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I had begun to believe his awful lies- how worthless I was, how stupid, how ugly, and how no one would ever want me.” Other survivors have pointed out that while the signs of physical abuse might be noticeable to a friend or family member, the effects of verbal/emotional abuse are harder to spot, and harder to prove. It often involves making the victim doubt their own sanity.
Physical and sexual assaults, or threats to commit them, are the most apparent forms of relationship abuse and are usually the actions that allow others to become aware of the problem.
However, regular use of other abusive behaviors by the abuser make up a larger system of abuse.
The commonly held definition of abuse, which we use in all of our trainings, is “a pattern of behavior used by one person to gain and maintain power and control over another.” One thing to note about that definition is that we are talking about a of behavior, in other words, not just one incident.
These behaviors can take on a number of different forms.
Studies of adults report inconsistent findings as to whether males or females are more likely to use violent behaviors toward their partner.
Although partner violence frequently begins during adolescence, few dating violence studies involve adolescents and even fewer report findings by gender.
An abusive partner might also use sex as a means to judge their partner and assign a value – in other words, criticizing or saying that someone isn’t good enough at sex, OR that sex is the only thing they’re good for.
Because sex can be so loaded with emotional and cultural implications, there are any number of ways that the feelings around it can be uniquely used for power and control.
An abusive relationship can include any or all of these types of behaviors, sustained over a period of time and often escalating.
If you or someone you care about is experiencing this and you want to talk to someone about your concerns, REACH’s hotline is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.