Regardless of the pain an abusive relationship causes, admitting its reality hurts emotionally. Some define domestic violence simply as the physical, sexual or emotional mistreatment of a woman by her husband, ex-husband, boyfriend, lover or companion. Domestic violence, spouse abuse, battered women, family violence and domestic disputes are all phrases used to describe the mistreatment of a woman by a man with whom she lives or has lived. Domestic violence can be considered a pattern of living. It is a pattern in which one member of a household uses violence and emotional abuse to gain control and dominance over the other members.
Violence is one method a male uses to keep a woman under his total control. To survive, she makes adjustments to this dominance. Resentment, hurt, anger, physical and emotional pain, low self-esteem and ruined lives accompany these adjustments. Abuse is a means for a single individual to consolidate and maintain power within the family or a relationship.
Abusive relationships take many forms and are not limited to physical abuse. In reality, there are no “pure” forms of abuse. Although we can identify and describe physical, sexual, emotional and spiritual abuse and neglect, it is our belief that abused women are always subjected to a combination of these. For example, all physical abuse involves emotional abuse. One may recover from the physical impact of being hit but, as with Cathy, the unanswered question “Why?” has lasting, emotional impact.
Abused women‘s case histories disclose several types of violence used against them. We see these repeated in case after case:
• Using weapons against them
• Beating, throwing them down
• Twisting arms, tripping, biting
• Pushing, shoving, hitting
• Pulling hair, slapping, choking
• Punching, kicking, grabbing However, as we mentioned earlier, physical abuse is only one form of abuse against women. It is the one most apparent to others because of the noticeable physical consequences. Some of the not-so-apparent forms of abuse include:
• Alcohol/drug addiction
• Economic deprivation
• Emotional Manipulation
• Using the children
• Using male privilege
• Sexual abuse
• Rejection Just as we know the types of abuse women experience, we also know their typical emotional reactions to the abuse. These are some of the feelings abused women experience:
• Impaired trust
Do any items on these lists ring a bell for you? Do you wonder if you are in an abusive relationship, or do you believe that your relationship is “just different”? Often an abused woman does not accept that she is abused and will contend that what has happened to her is not abuse. She makes excuses for his behavior and hers. Abuse cannot be rationalized or denied away. It can be hidden; it can be painfully endured; but it cannot be denied away. On the other hand, there are many women who know they are abused but haven‘t succeeded in stopping it. Either way, help is needed.
Once again, if you think you may be in an abusive relationship, ask yourself these questions:
• Have I been hit?
• Am I losing confidence in my relationship?
• Is sex forced upon me against my will?
• Do I wish that he would drink less?
• Do I feel different from other people?
• Is my relationship unhealthy?
• Do I feel powerless and victimized?
• Are my children showing signs of the family turmoil?
• Do I feel that there is something wrong with me inside?
• Do I have a hard time taking care of myself, even though I care for others?
• Do I find it difficult to trust people?
• Do I feel lonely and isolated?
• Do I argue a lot about drinking?
• Do I feel used?
• Am I worried about my children‘s safety?
• Am I satisfied with my family relationships?
• Am I afraid to say “No” to his requests?
The more questions you answered “Yes” to, the more abusive your relationship is becoming.