We don’t take relationship violence very seriously.
There are many things that hold people back from talking about domestic violence and sexual violence. These barriers to communication about something that happens far too often need to be broken down. October is Relationship Violence Awareness Month, and there are things that you can do to shed some light on the huge issue.
There are six different types of abuse: physical, verbal, emotional, economic, mental and sexual.
Physical abuse is anything that physically harms you, from pushing and shoving to blocking your exits and using weapons.
Verbal abuse can be mocking or constantly yelling and screaming.
Emotional abuse means shaming, controlling who you talk to or communicate with, not being respectful, etc.
Economic abuse can be anything from making one person pay for everything to keeping you from getting an education.
Mental abuse can mean making you think you are crazy, lying and threatening to “out” one’s partner.
Sexual abuse is anything from keeping you from getting an abortion to rape or unwanted sexting.
All types of abuse happen and all are valid. What I see happening is the invalidation of anything but physical abuse, and sometimes ignoring that. Just because you are in a relationship with someone doesn’t mean that they have the right to control you, and it certainly doesn’t mean that you cannot leave whenever you want. While it is not always realistic to leave a relationship for some people, there are resources to help.
A common excuse for any and all types of abuse is just that “they really care about me.” This is used by victims to excuse their partner(s) and possibly to make themselves feel like what is happening is okay. This excuse can also be used by abusers to make it seem like they treat their partner(s) the way they do out of love.
While love and caring can be complicated in the ways that people express that, abuse is not caring and it is not loving. No matter what the intention, making another person feel lesser is never a good thing.
This month is a good time to bring up these issues with friends and family, if not to address serious issues than to at least make yourself and others aware. Many relationships are abusive simply because we don’t know what is okay and what isn’t.
This can be an uncomfortable topic, but that is all the more reason to talk about it. I personally know how incredibly difficult it is to recognize an abusive relationship. What hurts even worse than that is knowing that had I been educated earlier on healthy, unhealthy and abusive relationships, it could have been avoided.
Take some time to educate yourself. The Women and Gender Advocacy Center is hosting events throughout the month to raise awareness. For instance, the Red Flags Campaign encourages the CSU community to say something when they see warning signs in a friend or family member’s relationship.
We can’t afford to ignore this issue any longer. I encourage you to use this opportunity to talk about these issues, create a safe community for yourself and others, and recognize that abuse can and does happen within the confines of a relationship.
Michaela Jarrett is a second year Ethnic Studies student. Letters and artwork can be sent email@example.com.