Sometimes we can’t see what is right in front of us. Sometimes, we are so conditioned to what we experience that the alternative seems…odd. But, something inside us knows that what we are living through isn’t normal.
I’m talking about intimate partner violence.
We’ve all seen the Lifetime movies and Law & Order: SVU episodes depicting a violent, drunken rage in which one partner (usually a woman) is cowering in a corner and the other (usually a man) standing over her ready to strike. But, this is not the litmus test for what constitutes intimate partner violence.
One of every three women (1 in 4 men) will be survivors of domestic violence. That means 30% of you reading this either have or will experience some facet of intimate partner violence in your lifetime. Domestic violence is not limited to sustaining serious injury at the hand of your partner. It also manifests as controlling behavior in how you spend money, who you spend time with, who you talk to and hang out with, how you dress, and what you do. Abusive partners use tactics like intimidation, stalking, threats, isolation, sex, and even children to keep you under his or her control. Domestic violence is always about power and control. Not love, not concern, not stability. Power and control.
I’ve heard my share of intelligent folks justify abusive behavior because it doesn’t look like a Lifetime movie. Bottom line: if you fear your partner, it’s time to find out why. Ask yourself:
Does my partner:
- Make me feel uncomfortable or afraid?
- Often put me down, humiliate me, or make me feel worthless?
- Constantly check up on what I’m doing or where I am going?
- Limit who I can spend time with (family, friends, work, etc)?
- Make me feel afraid to disagree or say ‘no’ to them?
- Constantly accuse me of flirting with others when this isn’t true?
- Tell me how the household finances should be spent, or stop me having any money for myself?
- Keep me from getting medical assistance? (this includes birth control)
- Scare or hurt me by being violent (like hitting, choking, smashing things, locking me in, driving dangerously to frighten me)
- Pressure or force me to do sexual things that I don’t want to do?
- Threaten to hurt me, themselves or my children if I say I want to end the relationship?
- Threaten to take my children, money, housing or damage my reputation if I leave?
Do you find yourself:
- Making excuses or covering for your partner’s behavior?
- Feeling like you have to manage your partner’s image to others?
- When thinking about your partner’s behavior, saying things like:
- They were just drunk
- I shouldn’t have made them mad– it’s my fault
- They just have a bad temper
- They’re just under a lot of stress lately
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, it may be time to evaluate your (and your children’s) safety and well-being. In Cedar Rapids, Waypoint is our local domestic violence support agency. Reach out to them or a trusted friend.
Intimate partner violence is non-discriminatory. There is no “typical victim” or “typical abuser”. I’ve learned that the hard way. There is zero shame in surviving intimate partner violence and a million reasons why a victim may not be willing or able to leave.
As women, our best advocates are one another. If you are concerned that someone you love is experiencing intimate partner violence, the best thing you can do is offer nonjudgemental support and opportunities for safety.
We’re all in this together, mamas.
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