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Rego: Stop shaming those who don’t leave abusive relationships

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board. This column contains graphic content pertaining to domestic violence. Please read at your own discretion.

The grass is always greener on the other side. Some people wonder how a person could love their abuser or wonder why a person doesn’t just simply leave an abusive partner. The answer is that it’s not that simple. 

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So what exactly is domestic violence? Domestic violence is any violent or aggressive behavior within the home, typically against a partner or spouse as a means to gain the power of control.

Domestic violence comes in a variety of types of abuse. There’s physical abuse (which can include hitting, slapping, pushing, etc.), sexual abuse (which can include sexual demeaning, sexual jokes, marital rape, etc.), emotional abuse (which can include gaslighting, manipulation, blame-shifting, deflection of victim’s sense of self-worth, etc.), economic abuse (which can include forcing the victim to become monetarily reliant on the abuser, etc.), psychological abuse (which can include threats, intimidation, isolation and others), stalking of any form and more.

Recently due to COVID-19, many people have been forced to stay inside and be stuck with their abuser. There is currently a photo thread circulating social media that depicts multiple women showing their injuries caused by domestic violence since the start of the lockdown to raise awareness.

According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, nearly half of all women and men in the United States have experienced psychological aggression by an intimate partner in their lifetime. Not only psychological aggression, but 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men aged 18 and older in the U.S. have been the victim of severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime.

According to The Guardian, one campaign called Counting Dead Women has counted at least 16 killings related to domestic violence in the U.K., including children. Overall, much data collected throughout the world is showing that there has been an increase in domestic violence since the coronavirus outbreak. More people are being forced to stay inside with their abusers due to the lockdown and therefore are forced to sustain the abuse.

It might seem like common sense — why don’t they just leave the abusive relationship?

Many times, a spouse might have a family with their abuser, they’re financially tethered to their abuser or the abuser might make promises to change every time while profusely apologizing after an argument — and the spouse might still love them and want to believe them. Abusers tend to be manipulative and find ways to force or trick their partner into staying.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline website includes not only helpful resources on how to prepare and execute leaving a domestic violence situation but also a hotline that can be reached at 1-800-799-7233.”

There are even anonymous options so the victim can safely find an avenue of escape without the partner knowing. I recently saw a trend on Facebook that went along the lines of: Message me if you’re interested in buying soap (I do not sell soap), ask me about the kids’ bubble bath if you have children (I do not have bubble bath) and send me your address so I may ship the soap (I am not shipping soap). Anonymous messages like this make it easier for others to reach out and help victims stuck in their situations.

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The U.S. Department of Justice has offered new avenues of escape through technology. The National Domestic Violence Hotline website includes not only helpful resources on how to prepare and execute leaving a domestic violence situation but also a hotline that can be reached at 1-800-799-7233.

So instead of looking down on someone who is stuck in an abusive relationship, viewing them as stupid or simply doing it to themselves, how about we encourage them to safely leave by offering them resources and trying to understand why or how they can’t leave?

Shay Rego can be reached at letters@collegian.com or on Twitter @shay_rego.

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