When we talk about abusive relationships, it’s common to think of physical violence but that’s not the only type of abuse you should consider
*Amelia, 27, has been seeing her current boyfriend for about six months. She was relatively happy during the first few months of dating. However, Amelia is now displaying strange habits like eating alone at lunch and constantly texting her boyfriend. Her boyfriend also insists that she take a picture of her work outfit every single morning to show him. She doesn’t go out for social gatherings anymore and looks very tired every morning.
Amelia’s situation doesn’t sound like a big problem but we don’t see what’s happening behind the scenes. She’s tired because her boyfriend insists on talking on the phone until the early hours of the morning which interferes with her sleep. Most of the time, these conversations consist of him berating her about her clothing choice or the fact that she happened to sit next to her male colleague during an office meeting.
This is a classic example of an abusive relationship that doesn’t involve violence. However, it’s important to note that there’s always a chance that the controlling behaviour demonstrated by Amelia’s boyfriend could escalate to physical abuse as well. Here are some clear signs that point to an abusive relationship that doesn’t include physical violence.
Gaslighting is when one partner twists, omits or gives false information with the intent to make their victim doubt their own perception, memory or even sanity. An example would be finding flirtatious emails from your partner to another woman and confronting him or her about it. Your partner then vehemently denies that he ever sent this email and even contacts his company’s IT guy to report that his email has been hacked. The abusive partner could also imply that you’re ‘crazy’ and ‘making things up’.
“If you love me, you would…”
This is a classic move that an abuser employs to manipulate their partner into doing their bidding. An abuser could also use this tactic to force their partner to have sex or perform sexual acts against their will. An abusive person could even use this method to manipulate their partner into committing a crime such as embezzling or hurting another person.
Constantly questioning your whereabouts, who you’re with and generally displaying extremely jealous behaviour is a red flag in any relationship. This type of behaviour from a partner could affect relationships with friends and family because the abusive partner becomes unreasonably jealous. The abuser may also try to control other aspects of their partner’s life such as how they dress, how much money they spend and save and even birth control choices or lack thereof. This kind of behaviour gives the abuser power and allows them to keep the partner under their thumb. Especially with finances, this creates a situation where the victim is unable to get away due to not having enough money to support his or herself.
Never good enough
Being unnecessarily negative and saying negative things about their partner’s looks or capabilities are ways that abusers keep their partner’s confidence low. If confronted, abusers may try to justify their behaviour by saying that they’re just trying to ‘help’ their partner become a better person. Another sign of an abusive relationship is when one partner constantly putting the other partner down by saying degrading or humiliating things.
The blame game
“It’s your fault I’m like this!” is an example of something an abuser would say after hurting their other half physically, mentally, or both. What’s worse is that the longer a person stays in an abusive relationship, the more likely they are start thinking that it is really their fault and thus, allow their abuser to keep being abusive.
It is entirely possible for an abuser to resort to threatening suicide if their partner wants to leave them. On the other hand, violence against the victim could also be threatened to force them to stay in the relationship. If your partner threatens violence towards you, your family or your pets, leave immediately.
It’s best to pack an emergency bag filled with necessities such as toiletries and a few pieces of basic clothing and undergarments. Get in touch with a local domestic violence shelter or a trusted friend to help you get away. One thing to remember is that none of this is your fault and that your insecurities were used against you to force you to stay in the relationship.
Victims of domestic abuse, both male and female, usually don’t know that they’re in an abusive relationship and are often in denial. Keep in mind that it’s not because you’re flawed in any way but because someone preyed on your weaknesses and exploited you.
The flip side
When it comes to abusive relationships, the focus is usually on women but men can be victims as well. The Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development has revealed that up to September 2014, 2,715 domestic violence complaints were made by female victims whereas 958 were made by male victims. It was found that men, in particular, would seek treatment for injuries at hospitals due to ‘accidents’.
Doctors and nurses are trained to identify injuries from physical abuse and can then direct the victims to the One Stop Crisis Centre. The One Stop Crisis Centre provides medical treatment and examination, collection of statements, counselling, shelter and also legal assistance. This centre was established to help victims of any form of violence such as domestic violence, sexual assault, and child abuse. The One Stop Crisis Centre can be found in almost every hospital in Malaysia.