Anyone can be abusive and anyone can be the victim of abuse. It happens regardless of gender, age, sexual orientation, race, or economic background. While abusive people often blame their partner to justify their behavior, abuse has nothing to do with the person it’s directed at, and it’s never a result of anything to do with the relationship or a particular situation. Abuse is a personal choice and a strategic behavior used to create the abusive person’s desired power dynamic. Regardless of the circumstances of the relationship or the pasts of either partner, no one ever deserves to be abused.
What is Domestic Violence?
Domestic violence doesn’t look the same in every relationship because every relationship is different. It can happen to couples who are married, living together or who are dating. But one thing most abusive relationships have in common is that the abusive partner does many different kinds of things to have more power and control over their partners. Domestic abuse is the use or the threat of physical, sexual, or verbal behavior to coerce a partner to do something in order to maintain power and control in a relationship.
Domestic abuse is not caused by mental illness, anger management problems, or drug or alcohol abuse. However, these factors can contribute to the escalation of abuse.
Two of three victims of abuse stay in their abusive relationships. And four in five victims of abuse do not report their attacks. Often because:
- She/he has nowhere to go
- She/he can’t afford to leave
- She/he is scared to leave – it can be the most dangerous time for someone in an abusive relationship
What Causes Domestic Violence?
Domestic violence and abuse stems from a desire to gain and maintain power and control over an intimate partner. Abusive people believe they have the right to control and restrict their partner, and they may enjoy the feeling that exerting power gives them. They often believe that their own feelings and needs should be the priority in the relationship, so they use abusive tactics to dismantle equality and make their partner feel less valuable and deserving of respect in the relationship.
No matter why it happens, abuse is not okay and it’s never justified.
Abuse is a learned behavior. Sometimes people see it in their own families. Other times they learn it from friends or popular culture. However, abuse is a choice, and it’s not one that anyone has to make. Many people who experience or witness abuse growing up decide not to use those negative and hurtful ways of behaving in their own relationships. While outside forces such as drug or alcohol addiction can sometimes escalate abuse, it’s most important to recognize that these issues do not cause abuse.
Warning Signs of an Abusive Relationship
- Is your partner jealous of the time you spend with friends, family or co-workers?
- Does your partner forbid or limit your time spent with friends, family or co-workers?
- Does your partner constantly criticize and belittle things that you do or say?
- Does your partner say cruel and hurtful things to you, or make fun of you in front of others?
- Is your partner cruel to animals and/or people, and does he/she seem to enjoy or be insensitive to their emotional or physical pain and suffering?
- Does your partner tell you how to spend your money or control the amount of money you have?
- Does your partner interfere with your ability to be at work on time or at all and/or harass you at work?
- Are you sometimes afraid of your partner and what he/she might do?
- Does your partner break objects, throw objects at you or your children, or damage property?
- Does your partner threaten to harm you, your children, family or friends?
- Does your partner cause you or your children physical pain and/or injury?
- Does your partner use force, hold or throw you down or demand sex regardless of how you feel?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may be in an abusive relationship or at risk of becoming involved in an abusive relationship.
Call Alexandra House for safe and confidential services, 24 Hour Help/TTY Line: 763-780-2330
To be connected to your local domestic violence service agency, call the Minnesota Domestic Violence Crisis Line at 1-866-223-1111.
How to Help
There are many ways to help a loved one, co-worker, neighbor or friend experiencing abuse. Your support will be a critical part of a victim’s path to safety and will help create a violence-free society for all. Below are 11 steps you could take to helping someone in your life.
Call for Help
If you hear a disturbance, and you suspect it may be domestic violence, have the courage to call the police.
Be available to a friend, relative or neighbor when he or she needs you to listen or needs someone in whom to confide. Be patient and supportive of his or her decisions, even if you do not agree with them. The victim knows their situation best.
Believe the Story
Domestic violence is often shocking, but a victim needs someone to believe what she/he is telling them.
Be prepared to offer choices a victim can use now or later, whichever is the best time for her/him. Know where else she/he can turn for help. A good option is to share your local crisis line number. Alexandra House advocates are available 24-hours a day at 763-780-2330.
Offer validating and supportive phrases such as “You’re a good parent,” and “Your creativity/thoughtfulness/humor is such a great quality”. Make sure your friend knows how much and why you consider her/him so valuable.
Victims have shared that even little things like watching the children for a couple of hours, or bringing over a casserole or dessert for the family can make them feel supported.
Be a Mentor
Even if it’s just listening to everyday stories of school or playing games, such connections are important to children who often need a healthy role model or mentor.
Know the dynamics of domestic violence and how larger social forces, such as sexism, homophobia, and gender inequalities lead to domestic violence. Understand that gender-based violence can happen in any relationship.
Help raise funds and awareness. Volunteer your time at shelters, donate to domestic violence programs in your area, attend rallies and encourage others to do so. CLICK HERE to learn more about how you can support Alexandra House.
If you think a friend, family member, or other loved one is abusing his or her partner, don’t look the other way. If you’re not sure what to say, consult a counselor or domestic violence professional to help create a strategy.
Demonstrate non-violence and encourage others to do so, especially young boys. Avoid sexist magazines, music, movies, and other media. Don’t tolerate violent behavior of any kind in others and encourage equality whenever possible.
*Portions of this list are based on “Ten Things Men Can do to Prevent Gender Violence,” by Jackson Katz (www.jacksonkatz.com/wmcd.html).
The National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or www.thehotline.org
Alexandra House: 763-780-2330 or 1-888-780-2330
Minnesota Domestic Violence Crisis Line: 1-866-223-1111