The statistics about domestic violence or abuse are shocking. One in four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime. Every day in the U.S., three women are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends. (Although these statistics relate to women, men are also victimized in intimate relationships.)
And the violent behavior is often passed on to the next generation. Boys who witness domestic violence are twice as likely to abuse their own partners and children when they become adults when compared to the sons of non-violent parents.
The term domestic violence encompasses a whole range of behaviors. At one end of the continuum is violent and hurtful behavior that may lead to injury and even death, using fists, feet, and weapons such as knives and guns. At the other end are more subtle behaviors whose intent and effect is to dominate and control the intimate partner, such as making disparaging or insulting comments, speaking or acting in a threatening manner, refusing to share access to or information about the family finances, or acting in an isolating or intimidating fashion.
Because these behaviors are often combined with other actions which are experienced as loving and caring, it can be very hard to be objective about what is really happening. In addition, the violent or controlling behaviors may escalate very gradually over time, so that it can be hard to identify a particular point at which they became serious enough to engender real concern.
If you respond “yes” to five or more of these questions, you may be in an abusive relationship:
- In thinking about your partner, would you say he/she is jealous or possessive?
- Does your partner call you names or put you down?
- Does your partner frighten you?
- Does your partner try to provoke arguments?
- Does your partner try to limit your contact with family and friends?
- Does your partner insist on knowing who you are with at all times?
- Does your partner make you feel inadequate?
- Does your partner shout or swear at you?
- Does your partner prevent you from knowing about or having access to the family income even when you ask?
If you may be in an abusive relationship, it is critical that you get professional advice before you give your partner any indication that you may be thinking about leaving the relationship. Research consistently shows that the time of separation is the most dangerous time for a person in an abusive relationship.
During this month of October, which has been designated nationally as Domestic Violence month, please take a moment to consider whether you or a friend may be in an abusive relationship.