Many things can cause significant damage to marriages; but few of these problems can cause nearly as much damage as domestic violence and abuse.
Let me start off by being completely clear: domestic violence and abuse are never okay under any circumstance.
Not only can it be traumatic for all parties involved, but it can infringe on the autonomy of others, as well as causing potentially long-term mental, physical, and legal ramifications. This is something that it often passed down from generation to generation, and ultimately has to be a cycle that is ultimately broken. This cannot be done if we cannot come to a consensus about what exactly constitutes domestic violence/abuse.
I believe that many of the discrepancies about the definition of domestic violence can be attributed to differences in environment and culture; with the idea that this falls of a spectrum. While some believe that as much a raising one’s voice in anger can be considered violent, on the other hand, you have others who feel that it is their right to do physical/emotional/financial damage to their spouse if deemed necessary.
What constitutes ‘domestic violence’?
I personally come from the school of thought that anything that negatively affects your partner’s autonomy, specifically in a malicious manner is considered domestic abuse. This includes physically assaulting them, emotionally victimizing them, preventing control of resources, and restricting their overall autonomy. People have the right to govern themselves, and for the sake of a healthy relationship, it is never okay to violate one’s autonomy.
This leads to the question of “what do we do if we’re involved in a domestic violence situation?”
Regardless of gender, relationship status, or sexual orientation, one should never feel that they deserve to be abused. I understand that it is a difficult situation to be in, but remember that you have resources that are willing to help you. There are typically local resources to assist you. If there aren’t local resources, feel free to contact PASA Trauma & Crisis Associates for assistance. There are key methods to keeping yourself safe in these situations; which include:
1. Recognizing signs of abuse and determining in you feel that you are being victimized. This is accompanied with the simple thought of “do I feel like my overall safety is intact?”
2. Communicate your needs within the relationship and how the treatment that you have been subjected to is unacceptable.
3. Game-planning your next move. If things are not improving for you, you have to understand what your options are, and have to prepare to use the resources at hand for your own safety and the safety of others involved.
You have every right to protect yourself, and to ensure that your autonomy is intact. No one ever has the right to victimize you under any circumstance. If you feel that it’s something that you want to try to work out, be strong in your convictions and be confident enough to communicate what your deal-breaking needs are. Sometimes these things can be worked out, and relationships can improve; but all possible options need to be explored and it’s a good idea to be prepared for anything.
Regardless, there are people available to help you with what you’re going through, who are willing to help you with whatever you need. Counseling, resources, community linkage, even support groups. Just know that you’re not alone.