Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Well, October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month as all of you know.  That was a joke.  I knew it, but had to Google it to see if I hadn’t imagined it, as I have seen absolutely no evidence of a PR awareness campaign going on this month.  Well, there is one, for breast cancer awareness, and if I had anything to add to that, I most certainly would.  I thought that if I wrote about Domestic Violence this month, I would be joining my voice with many others, but right now, I feel like I’m the only one at this party.  That’s OK.  Ultimately, that’s one of the reasons why I blog.

Do you know what does bother me about DV (lack of) awareness?  I feel like awareness of this issue is very often tied to fundraising efforts for the organizations that respond to DV in the community.  And those folks absolutely need money, and more of it.  But the problem is that what you tell people when you are asking them to give you money is not the same thing you would tell them if you just wanted to educate them about an issue.  So,  keep your money in your pocket as I tell you what I wish more people knew about Domestic Violence.

First of all, DV isn’t only for adult  married heterosexual couples.  It can involve young people (Teen Dating Violence is its own subject, but related) or same-sex couples or people who live together without having a romantic relationship, like parents and their adult children.

DV isn’t only about hitting people.  It can involve  physical violence, or it can involve sexual violence, emotional abuse or destruction of property and pets.  In many cases, it involves all or at least a few of the above.  Emotional violence is still violence.  Many people have a hard time with that (I used to be one of them).  But someone who is “only” being emotionally abused is still in an abusive relationship and needs help and sympathy.  If you are unsure of the definition of emotional abuse, HERE is a link to a site that I feel explains it very well.

Relationship violence can be sexual in nature.  It can involve openly forcing the partner to have sex, or it can be (a bit) more subtle.  It can be pressuring the partner into having sex in ways that are unpleasant or degrading to her.  Sometimes other people are involved, against the partner’s wishes.  What that means in English is forcing the partner to swing.  Sexual abuse encompasses all kinds of unwanted touching, so the abuser may not openly force sex, but may force foreplay on their partner, which has the effect of forcing sex.

Abuse can also involve destruction of personal property or pets.  I would have categorized this under emotional abuse, because I think that’s what it is, but I am following the way that I was taught.  What this means is the partner  knowingly, deliberately destroys, ruins or throws away the victim’s cherished personal belongings.  Or the abuser may harm or threaten to harm her pets.  If I remember correctly, that last one is a sign that the situation is quite dangerous.

Speaking of which, DV exists on a continuum, from mild (if that’s the right word) to extremely dangerous.  When people act as though it should be no big deal for a woman to leave an abusive partner, they often cite as an example someone they know who left an abusive partner with a minimum of help from her friends and was OK.  They then, illogically, generalize this to mean that ALL women who are being abused can just up and walk away and be safe.  The truth is these stories are true.  Some victims can and do walk away easily and their abusers let them go.  I’ve done it.   But that absolutely does not mean that every victim can walk away safely.  If you are in a violent situation or have a friend who is and you and they are prepared to leave it, call your local Domestic Violence agency.  They can help you evaluate the level of danger and what actions the victim can take to protect herself.  And remember, the question of whether the abuser loves the victim is completely irrelevant.  Just because he loves her doesn’t mean he won’t try to kill her.

DV is about Power and Control.   Abusers put a lot of effort into making victims believe that all the things they do, like keeping them from working or going to school, buying them extravagant gifts, pressuring them into sex and into commitment too fast, etc, are done out of love.  And it can look that way to outsiders as well.  Abusers always or nearly always have very low self-esteem.  They use these techniques to keep their partners from meeting potential new love interests, and to make things up to them when they have behaved badly.  Yes, abuse really does stem from fear.  If abusers are so afraid their partners will walk out on them, why don’t they just treat them better?  Why not indeed?

Here is a link to the Wheel of Domestic Violence, which illustrates it all very well.  I’d reproduce it here if I could figure out how (and quickly).

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