Changing for Good
If you have to change your behaviour out of fear for what your partner might do, you are experiencing domestic violence. Even though he may not hit you, violence can take many forms. This kind of violence is not about passion or loss of control. Its intent is to exert power, to control you.
Are you being controlled, intimidated, coerced or humiliated in your closest relationship? Do you feel isolated and worn down? Are you constantly on the edge, feeling like you have to tip toe around his moods? Do you worry that your partner’s behaviour is harming your children?
How we define domestic violence
We view violence towards partners – whether they live together or not – as domestic violence. When children or other family members are involved, we refer to this as family violence. Any violence towards a mother is inevitably going to affect children. Violence can happen early in a relationship – even on the first few dates – or it can begin after the relationship has been going for a while.
Often people think of violence as something that’s purely physical. But physical abuse is one part of a much larger picture.
Violence takes many forms. It can be frequent or rare, sudden or slow. It can be loud or silent. You might feel completely confused by his behaviour. He might apologise and behave lovingly at other times. There might be specific situations in which he’s more likely to behave abusively.
But no matter the frequency, situation, excuse or type of violence, it is still violence.
These behaviours can include threats, put-downs, isolation, violence and control.
Domestic abuse can take different forms, including:
- Physical abuse: pushing, hitting, spitting, pulling hair, throwing things, punching, kicking, choking and using weapons.
- Sexual abuse: forcing or pressuring you to have sex (rape), making you participate in unwanted sexual activity, being humiliated or coerced into sex, allowing others to have sex with you when it is not your choice, or making you watch pornography.
- Financial abuse: taking money, controlling finances, not letting someone work in order to limit their freedom and activities.
- Emotional abuse / Coercive control: repeatedly making someone feel bad or scared, stalking, blackmailing, constantly checking up on someone, undermining, playing mind games so they think they are imagining things.
- Digital / Online abuse: using technology to isolate, stalk, humiliate, spy on or control someone.
- Spiritual violence can mean restricting a spiritual practice, preventing attendance at a place of worship, or ridiculing religious beliefs. It can also take the form of using religion to perpetrate abuse.
- Cultural abuse: ‘Honour’-based violence and forced marriage, female circumcision and other forms of cultural abuse that hurt, degrade or remove freedom of choice.
Physical violence may not be the first sign of violence in a relationship but it is the easiest to recognise.
Any of these forms of controlling behaviour can be violent and can escalate to physical violence. Often men and women do not realise there is violence in their relationship until it becomes physical.
You may try to tell yourself it’s not that bad. But violence is never okay. You may tell yourself that it will change. Unfortunately, without treatment or intervention, domestic violence is very likely to get worse.
Nobody has the right to control, hurt, imprison, frighten or humiliate you.
Nobody has the right to threaten you or the people you love in order to control you.
Abuse it not caused by your behaviour. It is not your fault.