Diving deeper into Domestic Violence

October has ended but one of the least talked about social issues has not. The month of October was National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. While it is an unfortunate subject to be able to relate to other women on, it is something that myself and 1.2 million other women experienced in the year ending in March 2017.

Domestic Violence, also known as intimate partner violence, domestic abuse, or relationship abuse is a pattern of behaviors used by one partner to maintain power and control over another partner in an intimate relationship.

  • Domestic violence can be physical or psychological; it affects millions, both women and men, of every race, religion, culture and status.

  • It’s not only punches and black eyes, it can be yelling, humiliation, stalking, manipulation, coercion, threats, and isolation.

  • Nearly 3 out of 4 Americans know someone who is or has been a victim of domestic violence.

When I first started ManEater, one of my biggest motivations was witnessing a girl I was close to in college ask to borrow my sunglasses to cover the black eye her boyfriend and one of our school’s beloved football players had given her. This was a small college town and people talked, yet nobody, including coaches and authority did a thing to punish or teach the young man that what he had done was wrong.

When I sat up late one night last summer after getting off the phone with my then abusive boyfriend. I found myself looking up what abuse was and searching further into what emotional abuse was. There, looking at all the facts and other peoples stories I became the girl I never thought I would be. I was embarrassed and ashamed at first, I didn’t tell my parents and I could hardly tell my friends. But eventually I got up the courage to open up about the truth. And I discovered a whole new path and reason to empowering women to have a voice and use their voice. I didn’t want another woman to feel how I was feeling in that very moment and the previous moments of abuse that lead up to it. I sent my current abuser the articles I read, I have no idea if he read them but if he did I know there was no way he wouldn’t be able to recognize some of the abusive traits he possessed in our relationship and the toxic patterns that were taking place between us. In a lot of emotional abuse cases, the abuser doesn’t even know they are being abusive. At the time that this took place I thought that maybe he didn’t know he was abusive and that by sending him this article he would recognize his faults and magically change his ways. It didn’t work out the way I thought but the way God and the universe intended was for us to go our separate ways. Once you are out from under your abuser and exit the dark hole of wishing your abuser would turn back into the prince charming he was at the beginning of your relationship your life opens up again, and there is this whole new world, and a whole new you to rediscover.

  • 4 in 10 women and men have experienced at least one form of coercive control by and intimate partner in their lifetime.

  • 17.9% of women have experienced a situation where an intimate partner tried to keep them from seeing family and friends.

  • 18.7% of women have experienced threats of physical harm by an intimate partner.

  • Women who earn 65% or more of their household’s income are more likely to be psychologically abused than women who ear less than 65% of their households income.

The hardest question I ever had to answer came from my mom. After unveiling the truth behind my relationship to her and opening up about how bad it really had become she asked me this, “Why did you allow someone to continue to treat you badly?” And for a while this question triggered me into frustration. Because when you’re being abused in your relationship or by someone you love it is a rollercoaster that seems impossible to get off of and let go. It consists of lows and highs. One moment you’re on the breach of breaking up and the next you’re pulled back in and promised of being treated right and getting back to how the relationship used to be (before the abuser revealed his colors). So when it comes down to actually answering the question my answer is simple now, I loved him more than I loved myself at that time. After one high school boyfriend, I hadn’t exactly picked the best guys in college that were looking to settle down and date, and after college I talked to a few guys but nothing serious. When I moved to the city of Los Angeles I was alone. Eventually one of my friends moved out there with me and about three months into living in LA I met what I thought at the time was my “soul mate” and “love of my life” who would eventually turn into my abuser. What I think was so special to me about him, outside of our first initial spark was that he wanted to take me out, he wanted to show me off, he wanted me to meet his mother and he wanted to meet mine. It was what I always wanted in college except it was all coming so natural instead of the typical guy I went for in college where these things would have been a push. I thought we were going to spend our lives together, not because I just concocted this dream in my head. We discussed it together. We talked about our kids, marriage, and growing old. His mother even joked about us running off to Vegas and getting hitched.

The abuse started light, to the point where I was actually flattered that he cared so much (aka I didn’t realize this was his way of initializing control over me). It was the topic of what I was wearing. The first time happened very early in our relationship; I remember the sheer fabric, long sleeve pink wrap shirt. It showed the slight outline of my nipple and I remember him having a cow over the idea of me not wearing a bra with it. And if you know me, you know I don’t really wear bras. We were going to a party and he told me he’d be upset if I wore it. Well, I wore it and he was upset. We got into a fight at the party. This wouldn’t be the last time he would get upset over my outfits, to the point that eventually I felt that I couldn’t really dress how I wanted without being in fear that I would upset him.

How is a man controlling what his girlfriend should wear abusive?

*Well he is taking away your ability to make a personal choice without the fear of confrontation or upsetting your significant other. It seems cute at the time when he tells you its because he doesn’t want others looking at what is his but its actually his way of controlling you and closing his insecurity.

Since birth society has basically groomed us into thinking men own women’s bodies, and that women dress for their man or men in general. Now, I realize that the way I dress is a little outside of the norm, especially now that I am single and free of my abuser you definitely see me in more sheer shirts than covered and this could stir the more conservative mans opinion. If you are experiencing this in your relationship or maybe you sense he is a jealous, you need to explain to him why it is important for you to wear what you want to wear and why it’s important that he understands this. No, you don’t want your partner feeling uncomfortable, but you do not want to be less of yourself. So get down to the root of your feelings, and get down to the root of his and find a way to compromise. I get that Becky down the street is more comfortable in collared button ups, but I’m more comfortable half naked. There isn’t anything wrong with either side, as long as you are happy.

My biggest question to someone having trouble leaving an emotionally abusive relationship is do you value yourself, because you don’t right now. Allowing this person to break down the best parts of you because of their insecurities. Why would you want to lower yourself to fit someone else’s standards? You think you need them, but once you are free you will realize all the parts of yourself that were missing. You will realize how you were not valuing yourself and set a completely new standard of what you expect out of a significant other. And last but not least, why would you want to be with someone that makes you act out of character? There were times, when he hadn’t come home. He would go out with his friends and 4am would roll around and I wouldn’t be able to get a hold of him. One time his friend picked up and said “Oh he’s asleep”, not a big deal right? Well when you’re in a relationship filled with insecurities, trust issues and disrespect it was a big deal. I recall myself trashing my apartment in rage. Throwing things across the room screaming and yelling in rage with tears running down my face. It was a complete out of body experience, one I don’t care to ever experience again. I am not an angry person, but at that time and in those times I was. Ask my friends and they would tell you I’m not a violent, I don’t yell much or try and pick fights. And I know that if I ever came across someone that ever made me act this way again I would run in the complete opposite direction. I think it’s very important to realize that if someone is bringing out character traits within yourself that you don’t recognize or like, then this person probably doesn’t belong in your life.

Here are some red flags that point to abuse:

  1. Your partner critiques or attempts to manipulate and control you.

  2. Shaming and blaming with hostile sarcasm or outright verbal assault.

  3. The use of shaming and belittling language.

  4. Verbal abuse, name calling.

  5. Withholding affection as punishment.

  6. Punishment and threats.

  7. Refusal to accept their part in the dynamic.

  8. Mind games, like gas lighting.

  9. Refusing to communicate at all.

  10. Isolating you from friends, meeting new people, and family.

Emotional abuse is similar to physical abuse in that once a victim figures out what’s going on and starts thinking about leaving or seriously calls the abuser on their actions, the abuser will all of the sudden become extremely apologetic and romantic to try and suck their partner back in. If successful the relationship will seem good again and once the victim begins to trust their partner the same abusive patterns will start up. Emotional abuse is different from physical abuse because there is normally no evidence; with physical abuse you often are able to see evidence on the victim or in the victims home.

  • On average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. During one year, this equates to more than 10 million women and men.

  • 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have been victims of some form of physical violence by an intimate partner within their lifetime.

  • Women between the ages of 19-24 are most commonly abused by an intimate partner.

  • 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men in the US have been raped in their lifetime.

-Almost half of female (46.7%) and male (44.9%) victims of rape in the United States were raped by an acquaintance. Of these 45.4% of female rape victims and 29% of male rape victims were raped by an intimate partner.

The best way to end Domestic Abuse? Talk about it. The more we inform our peers and educate people about Domestic Abuse the more awareness the issue will have. Helping children that have been exposed to abuse and violence by their parents. Infiltrating an educational program at schools, high school and college to give kids the tools and knowledge to differentiate between healthy and unhealthy relationships. And last, listening. Sometimes victims of abuse just need someone to listen without judgement and help lead them to the path of exiting their toxic relationship.

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