Expanding awareness of Domestic Violence
Sometimes, dating can be dangerous. When a 2020 UCC graduate, who requested to remain anonymous, started her first dating relationship, she says she had no real relationship skills and minimal dating experiences to know what is normal in a partnership. We’ll call her Jenny.
A normal relationship is a mutual agreement about love. However, in Jenny’s story, this didn’t work out that way. “It was not so bad at first, really pleasant with friends, and then suddenly he started doing weird things and cutting me off from them, on purpose, because he didn’t have friends of his own,” Jenny said.
There is a point when jealousy becomes a problem. “I think it made him jealous by sharing, having me give my time anywhere except to him. I didn’t even recognize that as abusive behavior, but it starts to consume your life where you can’t do anything but see this person,” Jenny said.
Being isolated can lead to depression. The journal Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, in an article by Timothy Matthews and others, explains that “loneliness is a strong risk factor for depression.” Jenny says she cried all the time. “It got to the point that I would just cry every single day,” she said. “And I only saw him once a week-ish, so you can imagine not being able to have any kind of social interactions other than this once a week visit with somebody.”
Controlling a partner’s schedule is a sign of abusive behavior, and when the partner interferes by resisting what the abuser wants, the abuser lashes out in anger.
“He would get angry when I would hang out with my friends, especially one of my friends that was super up front and spoke her mind. He would make me feel like trash for going over there,” Jenny said. “It would be very awkward, where I would have to find situations to leave the room, so he could yell at me, and I could cry, and then it could be over, and then I got to hang out with my friends.”
When Jenny would hang out with her friends or have alone time, her boyfriend would punish her by ignoring her and not talking to her for hours at a time.
“It ended up being a full time job where all I thought about was him,” Jenny said. “I sort of realized that it wasn’t right, but I definitely didn’t classify that as abusive at the time because I didn’t know that there were other ways of abuse than punching. I didn’t know it was abuse until I had a regular relationship, and I realized it was extremely abnormal.”
Melanie Suggs and Erin Ritchie of Peace at Home, formerly known as Douglas County’s Battered Persons Advocacy Center, explain that the most prominent form of abuse is emotional and mental. “If you have a gut feeling that there is something wrong, and you are searching for if it is abuse, that usually means that there is something wrong,” Ritchie said. The feeling that something is wrong, not right, is a big red flag, Suggs and Ritchie explained.
Another local woman whose husband has since died said, “No one wants to be labeled a victim. I didn’t want to be labeled as a victim. I didn’t even know I was a victim because I wasn’t getting hit. Words hurt, they hurt my feelings, and my heart, but at the same time there were no bruises, so therefore how can I complain and be a victim?”
Abuse comes in all shapes and forms: sexual, physical, digital, reproductive, stalking, emotional and verbal. The National Domestic Violence Hotline on their website say, “1 in 4 women and 1 in 9 men experience severe intimate partner physical violence, intimate partner contact sexual violence, and/or intimate partner stalking with impacts such as injury, fearfulness, post-traumatic stress disorder, use of victim services, contraction of sexually transmitted diseases.”
Some signs of abuse may not be obvious. Ritchie explained signs of abuse: “being overbearing, super controlling, texting constantly and going too far with it, isolating the person and keeping them away from their parents if they say they don’t like them,” and the abuser may even control what to wear and who to talk to. Suggs said the Power and Control Wheel includes all of the signs of abuse and explains the different types of abuse thoroughly. Sexual abuse can often look like coercion when somebody says no, and the abuser still tries to convince the person to be intimate. “Yes means yes and no means no,” Ritchie said.
In the past three months, Peace at Home has helped “1000 cases, including restraining orders, in Douglas County. Normally it used to be about 500 to 600 cases,” said Suggs, Peace at Home’s emergency service coordinator.
To avoid becoming a victim, Suggs said partners can use the list of red flags available online with potential traits to look for in a person before it’s too late
Hanna Culbertson at Umpqua Community College can help counsel and reach out in the community to help students find resources for abuse and for mental health. If children are involved and there is domestic violence, Ritchie is also on campus to talk and can help provide a safety plan and give resources to help people who are in transition of getting out of the abusive relationship.
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