By: Joanne C.
Relationship abuse is wrong partly because it harms another person, the same way assaults and violence are wrong. Relationship abuse, though, not only causes physical harm, but has emotional and psychological repercussions for the victim that can stay with the victim a long time after the bruises heal.
“Was it my fault? Did I do something wrong, is that why he hit me?” The belief that the victim brought the violence on themselves is tremendously harmful, creating more emotional bruises to match the physical ones. It puts the relationship in a very delicate state, where you must walk on eggshells for fear of being hurt again.
And therein is another problem of relationship abuse. “Why don’t you just leave if you’re being hurt?” can be a difficult question to answer. Maybe you’re a parent, and you don’t have the resources to take your kids away with you. Or perhaps you were threatened that if you left, you’d get hurt even more. Maybe you are in love. Or maybe the tiny little thought that it was your fault keeps you from blaming the other, and keeps you in the relationship; “maybe it’ll be be better if I’m more careful…”
What often happens, too, is the abuser will apologize. Maybe they offer gifts and say it’ll never happen again. Victims often believe this, and accept the abuser back, hopeful that it will never happen again. Too many times, though, it does happen again.
We should also try to understand why people abuse others. There are lots of reasons. Maybe they learned the behavior as a child– they deal with frustration and anger with punches. Maybe they never learned how to cope with stress without becoming angry and violent. Maybe they were even raised to believe that they should hold the power in the relationship, and that the other person should do as they say. Or that it’s okay to push people around, rather than to come to a healthy compromise.
They also probably don’t respect the other person, and don’t realize or care that the victim is hurt, physically and emotionally, by the abusers actions. It shows an inherent lack of respect for the victim, and sends a signal that one person wants control over the other. The one person owns the other. It’s a problem when one is not respected as a person, particularly in an intimate relationship.
A relationship should be about love and acceptance of each other as individuals, not about control or gendered expectations. It should be built on respect, certainly not fear.
Finally, the biggest problem about relationship abuse is that people accept it. Only in recent history did domestic violence become a crime in the United States; it was only 1994 when Congress passed the first Violence Against Women Act. Which doesn’t mean it didn’t use to happen, it means it used to be okay. People didn’t think it was wrong. It used to be written into laws, that wives are property and husbands can do whatever they wanted, including violence. (See more on the history of domestic violence) Some people still think this, or that this is just how life is and there’s nothing they can do about it.
But there is something you can do about it. Know the signs of relationship abuse. Look out for yourself. Look out for your friends and family. Teach others to respect all people, and to not use violence when angered. Our society doesn’t have to be plagued by this problem, we can break the cycle. Respect and love, not anger and fear.