sign up for Self Defense Lessons! It will give you some skills, and confidence that you can handle yourself in a confrontational situation.
Sensei Trudy Fossey
6th Degree Black Belt
Karate at Hillhurst