Understanding Abusive Relationships


Erin Bryant, Press Release Editor

Trigger warning: This article contains details about intimate partner violence and domestic violence.

Love is a very powerful. Some argue it is the most powerful force in the entire world. Unfortunately, love is often paired with aggression. A relationship that begins with kisses, hugs, and laughter can end in bruises, scars, and depression. Even worse, it may never end.

The abuser can be a boyfriend, girlfriend, spouse, or a platonic friend. One in three women and one in four men have experienced physical violence by an intimate partner within their lifetime, according to the National Coalition for Domestic Violence.

People can be hurt physically, emotionally, and verbally. Physical abuse is defined as any use of size, strength, or presence to hurt or control someone else which includes restraining, pushing, stalking, chasing, driving recklessly, forcing sex, and breaking things. Threats, criticism, questioning, jealousy, and isolation all characterize emotional abuse. Verbal abuse is very similar.

While physical abuse may seem like the most devastating, emotional and verbal abuse can be just as bad if not worse. These types of abuse can lead to mental disorders such as depression, anxiety, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Sadly, it is much harder to spot a victim of emotion or verbal abuse compared to a victim of physical abuse.

Obviously being attacked physically or emotionally is not fun. This leads many people to ask, “Why do sufferers stay?”

Abusive relationships often function in cycles. First off, there is the abuse, which is used as a power play to assert dominance. This is followed by a period of guilt where the abuser may feel remorse for what he or she has done or feel regret when thinking about the prospect of getting caught. In order to alleviate guilt, an offender may then make excuses for his or her actions, which highlight all of the things that the victim had done to provoke or deserve abuse.

After this, normal behavior usually comes where a happy, healthy relationship is maintained. Abusers may then go back to their old ways and start looking for excuses, set-up a situation, and “correct” the behavior, thus taking the relationship full circle.

Many stay in abusive relationships because they think that their partner will change. According to the Alabama Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the average woman will leave and return an abusive relationship 6-8 times before her final exit.

What advice should a victim hear? What should they do to actually leave?

“I would tell a victim to talk to someone they trust like a parent or friend. Even if they have to sneak out, they need to get out because their partner won’t change,” Ashli Paul, senior, said.

“I would like to tell victims to run, no matter the cost. Things will probably get worse with time,” Immanuel Girgis, sophomore, said.

This message of, “Get out,” is widespread but very powerful. Victims must leave or alert someone of their problem. The National Domestic Abuse Hotline is 1-800-799-7233. It is accessible twenty-four hours, seven days a week. Love is very powerful, but when it goes badly then get out.