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Understanding Family and Domestic Violence in Relationships

Jonathan Riley

“A relationship built on fear is a prison, not a partnership.” – Unknown

Domestic violence is a term we hear a lot in the news and media, but what does it really mean, and how can you recognize it in your own relationship?

At its core, family and domestic violence is not about poor anger management. It’s about control. It’s about one person trying to maintain power over another within the context of an intimate or family relationship. This might seem like an extreme definition, but it’s crucial to understand that violence isn’t just physical. Yes, hitting, slapping, and other physical abuses are a part of it, but there are other, less obvious forms too.

1. Emotional Abuse: This may involve constant criticism, making someone feel worthless, or even threatening to harm themselves or others. Emotional abuse can be as damaging, if not more so, than physical abuse. It’s designed to erode a person’s sense of self-worth and make them feel trapped.

2. Verbal Abuse: Name-calling, belittling, and shouting can be categorized under verbal abuse. The intention is to demean the other person and make them doubt themselves.

3. Economic Abuse: It may surprise you, but financial control is another form of domestic violence. This is when one partner restricts the other’s access to money or resources, making it harder for them to leave the relationship or have any independence.

4. Social Abuse: Isolating someone from their friends and family, or controlling where they can go, is a subtle yet powerful form of control.

5. Sexual Abuse: This involves any unwanted sexual activity or using sex as a form of control and degradation.

6. Psychological Abuse: This often entails manipulating a person’s reality, making them question their memories or perception. Tactics like gaslighting (making someone doubt their own memory or sanity) fall under this category.

7. Digital Abuse: Digital abuse can involve reading someone’s texts without permission, using GPS to track their location, or even impersonating them online.

8. Spiritual Abuse: This involves using a person’s religious or spiritual beliefs to manipulate, dominate, or control them. It might involve ridiculing their beliefs, preventing them from practicing their religion, or forcing them to adopt specific religious practices against their will.

9. Stalking: Actions like showing up at a person’s workplace unannounced, repeatedly sending unwanted messages, or leaving unsolicited gifts can be forms of stalking and domestic violence.

10. Identity Abuse: This pertains to attacks on one’s fundamental identity, including ridiculing or attacking someone based on their race, sexuality, gender identity, disability, or any other core part of who they are.

Domestic violence can happen to anyone, regardless of age, gender, socioeconomic status, or background. It’s essential not to dismiss it as ‘just an argument’ or ‘a one-off event.’ If you feel like you’re walking on eggshells around your partner or family member, or you’re living in fear of their reactions, it’s a sign that something is seriously wrong.

Relationships should be a source of support, love, and mutual respect. If instead, it’s a source of fear, anxiety, or pain, it’s essential to recognize that this isn’t normal or acceptable. Many people stay in these relationships because they hope their partner will change or believe they deserve this treatment. Some fear the repercussions of leaving. But the truth is, everyone deserves a relationship built on trust, respect, and love.

Perhaps you’re reading this and thinking, “This doesn’t apply to me.” That’s great news. But maybe you know someone who’s shown signs of being in an abusive relationship. It’s easy to think that domestic violence is a private issue or that it’s not our place to get involved. But the truth is, it affects us all. The emotional and physical scars it leaves can have ripple effects throughout communities, and staying silent perpetuates a cycle of abuse.

If anything in this article resonated with you, or if you have concerns about your relationship or the relationship of someone you know, please remember: You’re not alone. At My Practice Counselling Melbourne, we’re here to help.