How to be more sensitive and educated about domestic violence
By Mercedes Deutscher, Staff Writer
Domestic violence has occurred since the beginning of recorded history. Throughout most of that history, abuse towards a spouse or family member has been justified through tradition, culture, and religion. Only within the past 50 years has the discussion about this violence intensified.
While domestic violence has become more frowned upon in modern society, it’s anything but eradicated. According to Statistics Canada, there were over 100,000 reported “victims of intimate partner violence, including spousal and dating violence” in 2010.
That Guy might say, “If they are in a situation that is dangerous, why don’t they just leave?” In That Guy’s defence, they’re probably not intending to sound malicious. Nevertheless, this statement is a form of victim-blaming.
As someone who had personally watched the horrors of an abusive relationship within my own family, I used to wonder the same thing. However, the dynamics of an abusive relationship are much more complicated, and simply leaving isn’t an option for many.
An abusive relationship springs from a dangerous power dynamic. The abuser feels the need to have absolute power in their relationship, including the life of their partner. They gain power by attempting to control their partner, and they often succeed. This could be through controlling finances, limiting their partner’s contact with friends and family, or by means of physical and sexual violence.
Simply leaving is not easy for the victim. For one, abuse doesn’t usually begin until after the victim falls in love with the abuser. The abuser makes the victim feel useless and powerless without them, so they are less inclined to leave due to a flatlined confidence. Abuse works in a cycle, moving from calm and romantic times to rising tensions to dispute, eventually resulting in a form of forgiveness, thus starting the cycle again. As time goes by, the disputes might become more severe. Victims often do whatever they can to avoid conflict, which will prevent them from attempting to leave their abusive relationships.
The stakes of leaving an abusive relationship are high. For someone who has been isolated, they may not have anywhere else to go. If there are pets or children involved, the abuser may threaten them so that the victim stays for the sake of their loved ones.
Attempting to leave an abusive relationship can be even more dangerous than staying in it. An abuser will not just give up control. This can lead to altercations resulting in severe injuries or even death. If the victim manages to sneak away initially unnoticed, they may have to sever all possible connections with their abuser, such as deleting all social media accounts, getting a new phone number, moving away, changing jobs and appearance, and even changing names.
Those in abusive relationships will need all of the help and support they can get. Rather than being That Guy and blaming the victim for their situation, be there to listen.