Abusers may request that they go through your phone or listen in on your calls because they, ”just care, ya know?” They will constantly text if you are out and demand to know everywhere you are going and enforce a curfew or show up where you are. In many cases, they may make the victim move to isolate them further. Isolation from family and friends means fewer questions and more control over a victim’s mind.
One of the most overlooked forms of physical violence is sexual violence in a long-term relationship. Many people think that if someone is their partner or spouse, then sexual exploitation or rape isn’t possible or that no one would believe them. Whether a partner forces you to send vulnerable pictures, makes you dress in a provocative way, or requires you to do sexual acts that you aren’t enthusiastically consenting to doing, all are forms of sexual abuse. Consent is mandatory no matter your relationship status. Plus, as of 1993, marital rape is illegal in every state.
What to Do If Someone You Love Reaches Out About Abuse
If you or someone you love is experiencing any of the above, know that getting help is vital. Do not ask yourself or your loved one if they have been hit. Hitting is one small part of the domestic violence picture. Tell them that if they feel scared for any reason at any time that you will support them getting help and that there are many resources available.
A few years ago, I was on a plane and sitting near a woman who suddenly burst into tears when we were de-boarding. I walked up to her and asked if she was OK. She said that she was coming home to pick up her grandchildren who would now be living with her. Her daughter was married to a very accomplished man and lived in an affluent community, and she and her husband had three children together. The woman knew that her son-in-law could be emotionally cruel and that her daughter complained that they fought a lot. But when asked, she said he never hit her so the mother thought everything would be OK. Then one night he shot his wife and himself; the violence went straight from emotional abuse to homicide.
I have sat and listened to death reviews of domestic violence cases. Over and over we hear how there were no calls to the police, no signs of physical abuse, how the surviving family members only heard about emotional abuse. My point is that domestic violence is dangerous, whether it involves physical abuse or not.
So, what can you do? First of all, get support. Couples' therapy only works if the other person wants to change. This is usually most effective for unhealthy relationships, ones that involve struggles with communication styles, disagreements about balancing expenses, or different emotional needs. It rarely works where abuse is present. Above all, focus on getting help for yourself. See a therapist who works with survivors, go to a support group, and talk to advocates who can help you make a plan to leave.
If you have a person in your life who is dealing with an abusive relationship, support them. Abuse is a cycle; they will go through hell and then into a honeymoon phase where it looks like everything will be OK. It won’t. Do not ask them to simply leave or blame them for feeling conflicted. Leaving an abusive relationship is incredibly difficult and complex. It often takes victims a number of tries before they leave for good. Tell them that you love them and that you understand how hard this is.
Many victims and abusers come from homes where abuse and violence were present. We often tell ourselves that what we are experiencing is “normal” and just the way relationships are. This isn’t true. Everyone deserves better than to live in fear. You deserve to feel physically and emotionally safe, to not fear disagreements, and to not walk on eggshells trying to guess how to not upset your partner again. Life and love are meant to be lived freely and openly, without fear or trepidation. Demand this for yourself and you will start changing the standard for future generations at the same time.