What we hear from many victims and survivors is that they did not believe they were experiencing domestic violence because they did not experience physical abuse, even though they experienced mental, emotional, and financial abuse. Victims and survivors that CADA advocates have worked with have expressed that emotional abuse is just as, if not more prevalent than the physical abuse they experience.
Emotional abuse can take many forms, such as controlling the finances, making threats, minimizing or denying the abuse, or extreme jealousy. If one partner makes the other feel embarassed, isolated, scared, or belittled, these can be signs of emotional abuse.
At CADA, we understand that domestic violence looks different to everyone experiencing it. Domestic violence is any attempt to gain power and control over one's partner. It might take the form of physical or sexual violence, or it might include the tactics of emotional abuse. The power and control wheel is a tool that was developed with survivors to show tactics often used in abusive relationsips. The wheel demonstrates that an abusive partner attempts to gain power and control through various abusive tactics, with the overarching threat of physical or sexual violence. Even if there has never been physical violence, the victim is often afraid of their partner. They are afraid that their partner might one day be violent towards them, their children, or their family.
If you answer yes to any or all of these questions, we recommend talking to someone you trust about your relationship or reaching out to an advocate at CADA. Make sure you talk to someone who will listen with an open mind and not judge you. Always, always, always remember - the abuse is NOT your fault.
Advocates and victims are often asked why people stay in abusive relationships. It can be hard for someone who has never experienced abuse to understand why someone would stay in a relationship that is unhealthy or violent. A lot of the people we work with say that the relationship started off great - that their partner was loving, caring, and attentive. The abuse developed over time and started with more subtle unhealthy behaviors, such as a mean comment, a jealous remark, or a firm grab of their arm. Over time, these behaviors become a pattern and can escalate. We want to believe that the people we love would not intentionally hurt us.
Some reasons someone may stay in an abusive relationship:
While these are certainly not all the reasons someone might stay in a relationship, they can show you that leaving an abusive relationship is not an easy decision to make. It is one of the hardest and most dangerous times for a victim.
Because of the barriers victims face, it can be an extremely difficult decision to end or leave an abusive relationship.
Here are some safety considerations for someone in or trying to leave an abusive relationship:
It is important to know that regardless of whether you leave or stay, CADA advocates will provide you with support and tools for safety planning. Advocates are here 24-hours a day to talk about your thoughts and feelings, the concerns. Advocates can work with you to discuss options and offer resources that are available to you.