You may know a woman like her. Perhaps she is you.
She always wore long sleeved shirts. When friends asked her to go out for dinner or a movie, she would make excuses why she couldn’t go. Her smile seemed forced. Unexplained absences from work were frequent and unexpected. The clues were there, but no one suspected that she was living with domestic violence.
According to the The National Domestic Violence Hotline, domestic violence is a pattern of behaviors used by one partner to maintain power and control over the other partner. It occurs in all races, ages, religions, and genders. It happens to people of all economic backgrounds and education levels.
The relationship seems ideal at first. You hear “I love you,” and you believe it.
But then things change. Temper flare-ups, a slap, demanding access to your phone or computer. You question yourself, not wanting to accept what is happening. You feel uncertain and confused. You make excuses. Clothing and makeup cover the bruises, and you stay home so no one knows the truth.
This feels wrong, but you’re not sure.
Some signs that you are in an abusive situation may include: jealousy of friends and time spent apart; insults and shame; preventing you from making decisions, working or attending school; manipulation; destroying your property; threatening harm to you, children, or pets; telling you that you never do anything right. There can be screaming, breaking things, hiding car keys and phones; pulling your hair, punching, hitting, slapping; threatening with a weapon; forcing you into intimate situations. These are all signs of abuse.
When the episode is over, the abuser may cry, beg forgiveness and promise it will never happen again.
You want to believe him. He said he loves you.
But this is not love. Love does not intentionally hurt another person. Love does not leave you feeling alone, scared and intimidated. Love does not control every aspect of your life.
You feel helpless and isolated. But you are not alone. One in four women in the United States have been physically abused by their partner.
Please know that this is not your fault. No one deserves abusive treatment. Do not be ashamed or embarrassed. Despite what the abuser says, you are worthy of a healthy relationship. You are important. You can make choices. You deserve the best. Everyone should feel safe.
But how do you take that first step and get help? If you cannot go to friends or family members, there are agencies and people who will provide you with assistance and care. Call the local police. The National Domestic Violence Hotline number is 1-800-799-7233.
Locally, ADV & SAS offers emergency shelter, court advocacy, hospital assistance, confidentiality, counseling, and a 24-hour crisis line. Their number is 1-800-892-3375.
If you suspect that a friend or family member is in an abusive relationship, do not ignore it. Someone needs you to step in and be their voice. You could be saving your friend, sister, daughter, co-worker, neighbor, or mother.
Everyone deserves to wear short sleeved shirts, have dinner with friends, go to work and wear a genuine smile.
KAREN ROTH, of Ottawa, is a semi-retired, original member of the Write Team. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.