Intimate partner violence is an issue that affects millions of people of all genders and cultures. It occurs across all demographics and socioeconomic statuses, often without any known catalyst. The signs of an abusive relationship may or may not be subtle, but the effects can be devastating. If you or someone you know is experiencing abuse, there are resources available to help.
Intimate partner violence is a global issue
Intimate partner violence is a global issue. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that more than 35% of women worldwide have experienced physical or sexual violence from an intimate partner in their lifetime, and WHO also estimates that 1 in 4 women in the US have experienced severe physical violence by an intimate partner.
It’s important to note that these statistics are based on self-reported data; they only reflect how many people report having been violent towards or abused by someone else. A lot of people who experience domestic abuse don’t report it because they feel ashamed, afraid, or isolated from other people who might help them out of their situation.
Contributing factors to Intimate Partner Violence
It’s important to remember that intimate partner violence can happen in any relationship, regardless of gender or sexual orientation. There are several factors that can contribute to intimate partner violence, every situation is different. Some of these risk factors include:
- Alcohol and drug abuse
- Mental health issues
- Financial stress
- Cultural or religious beliefs that promote the use of violence against women (e.g., honor abuse, dowry death)
- Lack of education
- Lack of resources (e.g., food, shelter)
- Perceived lack of support
Signs you may be in an abusive relationship
If you’re in a relationship with someone who exhibits these behaviors, it could be abusive. If your partner has exhibited any of these signs throughout your relationship, trust your intuition and take the appropriate steps to ensure your safety:
- Physical abuse: This includes hitting, slapping and punching; pinching; biting; pushing; kicking; pulling hair or dragging by the hair; breaking bones or dislocating joints/jaw; using weapons such as knives/guns/other sharp objects to threaten someone else’s life or health.
- Emotional abuse: Verbal put-downs designed to make you feel bad about yourself such as name-calling (e.g., “loser”), insults (e.g., “You’re worthless!”), threats (e.g., “I’ll leave you if you don’t change…”) attempts at isolating from family and friends by saying things like “No one will believe you anyways.” One form of emotional abuse can include telling lies about others behind their backs so that they look bad when everyone finds out what was said about them, known as ‘gaslighting’.
Why do people stay in abusive relationships?
- Fear: You may be afraid to leave because you don’t know how you’ll support yourself or your children. You may be afraid of being alone, of losing your friends and family, or that no one else will want you. You may fear what your abuser will do if they find out you’re leaving them.
- Believing the abuse won’t happen again: It’s normal for people in an abusive relationship to think the abuser doesn’t mean it when he hits, shoves, belittles or controls them—and that it won’t happen again. Unfortunately, abusers often apologize profusely and promise not to hurt their partners anymore—but then go right back to hurting them after a short time has passed. Abusers use this pattern of behavior over and over again until their victims are conditioned into believing that abuse is normal and acceptable behavior in relationships.
- Believing love conquers all: Many women who stay in abusive relationships believe love is strong enough to overcome everything else—including physical violence and psychological abuse (being threatened excessively). They hope their partner will change once they realize how much they care about him/her; however, this rarely happens unless there’s some kind of professional intervention involved (like couples counseling).
If you or someone you know is being abused, seek help
If you or someone you know is being abused, there are resources for you. The Women’s Equality branch of the Province of New Brunswick has consolidated information for victims, children, bystanders, and those who recognize that they are abusers. You can find information, resources, and support networks on their website: Domestic Violence – Information and Support Services).
- “Violence against women” fact sheet: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/violence-against-women
- “Global and regional estimates of violence against women: prevalence and health effects of intimate partner violence and non-partner sexual violence” report: https://www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/violence/9789241564625/en/