I'm Afraid to Talk About It
Historical colonial attitudes of women as chattel, and the Rule of Thumb have contributed to present day beliefs about intimate relationships. The Canadian “Wife Assault” policy, an informed response to spousal assault as a crime, wasn’t introduced until 1983. Prior to this, women assaulted by their husbands had to prove they suffered a greater degree of bodily harm compared to other assault victims. These societal attitudes create barriers for women to disclose relationship abuse–to anyone. Conversations focus on her “attracting abusive men”, rather than why men choose abuse as a means to control their intimate partners.
Should I Call the Police?
The RCMP Vulnerable Persons Unit is trained to skillfully respond to threats or assaults against women in intimate partner relationships. Sometimes escalating behaviours from partners put women at risk. A coordinated social response to gender-based violence in the Cowichan Valley is designed to ensure women and children are supported and kept safe, and offenders held accountable and mandated to services that offer support that they clearly need.
People Tell Me What They See
It’s not easy to have confirmation that our relationship is indeed abusive. It means we have to make changes and change can be very complicated, especially if children are involved. Trust your instincts. If it feels like good advice, it probably is. True support is defined by us. It shifts and changes with our needs, is compassionate and practical, non-judgmental, validating, respects our choices and boundaries, believes in us, never tells us what to do nor tries to rescue us.
Who Can I Trust?
Chronic blame and gas lighting from an abusive partner make it difficult to think clearly. We start to doubt our own view of the relationship as toxic. Denial, normalization, and minimizaton are all survival coping strategies, but in the end create challenges for healthy decision making. Resources specifically trained in gender-based violence are unbiased, have a feminist analysis of power and control in relationships, are trauma informed and woman-centred, recognize women’s hidden acts of resistance as actions to preserve dignity and self-respect, and are the ideal professionals to seek out and share your story with.
Dynamics of Power & Control in Relationship
Does your partner get jealous of your friends or do they encourage you to have a social life independent of your relationship? Criticize, or celebrate your strengths and unique expressions? Make excuses and blame you for their abusive behaviours or take full responsibility for their actions? Threaten suicide or actively seek help for their own emotional struggles? The dynamics are complex.
Do you put yourself down? Defend your partner’s abusive behaviours? Lost touch with your friends and family? Keep the abuse secret? Feel overwhelmed, confused, depressed? Think you’re crazy? Snap at the kids? Fear no one else will ever love you? Long to tell your partner how you feel but they don’t want to hear about it? Relationship violence changes the very spirit Woman entered the world as.
Charming in front of others whose approval they need yet ranting and raving behind closed doors is a classic sign of a controlling partner. This behaviour creates allies for our partner and raises doubt for the women experiencing abuse. A woman’s connection to outside resources that might assist her to leave are sabotaged. This is deliberate. Women must trust and believe in themselves above all else.
Does your partner promise to change but never makes a measurable effort? Healing can be a sincere wish on their part but action that is initiated by them is the only path to real change. Being in love with an abusive partner isn’t the issue, being in love with our Self is. A loving, nurturing relationship of self-respect is precisely what we need in order to leave a demeaning or toxic relationship. A healthy romantic relationship, the kind we all dream of, is a reflection of the healthy relationship we have with our self.