Domestic violence and abuse can happen to anyone, yet the problem is often overlooked, excused, or denied. This is especially true when the abuse is psychological, rather than physical. Recognising the signs of an abusive relationship is the first step to ending it. No one should live in fear of a partner or family member.
Domestic violence explained
Every family has arguments or disagreements. In a respectful and equal family unit, partners and children feel free to state their opinions, to make their own decisions and to be themselves.
In an abusive relationship, a partner or family member tries to dominate the others through physical harm, criticisms, demands, threats, or sexual pressure. Psychological or emotional abuse can be just as harmful as physical abuse. Abuse in a relationship is never acceptable, regardless of the circumstances, and is never the fault of the victim.
Abuse is not caused by alcohol, or stress, or by the victim’s behaviour. Abuse happens because the abuser wants to control and manipulate the other people.
It can include:
- physical violence
- verbal, emotional, sexual or psychological abuse
- controlling money
- serious neglect where you depend on their care
- harm to an animal or property
- restricting your cultural participation and spiritual beliefs.
Signs of domestic violence or abuse
People who are being abused physically or emotionally may display warning signs such as:
- having frequent injuries, with the excuse of ‘accidents’
- frequently missing work, school, or social occasions, without explanation
- dressing in clothing designed to hide bruises or scars
- seeming afraid or anxious to please their partner or teenager
- going along with everything their partner or teenager says and does
- checking in often with their partner to report where they are and what they’re doing
- talking about their partner or teenager’s temper, jealousy, or possessiveness
- having very low self-esteem.
How to deal with an abusive partner
There are many signs of an abusive relationship. The most telling sign is fear of your partner. If you feel like you are constantly watching what you say and do in order to avoid a blow-up, chances are your relationship is unhealthy and abusive. Other signs include:
- a partner who belittles you or tries to control you
- feelings of self-loathing, helplessness, and desperation.
Emotional abuse includes verbal abuse such as yelling, name-calling, blaming, and shaming. Isolation, intimidation, and controlling behaviour also fall under emotional abuse. Additionally, abusers who use emotional abuse often throw in threats of physical violence or other repercussions if you don’t do what they want.
Steps to ensure the safety of yourself and your family include:
- believe in yourself - if someone is hurting or threatening you, it can be hard to maintain your self-confidence
- identify if you are in immediate danger
- ensure you have the support of a counsellor, youth worker, friend or someone you like and trust
- talking to the police if you or someone you know has been hurt.
It’s important to take action as soon as it starts to happen. That will be hard to do because you will always tell yourself that it’s a ‘one off’ or ‘they’re just angry’. This is not an excuse. You need to protect yourself and your family so you need to be strong and talk to someone. There are varying degrees of domestic violence and abuse, and every situation is different, but that doesn’t mean any situation is ok so it’s important that you don’t let it continue.
Dealing with teenage aggression
Many parents find that when their child becomes a teenager, their behaviour becomes more challenging. They can even become aggressive, which can cause an atmosphere of tension and fear for the entire family, not to mention the possibility of physical harm if a teenager becomes violent.
As with any type of domestic abuse, help and support is available. There are also a number of techniques and tips that can be helpful, such as:
- trying to maintain a calm and peaceful presence. You need to be strong without being threatening
- giving them the space to reflect and calm down
- suggesting counselling to your teen if very heated arguments happen frequently. They will benefit from talking to someone new and unbiased
- being clear with your boundaries
- talking to their school and find out if their aggressive behaviour is happening there as well
- getting some support for you and your child. At such an important development stage, it’s important that they learn how to communicate well and express anger in a healthy way.