Tuesday, September 16, 2014

What's Worse than a Black Eye

The whole country is talking about it: football fans and feminists, sportscasters and sponsors, politicians and parents. It's domestic violence. A 3½ minute video has brought domestic violence out of the shadows and made it a topic of conversation for weeks.

Not since another famous athlete, OJ Simpson, was linked to a tragic domestic violence incident has the issue received so much attention. Those conversations are increasing awareness and are the catalyst for much needed social change. Citizens from all walks of life are denouncing abuse, calling for more responsive laws and practices, raising questions and searching for answers. National hotlines are reporting more calls from people who need help.

What we saw in that video has changed us, made us notice, made us care, and in some ways helped us to understand. But there’s one thing that really troubles me. We took notice because he punched her in the face; we were shocked at the brutality of the physical assault. That video reinforces the belief that domestic violence involves physical abuse. Sometimes it does, but not always. We’ve seen that physical abuse can be brutal. But when we speak with survivors of domestic violence they often tell us that the most damaging abuse wasn’t physical, it was the psychological control, the isolation, the threats and intimidation. It was continually feeling like they were walking on eggshells. That's abuse too... but much harder to see. 

It’s not uncommon for someone to call our hotline and apologetically say, “I’m not sure if I should be calling you; I’ve never been hit.” And then they describe why they called and clearly they are experiencing abuse. It may be emotional or psychological abuse, or financial/economic control. Their partner may be isolating them from friends or family. Or sexually violating them.

But in the absence of physical abuse, they question if it’s domestic violence…. and they’re not sure if it’s OK to call for help. That’s a concern. While we’re having those conversations about domestic violence, let’s also talk about abusive behaviors above and beyond physical violence. The message is coming through loud and clear that physically assaulting a partner is unacceptable. Let’s not stop the discussion there. Let’s talk about other forms of power and control too.  

If you or someone you know may be experiencing abuse,
call our 24 hour hotline at 518-584-8188.
We can help.

All services are free and confidential.

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