Necessary force

People who are abusive only use the amount of force necessary to maintain dominance in their relationship.

When I say this to someone, I often see them pause in their reaction. Most people imagine that abusive people are out of control, or lash out when angry. And that the use of physical abuse―like hitting, slapping, punching, or forcing sex―is frequent and consistent over the length of the relationship. From that perspective, the idea that they “only use the amount of force necessary” doesn’t make sense.

But survivors tell me that their partners are often manipulative and violent in ways which do not include physical violence. No matter how an abuser’s behavior looks to an outsider, their tactics are deliberate. Like embarrassing a partner at a party or undermining their participation in religious activities. Or sabotaging a survivor’s connection with their child. Taking a child and disappearing for a couple of days is an effective way exert control over a partner. Also charming other people to get them on the abuser’s side, like the abusive partner I heard of who gratefully and coolly greeted law enforcement with “oh, I see you’re here to help me with my wife. She’s disoriented because she’s been in a car accident.”

Abuse can be pressuring a partner to have sex to prove their commitment to the relationship. Or asking a partner not to call friends or family because it interferes with their relationship―a subtle way to isolate someone. And if that doesn’t work, scaring friends or threatening a family member until the survivor returns to the relationship.

Any time we question a survivor―it doesn’t seem that bad, you say he doesn’t hit you, he doesn’t seem out of control―it gives the abusive person even more power. When we really listen to and believe a survivor’s experience, we take power away from the abuser. It’s one thing we all can do to make a difference for survivors and their children.

Nine things to know

Nueve cosas a saber

“Home should be a place of liberation”

My colleague said this at a meeting yesterday. I first heard it at our conference last year when the incredible Alissa Bierra was talking about Marissa Alexander. Hearing that sentence again stopped me in my tracks. It is so powerful. Especially in light of the story of Korryn Gaines who was recently shot and killed by police in her own home, in front of her five year old son. (On a tangent, did it not occur to the police that perhaps they should come back another time? Does failure to appear in court really warrant a death sentence?)

But back to that phrase. For years in the domestic violence field, we have struggled to say what we want vs. what we don’t want. We don’t want abuse. We don’t want coercion. We don’t want assault. But that phrase is a gift. It is part of our end goal. It is the way.

home should be a place of liberationHome should be a place of liberation. An absence of violence is not enough. You should be treated with respect by those who proclaim to love you (and those who are “sworn to protect”).

Home should be a place of liberation. You can have opinions in your home. You can disagree about things and have a voice.

Home should be a place of liberation. It should be a place where you can be who you truly are. If you are different from your family (for example a gay or trans teen), you should be loved fiercely.

Home should be a place of liberation. That is what I want. For me. For you. For all of us.

Help! My friend is being abused and I don’t know what to do

Girl on phoneI’m a member of a local Facebook “For Sale, Wanted or Trade” group. Recently, someone posted that they are concerned about a friend, who they believe is being abused. They asked for advice about what to do.

I was struck by how many people said, “There’s nothing you can do; your friend will have to realize it for herself.” While there is some truth to that, I also think there are some really, really important things that friends can and should do. Even though you can’t rescue your friend from a bad situation, you can:

  • Stay connected as much as you can (in person, text, social media).
  • Continue inviting them to things. It’s harder for your friend’s partner to be abusive when there are witnesses.
  • Check out these tools for talking with folks about their relationship (whether you think they are being hurt or are the one who’s doing harm).
  • Remember that it takes time for most people to figure out if their relationship is not working. And even more time to figure out what they want to do about that. Most folks will try different things to see if the relationship can be saved before deciding to end it.
  • Know that leaving an abusive relationship doesn’t necessarily mean the abuse will end. In some cases, the abuse escalates. If your friend is being abused, encourage her to talk with an advocate at her local domestic violence advocacy program. Advocates will talk to her about how to stay as safe as possible whether she plans to stay or leave.
  • Listen to what your friend says she wants, and help her figure out how to do that. Her abusive partner is trying to control her, so resist the urge to tell her what to do.
  • Take care of yourself. It’s hard to watch a loved one be mistreated!

 

Can you talk to a friend about their abusive behavior?

Yes, you can! But it’s not easy and you could probably use some advice, right?

It’s hard to admit or even recognize when someone we care about is being abusive. When we do start to see it, some of us want to vote them off the island and some of us want to stick our head in the sand. But what if we want to continue to be in community with folks who have done harm? We’ve got a new guide How’s Your Relationship? Conversations with someone about their abusive behavior that will help you talk with a person in your life who is struggling in their relationship, who maybe isn’t their best self, and who has the will to change.

 How’s Your Relationship? Conversations with someone about their abusive behavior

 

“Why don’t victims just leave?”

I recently wrote this guest column for publication in Sound Publishing community newspapers.

nomoreThose of us who work at domestic violence programs hear this question all the time. The truth is, they do. Every day we hear from survivors of abuse who were able to find the support and resources they needed to be safe and self-sufficient.

Every day we also hear from people who are unable to leave because they fear the abuser will be more violent if they do. This fear is very real. According to the Washington State Domestic Violence Fatality Review, in at least 55% of homicides by abusers, the victim had left or was trying to leave.

Many people are unable to leave an abusive relationship because they have nowhere to go. Our communities don’t have enough affordable housing, and shelters and transitional housing units are limited. On just one day last year, domestic violence programs in Washington could not meet 267 requests for housing. People often stay with or return to an abusive partner because they don’t have the money to support themselves or their children.

We also hear from people who don’t want to leave, but want the abuse to stop. Research consistently shows that people in an abusive relationship make repeated efforts to be safe and self-sufficient, but there are many barriers—both external, such as limited resources or support; and internal, such as an emotional connection to their partner or a desire for their children to be with both parents—that makes this very difficult.

But here’s the thing: This is absolutely the wrong question to be asking, as it implies that victims are responsible for ending violence. They aren’t. Instead, we should be asking what we can do to stop abusers from being violent and controlling.

Why I support the WSCADV

Guest blogger: Mike C. This post originally appeared on CauseCords.com.

Black and purple survival paracord bracelet from CauseCords. Featured in May 2015, $10 from each sale that month will go to the WSCADV
Black and purple survival paracord bracelet from CauseCords. Featured in May 2015, $10 from each sale that month will go to the WSCADV

Ever since I could remember, fundraising to support local charities was always something I was motivated to do. Whether it was racing up a building to support cancer research, selling cookies and pies to benefit people with Multiple Sclerosis, or walking amongst thousands to support children with autism; I enjoyed knowing that I could play a small part in changing someone’s life for the better. It wasn’t until I started collecting donations for victims of domestic violence that I realized how big of an impact I was making.

Being a survivor of domestic abuse is not something that is commonly advertised, such as beating cancer. Most victims work to move away from the painful memories of their past, even though that means leaving behind many beloved aspects of their lives. Domestic abuse does more than just inflict physical damage; it tears apart families, causes emotional distress, shatters trust in others, and leaves scars that can have an lasting effect for generations. Unless you or someone you love has experienced it, most people aren’t aware of other victims of domestic violence, and yet they are all around us.

I am lucky. I am not a victim or survivor of DV, but in my efforts to support the WSCADV I’ve received testimony from those who have survived. People that I have known for years, but was unaware of their suffering, confusion, and pain. For the first time, I could see how my charitable efforts changed lives for the better. I could see how the power of advocacy and awareness could help those around me and truly change my community.

The resources are in place, the network for relief and rescue is in order, and there are people who want to help. All we need is the funding. That is why I support the WSCADV and victims of DV.