Guest Blog By Jordan A. Madison, LGMFT
I always say that October is the best month of the year. Maybe I’m biased because it’s my birthday month. But I mean, who doesn’t love October? The leaves begin to change colors, you can start to bring out your fall fits, it’s Homecoming Season, and Halloween, so the holiday season officially begins!
But what is not talked about as much is that October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. When you hear domestic violence, I’m sure the first thing that comes to mind is physical violence. Partners fighting, or hurting one another, police being called, hospitalizations, and extreme scenarios that you hear on the news. But there are other types of abuse in relationships besides violence. Abuse can be experienced physically, sexually, emotionally, and even financially.
Physical abuse is typically the most talked about. Most likely because it is the most visible. Physical abuse can be any physical harm such as, hitting, punching, grabbing, slapping, kicking, choking, physical restraint, or even threatening violence. Physical violence can also be using objects or weapons to harm one another.
On the other hand, emotional abuse is more difficult to recognize, because it cannot always be seen. Emotional abuse appears as controlling behavior, threats and extreme jealousy. Some examples of emotional abuse include yelling, cursing, name-calling, humiliating, and blaming partner for abusive behavior. Partners that cannot take accountability for their own actions, and manipulate their partner into questioning their own beliefs or sanity can be considered emotionally abusive as well. Threatening to commit suicide if they were to leave or controlling what they do, and where they go is also manipulative, and emotionally abusive behavior.
Sexual abuse is defined as any unwanted sexual acts, forcing pregnancy, or forcing to terminate pregnancy. Unwanted sexual acts can consist of rape, as well as unwanted sexual comments, touching, kissing, or even coercion into sexual acts. Other examples of sexual abuse that may be surprising could be preventing access to, refusing to use, or damaging contraception, or purposely transmitting an STI. The last type of abuse that I want to get into is financial abuse. This occurs when a partner uses finances to control the other partner. Some examples can be withholding money from them for necessities, preventing them from going to work or school, or stealing their money.
Though these are all different types of abuse, the common thread among them all is control. The abuser aims to assert control over their partner, to make themselves feel better, or to ensure their partner doesn’t leave. Regardless of the type of abuse, there is often a common cycle that occurs.
First comes the abusive incident, whether it be verbally, physically, sexually, or financially. Then comes the honeymoon phase, where the abuser apologizes, shows remorse, asks for forgiveness, and showers their partner with love and affection. After a while, things calm down, but then eventually the tension begins to build again. The abuser may begin to get irritated or easily frustrated, their partner may feel as if they are walking on eggshells or waiting for the other shoe to drop. Then comes the next abusive incident, followed by the honeymoon phase, and the cycle continues.
So now that I’ve gone into the definitions and examples of abuse, you may be wondering now what? How will I know if someone I love is experiencing abuse? Or if anything I stated above sounds like your relationship, you may be wondering what you can do to get help.
The first tell tale sign that someone is being abused, is if they are isolating from their family and friends, only spending time with their partner. Another tell-tale sign can be covering up bruises or scars on their body with extra clothes or make-up. Some other warning signs include the partner displaying controlling behavior, like trying to control what they wear, who they are with, and/or what they do. If one person feels like they constantly have to walk on eggshells with their significant other, or their significant other never takes accountability, and blames them making them question their sanity, those can be signs of abuse as well.
So what can someone do if they are in an abusive relationship? Of course, the first thought is “well why don’t you just leave?” But that is much easier said than done, especially since manipulation is a key component of abusive relationships.
The person being abused may be fearful for their life if they leave, or have low self esteem and don’t think they can get anyone better. Not to mention, there may be children involved or they may be unable to sustain their lifestyle without a partner. The most complex part, is that they may not want to leave. They most likely still love their partner, may make excuses for their behavior, and remain hopeful that their relationship can go back to the honeymoon phase.
If you are experiencing abuse, you can reach out to someone you know and trust and let them know what is going on. You can also call the Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE). There is also the National Sexual Assault Hotline 1-800-656-4673 (HOPE). I would also suggest seeking therapeutic services, so you can have a space to be with someone unbiased, objective, supportive, and validating of your experiences.
The most important thing for friends/family of those suffering to do, is be nonjudgmental. Be as supportive as possible, as they are already going through enough. If you have the means to provide them with another place to stay, or a way to escape that can be helpful as well.
Jordan Madison is a Licensed Coupe and Family Therapist, as well as a certified PREPARE/ENRICH facilitator for premarital counseling. Stay updated with her via her holistic instagram page Perfectly Imbalanced for affirmations, self-love, tips on self-care, relationship distress, and community resources.