A recent issue of seventeen Magazine highlighted an important- and growing- issue that young women are facing with alarming frequency; relationship violence. Chances are, you or a close friend of yours have been in a relationship with a partner where the power imbalance has been way off: from controlling how often you text, to fat shaming or even threatening or acting out physical abuse.
The reality is, relationship violence can happen at any age, within hetero- or homosexual relationships, to boys or girls. While the overwhelming majority of the time it happens to women from a male partner, it is important to recognize that an oppressive imbalance of power between partners- or outright abuse- can occur between anyone. Relationship violence, at times, can even occur between those who are just friends.
The phrase “domestic violence” is typically used to refer to abuse in a marriage or between those who live together. “Relationship violence,” or “partner violence,” however, is just as prevalent- and can be just as deadly. As the young woman in the seventeen Magazine article stated, for many reasons, she didn’t even realize she was in a dangerous relationship until she got out. It is important to recognize the signals early, and evaluate your relationship often, for signs of physical danger or emotional manipulation. Often, survivors of even the worst physical violence will attest that the emotional abuse was far more painful than the bruises left behind.
If you are worried that you or a friend might be in an abusive relationship, it’s time to talk to a parent, a guidance counselor or an adult you trust. Together, you can work out a plan that you feel safe with; and ideally, you can also seek professional help for the abusive partner before he or she spirals out of control or continues to hurt others.
Please note that it is NOT your responsibility- or even your ability- to “save” or help an abusive partner. You did nothing to cause it. It is important to take care of yourself; those who are abusive need professional help. The longer you stay and try to “change” the actions of a violent partner and enable his or her bad behavior, the abuse is likely to escalate.
Warning Signs of an Abusive Relationship:
-Your partner frequently makes you feel bad about yourself with comments about your appearance or personality.
-Your partner constantly makes you check in with him as to your location and who you are hanging out with, acting angry or hurt if you don’t check in or hang out with people he approves of.
-Your partner frequently embarrasses you in front of others by putting you down or sharing your personal or intimate details.
-Your partner talks down or insults the people you care about, increasingly trying to alienate you from friends and family members.
-You never know what “triggers” an emotional outburst from your partner; you often fear saying the wrong thing in case an argument ensues.
-Your partner repeatedly pressures you to engage in sexual behavior that makes you feel uncomfortable, and acts angry or hurt when you say no.
-Your partner frequently lashes out at you and quickly apologizes or wins you back over with grand gestures, often citing excuses for his bad behavior.
-Your partner flirts with others or cheats on you with other people, but will not allow the same behavior from you.
-Your partner threatens to, or actually applies, physical pressure on you if he is angry; holding you down, grabbing your arms or neck, biting, punching or kicking you.
If any of these warning signs are familiar to your relationship or the intimate relationship of someone you know, understand that you are not alone, and you can get help for both you and the person you care about. People who are abusive are often not “bad people,” but they DO need professional help from a counselor or therapist, and there is nothing you can do for your abuser by staying in a relationship or keeping it a secret.
Has there ever been a time in your life where you felt threatened or pressured by a boyfriend or partner? How did you get out of the situation? Let us know in the comments section.
For resources and more information on dating violence and abusive relationships, visit loveisrespect.org.