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When the topic of domestic violence arises, at least one person usually says, “It couldn’t happen to me.”  In other words, that person feels that either she could easily detect (and thus avoid) an abusive partner, OR she doesn’t understand how or why a victim would stay in that relationship.  Well, let me start by saying, “It could be anyone”.  Domestic violence isn’t an issue that only impacts women of a certain race, religion, or socioeconomic status. Instead, it is a disgusting reality for women from all walks of life. From the outspoken Fortune 500 Company CEO with flawless makeup and fabulous shoes… to the modest, hard-working cleaning lady who tidies her office at night… to the woman struggling with drug and alcohol addiction.  Everyone… and I mean everyone… is a potential target.

So, “How does it start?”  Of course, I don’t pretend to know everybody’s story.  However, as a medical provider (and a friend), I’ve heard a lot of stories that often start in the same insidious way.  Let’s refer to the couple as “Girl” and “Guy”.  “Girl” meets “Guy”.  Guy seems to be exactly what Girl is looking for – smart, funny, handsome, nice, successful, etc.  Girl celebrates the fact that she has potentially found, “the one”.  After a while, Guy starts to drop subtle clues that he will become physically, sexually, or emotionally abusive.  When Girl asks Guy about his actions or words, Guy apologizes or tries to rationalize his behavior.  For example, Guy equates jealousy with love or attributes controlling behavior to concern for Girl.  One day, Girl wakes up and realizes that things have gotten out of control.

Please notice that abusers are often deceitfully kind and charming in the beginning.  In fact, one study found that 90% of abusers do not have criminal records and that abusers are generally law-abiding citizens outside the home.  Abusers can be hard to spot, but watch out for the following indicators:

  • Telling the victim that she can never do anything right
  • Showing jealousy when the victim spends time away or with friends or family
  • Accusing the victim of cheating
  • Keeping or discouraging the victim from seeing friends or family members
  • Embarrassing or shaming the victim
  • Controlling every penny spent in the household
  • Taking the victim’s money or refusing to give her money for expenses
  • Acting in ways that scare the victim
  • Controlling who the victim sees, where she goes, or what she does
  • Dictating how the victim dresses, wears her hair, etc.
  • Stalking the victim or monitoring her every move (in person or also via the internet and/or other devices such as GPS tracking or the victim’s phone)
  • Preventing the victim from making her own decisions
  • Telling the victim that she is a bad parent or threatening to hurt, kill, or take away her children
  • Threatening to hurt or kill the victim’s friends, loved ones, or pets
  • Intimidating the victim with guns, knives, or other weapons
  • Pressuring the victim to have sex when she doesn’t want to, or forcing her to do things sexually she is not comfortable with
  • Forcing sex
  • Refusing to use protection when having sex or sabotaging birth control
  • Pressuring or forcing the victim to use drugs or alcohol
  • Preventing the victim from working or attending school, harassing the victim at either, keeping the victim up all night so she performs  poorly at work or in school
  • Destroying the victim’s property

To be continued…

*As a gynecologist, I focus on female victims, but it is important to remember men can also be victims of domestic violence. #DrNita


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