UNDERSTANDING DATING ABUSE
TEAR defines dating abuse as:
"When one person uses a pattern of violent behavior through means of verbal, physical or sexual intimidation to gain power and control of their partner."
Letís face it: Understanding any relationship is tough whether itís healthy or abusive!
The idea of someone being controlled by his or her partner is not easy to understand.
Letís start with the basics of a relationship. The basics of a relationship, healthy or unhealthy, are to work as a support system for one another, to gain comfort from one another, and to keep each other happy. Love is about bringing out the best in each other.
The difference between healthy and abusive relationships is that in healthy relationships, the couple works towards the relationship equally. Healthy relationships consist of a system of checks and balances combined with equality, individuality, and compromise. In an abusive relationship one partner takes advantage of these goals and uses them against their partner as a way to manipulate them into doing what they want. Usually there is little compromise, forced inequality, and your individuality is taken from you.
Abusers often use excuses such as, "If you love me you would..." or "You have to make sacrifices for a relationship," or "It would really make me happy if you wouldnít..." Using these phrases doesn't come across as demanding; and therefore can be hard to distinguish as what they really are: a way to take advantage of someone. It is understandable that one partner would try to please the other in an effort to accomplish a stable relationship. So where is the line of what is abusive and what isnít?
The line should be drawn with what it is that is being requested. Is it a limitation of freedom? Is it a change of personality or dress? If your partner is asking you to do something against your will, or to change who you are, then this could be a sign of an abusive relationship. Look for these and other warning signs.
No relationship starts off abusive. No relationship is first based on violent behavior; it is first filled with love and affection. In the beginning of many unhealthy relationships, the abuser comes on very strong and loving to their partner, they show all the attention and acceptance that their partner desires. The affection and attention soon becomes excessive and obsessive, which is unhealthy.
Like the relationship, the abuser is not always bad. In fact, the abuser uses the good aspects of the relationship to pull the victim back in - which usually succeeds. You would never start dating someone if they were abusive from the start. Itís only after a period of time, after the victim has become attached to the abuser, that the abuse actually begins.
Once the abuse starts it escalates with time. It can start with small requests, such as suggestions on a victim's clothing and can lead to yelling or threats. Many people think of dating abuse as only physical, when in reality, physical abuse is the last tactic used to gain power and control. The abuser will use put-downs, mind games, constant threats, incessant phone calls, and preposterous accusations of cheating, and on;†in order to lower the self-esteem of the victim. Abuse also involves manipulation. The victim may start to feel like they arenít good enough for their partner or may feel discouraged that their efforts to please their partner do not work. The abuse worsens as the victimís self-esteem lowers. The victim, who fears causing a fight and aims to please their partner, will give in to the abuser's demands a little bit at a time.
Victims may stay in abusive relationship because they...
...think that jealousy and possessiveness is a sign of love
...may not realize they are being abused
...have no one to go to
...are inexperienced with dating relationships
...feel pressured to be in a relationship
...have a lowered self-esteem
...donít want to think the person they love is hurting them
...may believe the abuse is their fault
...hope that their partner will stop being abusive
...believe they are in love
...are not ready to leave their partner
Abusers may abuse their partners because they...
...feel like they have the right to control their partner
...feel like they may lose respect if they donít have control
...believe that aggression solves problems
...think they have processional rights over their partner
...are peer pressured to act violently
...may have learned it at home
...are influenced by violence in the media, society, and peers
...have an aggressive personality
...feel the need to be in control
Even though an abuser may have an excuse for his or her abusive behavior, ABUSE IS INEXCUSABLE.
To see more examples of abuse, view the Power and Control Wheel.