Domestic abuse seems to be on the rise in these times, both reported and unreported. The reality is that it can happen to anyone. Often people overlook domestic violence and abuse for many different reasons, ranging from it not being any of their business to not truly realizing the signs that abuse is taking place. Not only does the abuse tend to get overlooked; the victims of abuse also tend to deny that it is going on, justify the actions, and dismiss it. With the rising incidents of reported and unreported domestic abuse, it is important to break down many of the misconceptions surrounding the topic.
Domestic violence is not just physical
If you were to ask the first 100 people you encounter what domestic abuse is,the first thing they most likely will say is that it is assaulting someone, or beating someone up. People automatically assume that domestic abuse is merely physical. The truth is that domestic abuse can come in many different forms outside of physical assault.
Assault is just one of the more common forms that tends to be reported or publicized in the media. I break down many of the different types of domestic abuse down in my book “Stop Saying Yes to Mr. No Good”, a self help guide that assists individuals with identifying signs of toxic men and effectively breaking the cycle of engaging in unhealthy relationships.
Different forms of abuse (outside of assault) can include mental, sexual, financial, and verbal. One of the most common forms of abuse is control. A controlling partner can go undetected in early stages, because often their jealous mannerisms and need to be involved in their partner’s every move is something that some people find cute in the beginning. There are many people who equate jealousy and controlling ways with greater interest or love, and they don’t realize those traits can spiral into something much worse until the more severe case actually arrives.
Sexual abuse in relationships is another form of domestic abuse that doesn’t get talked about as much. It may seem hard to believe, but there are people that get raped by their partners/spouses. This goes unreported often because the victims usually don’t understand that this is classified as abuse, and often they’re too embarrassed to report it.
Financial abuse is another form of control and abuse in relationships. A partner may try to control your whereabouts and your day to day decisions by restricting the household money, or just your money in general. Other examples of this abuse is holding financial issues over your head to manipulate you to do things your partner demands, constantly stealing money ,or demanding money from you in exchange for affection,attention, and/or respect.
Domestic abuse does not only come from alcoholics or drug abusers
Another misconception is that abuse only happens in homes where a partner struggles with drinking or drug problems. While it may be true that many of the incidents reported involve those issues, the truth is that not every alcoholic or drug user is abusive, and not every sober individual has an abuse-free background.
Other factors that contribute to domestic abuse are sometimes situational, while other abusers grew up seeing family members abuse their own partners, giving the impression that abuse equals love. Some abusers just don’t possess the coping mechanisms to control their anger. These things don’t make abuse okay, but understanding reasoning behind an abuser’s actions is one of the steps professsionals take in helping to change the behavior.
Domestic abuse is not just a man’s thing
Another big misconception is that only males tend to be abusers. While female abusers aren’t reported or incarcerated as much, there are many cases of both reported and unreported violence involving female aggressors.
More and more we are seeing videos and hearing stories of women that are using weapons against their partners, gathering with other women to fight, and just being abusive on an ongoing basis. Many of us may personally know women that engage in abusive behavior often, but it is never reported. This is not just because people tend to turn their heads and mind their own business. It also goes unreported due to men feeling that law enforcement may not take them being a victim seriously, or they may be too embarrassed to admit they were hurt by a woman.
Domestic abuse also includes women that sexually assault their partners, both in heterosexual and lesbian relationships/marriages.Domestic abuse can also involve children abusing other children in the household, or children abusing their parents.
Domestic abuse victims only stay out of fear
While it may seem that victims of abuse tend to remain in dangerous, unhealthy relationships out of fear that things will worsen if they leave, there are some victims that stay because they are blinded by the love they have for the abuser. This is where dismissing and justifying abuse comes into play, because some abusers often feel that their abuser is doing those hurtful things because they love and want the best for them, or that this is just how love works. You also have abusers that blame themselves and feel that things would change or the abuse would stop if they would improve their behavior.
Domestic abuse victims have noticeable injuries
Movies and abuse survivor stories you may come across would have you thinking that every person that is being abused is walking around with black eyes, broken limbs, and visible injury. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Abuse is not just physical, but even when it is, injuries are not always obvious. Everyone that has been assaulted is not black and blue, and some may not even have a scratch on them.
This can be for many reasons. The victim may be skilled at disguising injuries, or may just distance themselves until the injuries heal. The abuser may be hitting the victim deliberately in a way that marks won’t show up, and the abuse won’t be detected. Sometimes there just aren’t any marks at all, but it doesn’t remove the pain or danger for that victim. Don’t get caught up in assuming that someone you know is not in a dangerous situation just because you don’t see any injuries that reflect that.
If you are a victim of domestic abuse, it is important to seek help as soon as possible. Abuse is never okay, and it can easily end your life if you don’t work to remove yourself from the person that is hurting you. Don’t wait until things turn physically life threatening to get out. Here are a few tips from my book “Stop Saying Yes to Mr. No Good” to help you, or others you may know, leave an unhealthy, abusive relationship.
Don’t be afraid to contact domestic abuse hotlines in your city and state. There are nationwide hotline phone numbers, as well as city/state specific ones online that will allow you to report incidents you are aware of, as well of possible abuse that needs investigation. This includes also reaching out to your local police departments, especially when a domestic disturbance is being heard or witnessed. It’s better to try and restore peace before things escalate instead of once they’re already out of control. Don’t just ignore what you feel doesn’t involve you.
Have a strong support team in place that understands what is going on, and are willing to help you remove yourself from the abusive relationship in any way that they can. This team will be significant before, during , and after you leave the situation. These will be the ones keeping you encouraged, helping to keep you safe, and being supportive to you in a non judgmental way while you try to heal from the relationship.
Have a plan. A plan is extremely important when leaving an abuser, so that you won’t end up feeling forced to remain in your current situation. Planning includes where you will go, saving enough money to be able to take care of yourself during this transition, available resources and possible shelters to seek assistance from, and a plan to ensure your children (if children are involved) are able to still attend school and carry on with their normal routine as best as possible. So many victims remain in abusive relationships because they don’t have a plan to get out, which can make you feel completely hopeless.
Don’t return to the abuser, no matter what they promise, say, or do. No matter if they decide to shower you with gifts or guilt, do not return once you have left that abusive relationship. While not every abusive person remains that way forever, it is never something to take a chance on. Don’t ever gamble with your life like that, because next time could be worse.
Unfortunately, many victims have lost their lives due to thinking that things were okay to return to an abuser. They thought things would change, or that it was something they could deal with, since they’ve survived it all up until this point. Don’t make that deadly mistake.
To read more on toxic relationships and how to break the cycle of remaining in them, be sure to grab a copy of Karlicia Lewis’ book “Stop Saying Yes to Mr. No Good”, available on Amazon and in select national bookstores.