Not just a black eye

  • Published
  • By Daphne O'Hair
  • Maxwell's domestic abuse victim advocate
Domestic violence often brings to mind a woman looking fearful and downtrodden with a swollen black eye.

However, domestic violence has many complicated components. Domestic violence is defined as an intentional pattern of abusive tactics used by one partner in an intimate relationship to obtain and maintain power and control over the other person.

At the very core are power and control, but what are power and control? What does it look like in a relationship? Power and control say, "Only my opinion matters. I am the boss in this relationship. Only my needs are important and acknowledged." To maintain the power and control, which can take many forms, the offender will establish a culture of violence in the relationship.

The violence falls into a few categories: physical abuse, emotional abuse and sexual abuse.

We are most familiar with physical abuse because it is the form we can actually see. For instance, most posters and announcements show the battered woman with the black eye.

Some abuse is not so obvious or easy to understand. Emotional abuse is held in check by an abuser with physical violence. In other words, victims only have to believe the offender will hurt or harm them.

Let's use a simple analogy. You go to the grocery store often. You walk down the aisle to get some flour, which is the same aisle as the chocolate donuts. Suddenly, donuts fly off the shelf and hit you in the face. You are in disbelief about what just happened. A few days later you have to go to the store again. You need some cooking oil, which also is on the chocolate donut aisle. You try to tiptoe around the donuts, but you aren't quiet or stealth enough. They fly off the shelf and hit you in the eye.

Eventually, you figure out if you go down the donut aisle, you are going to be hit by chocolate donuts. You try to figure out how to get down the aisle in such a way to keep the donuts from attacking. The fear is enough to convince you don't need the things in that aisle anyway.

You go to the store on a random Friday and there is a donut display by the front door. By now, you just don't want to chance it and you think there is simply no safe place in the store. You convince yourself you need nothing from the grocery store. Through the use of violence, the donuts have conditioned you not to walk down certain aisles or even worse, to give up going to the store all together.

Although none of us are afraid of chocolate donuts, in this scenario they are a symbol of the violence in the relationship. Whether it is physical, emotional (i.e., whispering "chocolate donut" in the victims ear) or sexual, violence is an effective way to control a partner. Violence in a relationship will change the relationship and the people in it.

The following is a list of warning signs or red flags to watch for in a relationship. In reviewing the list, ask yourself the questions both as if you are a victim and as if you are the abuser.

Do you feel like you are walking on eggshells to keep the peace?

Do you feel like a prisoner in your own home?

Does your partner hurt you with bad names and "put downs"?

Does your partner threaten or harass you?

Does your partner give you "the look"?

Does your partner shove, slap, pinch, bite, kick or hit you? Does your partner strangle you/cut off your air supply?

Does your partner abuse your children?

Does your partner keep you from seeing friends or family?

Does your partner destroy your property?

Does your partner hurt your pets?

Does your partner follow you, spy on you or show up at your job, school or friends' homes?

Does your partner listen to your phone calls or keep you from using the phone?

Does your partner check your phone, social media accounts or mail?

Does your partner force you to have sex when you do not want to?

Does your partner accuse you of having affairs?

Does your partner control all the money and give you little or none?

Does your partner keep you from getting or keeping a job?

Is your partner extremely jealous or insecure?

Does your partner have an explosive temper?

Does your partner threaten you not to tell anyone?

More than anything, we want you to know help is available. If you or a friend needs assistance, please contact family advocacy at 953-5055 to schedule an appointment or call our domestic violence crisis number 523-9174. For assistance in the Montgomery community, contact the Family Sunshine Center at 206-2100 or One Place Family Justice Center at 262-7378.