Love isn't supposed to hurt, but for too many women, physical and sexual
abuse are part of their lives. Domestic violence experts estimate that 2 to 4
million women are battered each year.
But domestic violence - an assault by a husband or boyfriend - doesn't
always come in the most dramatic, headline-grabbing forms. Emotional and verbal
abuse, date rape and more subtle forms of violence happen to women and girls of
all ages. Are you - or is your daughter - in a potentially abusive
By Laurie Puhn
Almost every couple has one: that seemingly trivial fight that just keeps
cropping up, day after day, month after month, making you feel as if you're
stuck in your very own version of Groundhog Day. Perhaps it's about your
husband's leaving his cereal bowl by the sink rather than in the dishwasher, or
your forgetting — oops! — to tell him that his mother called. The issues that
trigger bickering can seem insignificant, but when fights keep on resurfacing,
your otherwise happy...
Domestic violence is not about anger, says Michigan psychiatrist Laura
McMahon, MD, who teaches young women what behaviors are - and are not -
appropriate in a relationship. "Domestic violence is about domination,
manipulation and control." And abusive behavior often starts when a couple is
just dating, she says.
Types of Abuse
Abuse can be physical, sexual, emotional or verbal, says Mary Jo Fay, RN,
MSN, author of When Your Perfect Partner Goes Perfectly Wrong. She
explains the different types:
Physical abuse includes hitting, punching, strangling, restraining,
pushing and slapping.
Verbal abuse includes name-calling, shouting and yelling.
Emotional abuse includes blaming, accusing and restricting your
freedom - like preventing you from using the phone or talking to family
members, or recording the mileage on your car to see if you've driven somewhere
'not allowed.' Attempting to confuse you mentally - as in the Hitchcock film
"Gaslight" - is another perfect example, says Fay.
Sexual abuse is a forced sexual encounter of any type, says Fay.
This includes intercourse, inappropriate touching of any kind (even through
clothing) and even forced kissing when you don't desire it.
Common Abusive Behavior
Most women don't leave at the first warning signs of domestic violence, Fay
says, because they're afraid to rock the boat or don't have the financial
resources and social support to leave. "Because of the controlling nature of
abusers," she says, "it's hard for many women to make contact with
someone who can help them, or even to have any money."
Could you be in an abusive relationship? The Sojourner Truth House, an
advocacy organization and shelter for battered women in Wisconsin, provides
this list of abusive behaviors. While this list focuses on male partners, in a
few cases, a woman could be the abuser in a relationship.
He always has to be right
Can you voice your own opinions, even if your partner disagrees? Or does he
push your ideas aside and insist on being right?
Is your partner short-tempered and quick to anger? Does he often slam doors,
punch walls or throw things? Does he take out his anger on innocent
Uses his physical force
Has your partner grabbed or squeezed you so hard you were bruised? Does your
partner hold you down or shove, slap, kick or hit you, to get his way?
Jealous and possessive
Does your partner seem overly jealous or possessive of you? Does he frequently
ask where you went, why, and whom you saw? Does he accuse you of things that
you didn't do?
Fascinated by weapons
Does your partner carry a knife, gun or other weapon, or spend a lot of time
watching violent films and videos?
Heavy drinking or drugs
Does your partner often drink heavily or use drugs, and become more
hot-tempered when he does?
Has your relationship moved faster than you'd like?
If your partner displays any of these behaviors, domestic violence experts
advise you to leave immediately. "Unfortunately, you can't usually prevent
domestic violence," says McMahon, "since most abusers don't feel they have a