If you missed my appearance on 106th and Park to discuss dating violence, you missed a really great show! In addition to me and Dr. Jeff Gardere, other guests included Alesha Renee, Free and Kevin Powell, all of whom talked about their own personal experiences with dating violence.
Since we shared so much good information about what dating violence is and how it works, I decided to post some of the questions I was asked and my answers so that the many people who still need more information can receive it. I hope this helps!
Dr. Michelle.: A healthy relationship involves mutual respect and consideration, where both partners have lives of their own, but also enjoy each other’s company. It does not include trying to control the other person through unwanted physical or sexual interactions, insults or mind games.
Dr. Michelle: Relationship abuse involves a pattern of controlling behavior that usually affects the victim physically and emotionally.
Physical abuse: using physical force like hitting, kicking, slapping, scratching or spitting
Emotional abuse: trying to control a person’s feelings or thoughts through threats, jealousy, control, isolation, and mind games
Verbal abuse: using words to insult, degrade, or put someone down
Sexual abuse: forcing someone to do sexual things that they don’t want to including unwanted touching, rape, or refusing to use protection
Economic abuse: controlling someone’s finances so that they cannot be independent. Includes stealing or withholding money or refusing to allow the person to work
Dr. Michelle: Dating violence is a public health problem because it affects so many people and has a negative impact on their physical and mental health. People are getting seriously injured physically and emotionally as a result of dating violence.
Victims of dating violence are at risk of:
Dr. Michelle: There are several reasons why a victim of violence might return to an abusive relationship, including:
Other people go back because they are still in love, despite the abuse, and they simply don’t know what to do next. They don’t know how to get over their feelings for the person and they may even be afraid of being alone or believe that they won’t meet someone else. Some people perceive violence as love and so they truly believe the person cares for them and will change. Abusers work very hard to make up with their victims and try to convince them that they love them and that something like this will never happen again, even though it usually does.
Dr. Michelle: For some people, going back to the abuser is part of a bigger plan to eventually leave the abuser, but not right away. As much danger as some victims are in being in an abusive relationship, they are at an even higher risk of being more severely hurt when they try to leave and right after they leave. So, before you try to leave an abusive relationship you need a “safety plan.” Some victims need to remain in their relationships until they put their safety plan in place.
I understand that some victims have to reach their own breaking point in a relationship where they decide that they’ve had enough and they’ve tried hard enough, but I believe that when you are just dating someone (and you guys don’t live together, have kids together or aren’t married), you have no permanent ties to this person and there is no reason to believe that you would ever have a long-term relationship with them, so you might as well end the relationship now. Let’s face it, we date to have fun, and eventually find the one. When your relationship is abusive, the relationship is no longer fun and clearly has no future. If you can’t see that then you need to look inside yourself for the reasons why you tolerate the situation.
Dr. Michelle: Ten warning signs of abuse include:
Dr. Michelle: When someone gets really angry or obviously grabs you it’s more clear that things are not going well but the warning signs that are usually ignored are the subtle ones like the control or put downs. Abusers are usually real slick about very slowly and carefully making little comments about things in an effort to start controlling how you think and what you do. They don’t have to come right out and tell you not to do something, they can talk so bad about that thing or that person that you will change your mind. Same thing goes with the insults—they just start making little comments about you being unattractive, overweight, not too smart, etc. and before you know it, you are losing your self-confidence.
Dr. Michelle: First you should get it straight in your mind that these warning signs are something to dump someone over. We need to stop acting like being in a relationship means being a doormat. Dating relationships are supposed to be fun and feel good, so when you see that your partner is already starting to move towards becoming abusive, why wait until you get really hurt or your life gets really out of control. In general, I think that when you start to see the warning signs you should start getting mentally prepared to slowly but eventually move away from this person. You want to try to see them less, and get more involved in other things so that you eventually feel comfortable moving on and breaking things off with them.
To make things more personal, let’s use the example of your partner being controlling. If you see that your partner is starting to try to control what you do all the time and that they don’t want you to do anything or really even go anywhere, you can make it clear that that isn’t okay with you and that you have goals you want to accomplish and friends you want to spend time with. And if their control then escalates, and instead of them falling back and agreeing with you, they try even more controlling things like taking your keys or money, or hitting you as a way to keep you from leaving the house, then you know to start making your plan to get out of the relationship.
Dr. Michelle: Many people do learn to be controlling and violent in their homes by watching either their parents be abused or even by being abused themselves. Experiencing that violence doesn’t automatically mean that you will become abusive yourself, but it puts you at risk for becoming abusive because for years you have grown up as a child being taught that violence is the way to solve your problems or believing that your partner is supposed to do what you say, or else. So it can be very hard to undo that learning process that teaches you not to respect and cherish the person you are dating.
Dr. Michelle: Abusers are very good at appearing normal to everyone, which is why most of their victims had no idea that things were going to turn so ugly. Many abusers’ family members and friends refuse to believe that they are violent with their partners because they know the person to be so “cool.” The most obvious personality trait is probably being controlling. Although each abuser has his own agenda and issues that he cares about, at the end of the day, they are all trying on some level to control their partners.