Have you ever had the experience of being around friends who are a couple (dating or married) and getting uncomfortable when the one partner puts the other down? Maybe a “joke” that isn’t very funny, maybe a jab about appearance or weight or intelligence, maybe just a straight-forward insult – Why don’t you just shut up?
Domestic Violence is So Much More Than a Black Eye
If you write off this behavior to having a bad day or maybe having had too much to drink, you could be missing an opportunity to reach out to someone who is being abused. The behavior that is witnessed by others often is a tell-tale tip of the iceberg. A demeaning remark made in the presence of others may be followed at home behind closed doors with an interrogation based on baseless jealousy, or a tirade about supposed faults, or an enraged complaint.
Why were you smiling at / talking to / friendly with him?
Why did you talk too much / too little / tell that stupid joke, etc.?
Why did you make me go around those people? Didn’t you see that it was getting on my nerves?
You don’t pay any attention to how I feel.
You are clueless.
Or maybe you have a friend who you keep trying to get together with because the two of you loved to do things together and loved to talk about everything going on in your lives – before the current relationship she is in. Now your friend is evasive about making plans to get together and when you do plan something, it gets cancelled at the last minute.
Domestic violence is a whole range of behaviors by which one partner in a relationship exercises control over the other partner. It includes mental/emotional, physical, sexual, and financial abuse.
Here are some telltale signs that a relationship may be abusive:
- Unreasonable jealousy and accusations
- Rigid expectations about sex roles
- Undermining partner as a parent
- Isolating partner from friends and family
- Hypersensitivity and quickness to take offense
- Breaking things when angry
- Minimization or denial of violent behavior
- Blaming all problems on partner
- “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” – presents a different face to the outside world than at home
When It’s Your Friend
What can you do to help if you believe a friend or family member is experiencing domestic violence? Let her know you are concerned, but don’t tell her what to do. Pass on information, try to help her get in touch with an expert, and let her know you will help if/when she needs you.
Suggestions for When It’s You
- Tell someone. Turn to people you can safely talk to. Don’t keep it secret.
- Make a safety plan. Have a place to go — family, friends, or a shelter.
- Have an emergency bag with extra clothing, keys, important papers, medications, etc. Store in a safe place.
- Make police reports of incidents or threats. Obtain documentation of injuries. Find out about PFA (Protection from Abuse) orders.
- Join a support group with others who are working on overcoming abuse.
- Know how to reach your local domestic violence agency. In this area, Crisis Services of North Alabama can be reached 24 hours a day at 2-1-1 or locally at 256-716-1000 for shelter, counseling, forensic documentation of injuries, and assistance with obtaining a Protection from Abuse order.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Martha Bosworth is a LCSW, and Clinical Director of Crisis Services of North Alabama. She works with victims of domestic violence of all kinds – physical, mental/emotional, and financial — through counseling and support groups. The services of CSNA agency are grant-funded and free to the client.
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