ABUSE

You are in an abusive relationship if your current partner has done any of the following:

Withheld affection as punishment;
Continually criticized you;
Ignored your feelings regularly:
Ridiculed your valued beliefs;
Been very jealous and harassed you about imagined affairs;
Manipulated you with lies;
Insisted you dress the way he/she wants;
Humiliated you in private or public;
Subjected you to reckless driving;
Threatened to commit suicide if you leave.

Indiana University psychologist Amy Holtzworth-Munroe says that 25% of all U.S. high school students and 33% of all college students have been involved in a violent dating relationship at some point in their lives, either as victim or perpetrator1. Such violence can range from occasional slapping or shoving to life-threatening beatings.

"A lot of people unfortunately accept or assume some level of violence in their relationships," she says.

Once a person finds himself or herself in a violent relationship, Holtzworth-Munroe says that there's no way of predicting if the violent partner will become increasingly dangerous in the future or not. Any level of violence must be dealt with as soon as it happens.

Holtzworth-Munroe is conducting research to determine why some men become violent in relationships while most others do not. Her research shows that men who abuse their wives and girlfriends lack the social skills necessary to function in a relationship.

She says that some violent men can't think of rational ways of dealing with relationship conflict and will resort to violence by default. Other men may be able to think of competent ways of dealing with the situation, but they choose violence because they think it will be the quickest or most efficient way of getting what they want.

In addition to his or her reasoning problems, a batterer is suspicious and will often misinterpret his/her partner's behavior, seeing it in an unrealistically negative light. At the same time, batterers tend to be dependent on and preoccupied with their relationships.

Batterers are particularly upset by any suggestion, real or imagined, that their partners are rejecting them or are going to leave them.

"If the wife does something annoying or upsetting, even if most rational people would see that it was an accident, a violent husband will think that she's done it with hostile intent," says Holtzworth-Munroe. "And then he justifies his violent behavior by thinking, 'She purposely tried to hurt me, so it's all right if I retaliate.'"

One of Holtzworth-Munroe's research projects is a closer examination of her finding that violent men lack social skills. She believes that educational programs of anger management and communication skills development could help violent people change their reactions and behaviors (provided they genuinely want to change, of course).


1: iandunn has challenged the accuracy of the above domestic violence figures and referred me to http://shethinks.org/articles/an00029.cfm for what he believes are more accurate figures. I don't know that I find that site's information to be any less biased than iandunn claims Holtzworth-Munroe's statistics are, but there it is. This node contains the information a recognized domestic violence researcher gave me as a direct quote at the time I wrote the piece.

FWIW, her figures did not strike me (no pun intended) as being overly high. Maybe that's because I grew up in Texas.

Wry jokes aside, domestic violence is a complicated issue. I've known both men and women who have been physically, sexually, and emotionally abused by their dates and lovers.

I don't for one minute think men are inherently more abusive than women. However, because men are generally bigger and stronger, and in some cultures raised to believe violence is an appropriate response to trivial slights, they can and do cause more physical damage. I've seen men who've been slapped by angry girlfriends and everyone involved pretty much just blows it off afterward; I think such seemingly-inconsequential violence needs to be addressed, because it's a sign of an unhealthy relationship even if it never escalates to someone "really" getting hurt.

And, of course, we're not talking about BDSM play within a relationship, which is dandy as long as it's kept safe, sane, and consensual.

I remember that night to this day. I had gone over to my (former) best friend's appartment with the intention of saying hi to him, but he wasn't home. His roommate, another friend of mine, was around, so we got to talking. As we talked, I looked around the apartment at the mess. I offered to clean it up, and began in the kitchen. It took quite awhile, but when we were done, that kitchen looked, well, like a kitchen again. Gone were the four foot stacks of pizza boxes, the beer bottles, the soda cans, and the piles of old papers. The floors and countertops sparkled. My friend and I looked forward to showing off our hard work when my best friend came home.

Unfortunately, my best friend had had a bad day at work, and came home in a horrible mood. When he saw the kitchen, he complimented his roommate on his hard work. Once he learned that I had instigated the cleaning, he flew off the handle. He threw the mail at the wall, yelling that I didn't have to clean up his mess. He ranted and raved, and stormed into his bedroom as he was prone to do when he was cranky. I followed him into his room, and we began the fight that would later define (in my mind) the end of our long friendship.

You see, we had quite a background together. We did theatre together, taking classes, doing shows, learning the trade and having a blast. He taught me how to set up lighting in a black box theatre with a light board so old it eventually melted down. I showed him how to research characters and background and translate that into acting and directing. When we had keys to the theatre, we would sleep there. I remember breaking inter-visitation rules on our campus and crashing on his floor in the men's dorm (a big no-no where we went to college- it came with a fine and everything).

Over the course of time, we crossed some lines in our friendship that shouldn't have been crossed. I began seeing a side of him I wish I would never have seen. He could be a very angry young man. He began criticizing my every move- how I walked, how I handled relationships, how I dealt with my MS- I began feeling on edge with him quite often.

Until that night, I had never felt in true fear for my physical safety. He began ranting about my being in his space and how he just needed to blow off steam. I told him that I was sorry, that I felt we needed to talk about it. He was sitting at his computer and I was standing at the foot of his bed when he pulled out a pocket knife and opened it. He began making crude comments, asking if I wanted him to hurt himself. I said no, please don't do this. He got so angry, and I remember him grabbing me and pushing me down. The knife was in his hand, flat on my forehead, and he just screamed at me, asking me what I wanted him to do. I was squirming and screaming, telling him to let me up, and finally I pulled away and ran from his room to find his shocked roommate and a guest staring at my tear-soaked face in horror. I left the apartment in shock.

For a long time, I blamed myself for that night. You shouldn't have cleaned that kitchen, you shouldn't have gone in that bedroom, and you shouldn't have pushed that hard. Months later, after we both had moved away, I finally told him that I felt our friendship was over. He was enraged, posting a horrible web log about me and women like me. He told me that he couldn't even remember that night- why should he be punished for something he didn't remember? I remember.

They say forgive and forget. I have stopped feeling guilty, but I don't know if I can say I forgave, and I haven't forgotten how quickly a friendship can be broken in the matter of one night.

** Thanks go to Simpleton for inspiring me to share this.

Log in or registerto write something here or to contact authors.