Intimate Partner Violence
By: Audrey Sample, Youth Liaison
According to the Huffingtonpost in October, 2014, “The number of American troops killed in Afghanistan and Iraq between 2001 and 2012 was 6,488. The number of American women who were murdered by current or ex male partners during that time was 11,766. That's nearly double the amount of casualties lost during war.” Women who are in domestically abusive relationships appear to be at a greater risk of death than soldiers at war, and it’s a topic that’s made headlines lately, but we still haven’t reached the point of talking about it when it’s happening to someone we know.
When physical or emotional aggression comes from a significant other, it becomes tricky to address because when it comes to public cases, often people want to talk about why the victim didn't leave instead of why the abuser abused their trust. I think that’s partially because it's hard to fathom why someone would do things so awful, and also because our culture is obsessed with blaming the victim. But we need to talk about it. On social media, and to each other. My hope is that the much-needed conversations are starting to happen.
The Twitter hashtag "Why I Stayed" blew up in September after video was released of NFL player Ray Rice violently punching his (then) fiancée (and sadly, now wife) Janay in an elevator. Activist and writer Beverly Gooden, outraged by the victim-blaming comments like "Why did she still marry him?" and "Why didn't she just leave?” that followed, began the social media conversation in order to shine a light on how complex leaving an abusive relationship really is.
Why I Stayed is the perfect example of using social media to raise awareness about oppression, and allow people to start to talk about their own experiences. People tweeted out things like "I stayed because my pastor told me that God hates divorce. It didn't cross my mind that God might hate abuse, too.” and "I kept hoping it was a phase and that things would get better."
Why I Stayed was the silver lining to the Ray Rice saga. People identified with Janay and had the courage to talk openly about their 'dirty laundry'. Why I Left tweets accompanied many Why I Stayed tweets, showing that there can be hope after abuse. (ex: "Why I Stayed: I believed I deserved it. Why I Left: I knew my future children didn't.” and "Why I Stayed: He told me 'No one will ever love you like I do’. Why I Left: I realized no one should ever 'love' me like he did.")
YouTuber Cristen from Stuff Mom Never Told You used her online platform to spread awareness about the cycle of abuse in this video, focusing specifically on why people stay in these kinds of treacherous relationships. A very important point she makes in the video is that leaving an abusive relationship is often the exception, not the rule.
The open dialogue format was especially important because it gave people of all genders a chance to speak out. Men were finally given the opportunity to share their stories, and remind everyone that domestic violence knows no gender, and that more resources are needed for male and nonbinary victims. Safe Horizon’s website states that men are victims of nearly 3 million intimate partner physical assaults in the USA.
Social media and the internet have provided us with a window into the violence that pervades so many homes, but it also gives us a place to share, to reach out for support, to educate ourselves, and spread the word that domestic abuse is unacceptable. Nonviolence and a culture of respect for human life begins from within. Ideally, it would start in the home, and in the ways we parent our children and how we show respect for our partners during times of conflict. If there is violence in our homes coming from those we’re supposed to trust the most, it is only to be expected that violence would also extend from the abuser to the rest of the world. If you can be violent to those you are close to, logic would expect that you would also be violent to those you are disconnected from. Partners and children deserve to live in peace and safety.
Recognizing abuse is the first step to receiving help. Intimate partner abuse often escalates from verbal to physical, and there are virtually always warning signs, and knowing them is a first step to get out before it’s too late. Psychological damage from verbal abuse is real and lasting, and if the relationship does turn violent, it can cause people to stay in seemingly intolerable circumstances.
Help Guide has a list of warning signs on their website along with helpful resources if you (or anyone you know) is in a relationship that is, or might turn, abusive.
If you are experiencing some form of violence from your partner, please know that you are not alone. What is happening is not because of the things you have or haven’t said or done. If you can find a safe space, please tell the truth even if your voice shakes. Help is out there waiting for you, and it can only come if you ask for it. Please don’t wait until it’s too late. Our homes should not be considered more dangerous than battlefields.