With Valentine's Day upon us, love tends to take over the atmosphere. Unfortunately, many current relationships are extremely dangerous leading to terrible unhealthy view points on love and what it truly means to be "in love". This Valentine's season, we at The Volk, want to warn, and encourage those who are in abusive relationships to WALK AWAY and take back their love! Check out "Love Hurts" an article from our fall 2016 issue of The Volk and make sure you're in a healthy relationship this Valentine's!
LOVE HURTS- Ari Sunflower Samaha
By the time you finish this article, dozens of people in the United States will have experienced physical abuse from an intimate partner. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, there are ten victims every thirty seconds. What’s more disturbing yet are the many instances of emotional abuse that are not accounted for in that statistic. Emotional abuse may not leave bruises, but the psychological wounds can take a lifetime to heal.
The Volk corresponded with several courageous survivors. Each of them has experienced emotional abuse that eventually lead to physical violence. We have kept their identities private for their protection. In this single article, ewe can’t possibly represent the vastness of the issue, because abuse knows no gender, ethnicity or class. However, we hope the stories we share give voice to those who have been silenced far too long, and inspire some readers to reach out for the help that they need.
The first step towards getting out of an abusive situation is recognizing the abuse. One twenty-seven-year-old survivor described the early abusive tendencies of her female partner. “At the time nothing emotionally abusive stood out to me,” she said. “It was a slow process that I look back on and see. I want to back in time and just shake myself for not seeing it” Early warning signs are often insidious and subtle, so it is important to know how to recognize them. One common red flag is isolation. Many abusers will narrow their partner’s contact with the outside world in order to have full control over their victim. “It started out by her not liking my friends,” the survivor recalls. “My friends would point out that I no longer hung out with them, that all my spare time was with her. I pushed it out of my mind.” Like this woman, many people ignore these warning signs in the beginning, but it is important to stay aware. It is not healthy for your partner to isolate you form your loved ones, and it is often one of the first signs of abuse.
The survivor we spoke to experienced another common warning sign that is often referred to as love bombing. This is when an abuser will engage in dramatic displays of affection in order to manipulate their partner. If the victim is considering leaving, an abuser will profess their love in a grandiose way, in order to disorient the victim from focusing on the abuse. For this victim, her abuser did this in the form of a marriage proposal. “I look back now and realize she proposed to me as a way to keep me,” she reflects, “I was stepping back from our relationship and I think she knew. To me, her proposal meant she obviously cared for me, why else would she want to get married and spend her life with me?” This tactic is particularly confusing for abuse victims because it will appear to be proof that their abuser loves them. In reality, this behavior only makes it easier for their partner to continue the abuse.
Many abusers will also insist on controlling the finances in the relationship. Financial dependence is one of the main obstacles that prevent survivors form leaving their abusive partners. A twenty-five-year-old survivor we spoke to felt like she could not leave after the abuse had begun. She explained, “I had no friends, no family and no money or working car to move back in with my parents, so I lived under his roof for three more months, in fear.” According to the National Network to End Domestic Violence, financial abuse occurs within ninety-eight percent of domestically violent relationships. Most emergency shelters for abuse victims will work with women to gain financial independence and shelter them free of charge. However, many victims are not aware of this and continue to believe they are trapped.
Financial abuse is linked to another major red flag: controlling behavior. This can manifest itself in many ways. For example, abusers will read their partner’s private text messages and emails. One survivor describes how her abuser prevented her form reaching out for help. She said, “My partner found a couple of messages I wrote to friends when he broke my door and put a hole in the wall. He was furious at me.” She described him reacting to the messages with another common abuse tactic: guilt tripping. “It was so painful because he cried and felt ashamed. But he blamed me for talking. He told me it was not their business and that I had no right to tell them. He me promise to never talk about us to anyone.” His insistence that she keep the details of their relationship private is also another example of isolation.
Abuse can manifest itself in a variety of ways, and every situation is different. Other examples of red flags include hypercriticism, unreasonable jealousy, extreme mood swings, domination, demeaning language and the use of any kind of physical force. If you are experiencing this treatment and you do not feel safe, there is hope and there are resources.
We asked the survivors we spoke to what they would say to anyone in an abusive situation. The general consensus can be summarized in two words: WALK AWAY.
One victim advised:
“Just do it. Don’t question yourself. It’s terrifying and you think your life may never be the same. It won’t It won’t for a good reason. It will only get better. You do not deserve to have anyone say anything about your that tears you down or makes you question yourself. You are worth more than you think. I know you don’t believe me now. I never did. Now I know how much I am worth and I will never settle for anything less than the fairytale I want. Reach out to a shelter or support group. Even a stranger! You would be surprised how willing and able to help your neighbor, the grocery clerk or a local religious figure is to help you. There are so so many options out there that I had no clue of. We weren’t put on Earth to live in fear and misery. It does get better. It’s hard at first but I live a life now that I never knew I could.”
There are resources for absolutely anyone who has found themselves in an abusive situation. If you or someone you know is struggling, please don’t hesitate to contact the National Domestic Abuse Hotline at 1-800-799-7233. You will be connected with highly trained advocates who will keep the information you give them confidential. If you are simply wondering if your partner’s behavior should be considered abusive: call. If you are wondering what legal action you can take against your abuser: call. If you are in crisis and need to find a free local shelter to sleep in tonight: call. The hotline has access to thousands of shelters across the nation. You have options. You are not alone. Tell someone. Walk away today!
*This article was published in the Fall 2016 edition of The Volk*