What is Partner Violence?
Partner violence is the physical, sexual, psychological and economic abuse of a person by his/her intimate partner whether they are married, common-law, or dating, current or former relationships; or same or opposite sex couples. Partner violence exists in all communities and cuts across all socioeconomic, ethno-cultural and religious lines. While men can be victims, research indicates the overwhelming majority are women.
- 1 in 4 women experience physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner
- 1 in 5 is serious enough to involve physical injury
- 1 in 6 currently married women report violence by their spouses
- 1/2 of previously married women report violence by a partner
- 3/4 of women who experience violence by a past partner endure repeated assaults, 41% on more than 10 occasions
- Between 1974 and 1992, a married woman in Canada was nine times more likely to be killed by her spouse than by a stranger
- An average of 100 Canadian women a year are murdered by their male partners
Types of Violence
Physical: the non-accidental, willful infliction of physical pain or injury such as slapping, kicking, punching, burning, choking, stabbing and/or shooting.
Sexual: any form of sexual activity with a person without the consent of that person. Sexual abuse may include unwanted sexual touching, sexual relations without voluntary consent, or the forcing or coercing of degrading, humiliating, or painful sexual acts.
Psychological/Emotional/Verbal: behaviour intended to control, humiliate, intimidate, instill fear or diminish a person’s sense of self-worth. This includes persistent verbal aggression, forcing the victim to do degrading things such as eating cigarette butts or licking the floor, forced confinement, isolation, degradation, threats, or deliberately doing things to frighten the victim such as speeding through traffic or playing with weapons. Threats to harm or kill the children, other family members, pets or prized possessions are also abuse. Abusers may also threaten to remove, hide, or prevent access to children.
Economic Abuse/Financial Exploitation: exerting control of the victim’s financial resources without consent, withholding the resources necessary for basic physical necessities such as food, clothing, children’s diapers, adequate housing, personal care and medication.
Why Women Stay in Abusive Relationships:
- Fear for herself and others: Many women fear that the abuse will get worse if they leave. They fear that their partner will carry out threats he has made, such as hurting the children or other family members.
- Hope: Many women still love their partner and hope that he will change. Their partner may promise to change and the relationship may in fact get better for a time, so they believe they have good reasons to hope.
- The children: Women often feel they would be hurting their children by depriving them of a father’s presence and the things his income may provide for them.
- Lack of energy: Abused women are drained by constant stress. They may also be periodically incapacitated by injuries or live with chronic pain from a history of injuries. As a result they often feel immobilized, barely able to cope with the day-to-day demands of children, work and household management.
- Low self-esteem: Abused women have low self-esteem and little self-confidence. They don’t think they are important enough for their safety to matter. They don’t believe any man better than their partner would ever love them.
- Financial reasons: Some women feel they won’t be able to support themselves or their family. They may not have the skills or the confidence needed to seek and obtain employment. They may have to leave with nothing more than their clothes if their partner controls all the finances. For many women there is a stigma associated with social assistance and they rightly fear the difficulty of supporting their children.
- Advice from others: Family and friends often pressure women to stay and make the marriage work. Counselors may recommend better communication skills, while doctors may prescribe tranquilizers to help with the stress. Such friends and helping professionals have failed to perceive the abuse as a problem that the woman can solve. Others may not even acknowledge that abuse is taking place.
- Sanctity of marriage: Women may stay in the marriage as a result of strongly held religious and/or cultural beliefs. They believe it is the woman’s responsibility to make the marriage successful.
- Fear of the unknown: Battered women are afraid of what is “out there”.
- Emotional dependency: The victim may feel she can’t exist without her partner. He may be the only adult person with whom she has any emotional relationship at all, so breaking up would mean total isolation.
- Minimization and denial: Minimization and denial of the violence is a survival tactic. Women have to put the abuse out of their minds in order to care for the children, go to work, manage the household, etc. Minimization of the violence helps the woman continue to function, but it also makes it easier for her to stay because she is deceiving herself about the seriousness of her situation.
- Good times: Except in a few cases, there are usually good aspects to the relationship. Women stay for the positive qualities their partners have and for the “honeymoon” periods when they are not battering.
- No place to go: They may not have friends or family to turn to, or they may fear that by turning to them they could put them in danger. They may be unaware of women’s shelters in their area.
Indicators of Abuse:
- Fingertip bruises
- Bruises that don’t seem congruent with explanation
- Unexplained injuries
- Injuries in various stages of healing
- Grip marks
- Slow movement as if very sore
- Extreme worry/concern/stress
- Injuries to scalp
- Medication abuse
- Wearing heavy makeup
- Wearing long-sleeved shirts (especially in Summer)
- Always needing ‘permission’ from partner before engaging in an activity
- Always rushing home from work
- Partner calling or visiting numerous times a day
- Unexplained absences from work
- Public ridicule by partner
Ways to Help Someone Who is Being Abused:
Educate yourself on the issue of family violence
- Family violence is a serious crime, not a private family matter
- There is no typical abuser or victim of abuse
- Call a local women’s shelter for more information
Introduce the topic of family violence
- Listen if he/she is willing to talk
- Share what you know about the issue and any reading material you may have
- Do not victim-blame or minimize the abuse
- State that no one deserves to be abused
- Offer encouragement and point out strengths
Don’t give up
- Leaving an abusive partner is not as easy as packing and walking out the door. Leaving an abusive partner is dangerous; many women have to flee in fear of their lives.
- It is important to keep your own self-agenda out of the way when offering support to another individual.
- We each must have the right to make our own decisions based on what we feel is right or best at the time for ourselves. This isn’t easy to do, but it is a must.