Abusive or violent relationships

Violence/abuse in relationships generally occurs within an intimate relationship or in a family. It is where one person tries to dominate and take control. Violence/abuse can be experienced by any gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, class or culture. It can be physical, emotional, psychological, sexual or financial – all types of abuse can be destructive. Emotional abuse erodes feelings of self-worth and independence. No violence or abusive behavior is acceptable.

Examples of abusive behaviours

  • Destructive criticism and verbal abuse: mocking; accusing; name-calling; verbally threatening
  • Pressure tactics: sulking; threatening suicide; lying; telling you that you have no choice in any decisions
  • Disrespect: putting you down in front of other people; not listening or responding when you talk; interrupting
  • Breaking trust: lying; withholding information; being jealous; cheating; breaking promises
  • Isolating: monitoring or blocking telephone calls; dictating where you can and cannot go; stopping you from seeing friends and relatives
  • Denial: saying the abuse doesn’t happen; blaming you for the behaviour; being publicly gentle and patient; crying and begging for forgiveness; saying it will never happen again
  • Harassment: Following or checking up; showing up unexpectedly; opening personal email or post; checking your phone; embarrassing you in public; stalking your Facebook/Twitter/other social media accounts
  • Threatening: making angry gestures; intimidating you; shouting; breaking things; punching walls; threatening to kill or harm you and others close to you
  • Sexual violence: using unwanted force; threats or intimidation to make you perform sexual acts; rape; any degrading treatment based on your sexual orientation
  • Physical violence: punching, slapping, hitting, biting, pinching, kicking, pulling hair, pushing, burning, strangling

Moving out of an abusive relationship

If you or someone you know is experiencing one or more of the behaviours above repeatedly it is important to take notice and seek support. If there’s a feeling of being trapped, this may demonstrate the control another person may have. This control can be challenged and broken away from with the right support, both practically and psychologically.

Once you have recognized that a relationship is abusive, the initial step may be to tell someone whom you feel you can trust. You may want to consider seeking help and support from a friend or family member or from helplines and local support agencies (see below). Counseling may be an important part of the process to help understand the situation and it can helpful to build up self esteem to possibly work towards making a decision to move out of an abusive relationship. There are a range of professionals who can also help consider the options and offer support in any action you may choose to take at some point (ex: devise safety plans, assist with documentation). Choosing to leave an abusive relationship may be a difficult step to take. You may need support in place through this process and afterwards.

Things you could do to help a friend who may be a victim of abuse:

If you suspect that a friend, colleague or family member is experiencing abuse or violence in a relationship, it may be upsetting to think that someone is hurting someone you care about. You may feel the need to protect that person by intervening in some way but it is important that this is done thoughtfully. Often it is valuable to listen openly and patiently, be empathic and sensitive. You may like to encourage journaling – suggest keeping a log/diary of what has been done or said with dates and times. This can be cathartic and can also establish patterns (and if required can subsequently be used as evidence). You could offer to accompany to see a counsellor or to other appointments – it can help to not feel alone. You may like to look at this video campaign on supporting a friend: http://www.1in4women.com/support-a-friend.php