Last weekend, celebrity abusers Chris Brown and Oscar Pistorius popped up in headlines again, but this time it wasn’t for their respective assault convictions and murder trials. Instead, Brown was lauded for his performance at the Billboard Music Awards. Brown’s ex-girlfriend Rihanna, whom he attacked during an argument in 2009, skipped the show. Pistorius, meanwhile, announced through his manager that he will not compete in races for the rest of the year. His decision was covered by the BBC, which dedicated almost 80% of the article to Pistorius’s storied athletic career. His former girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, whom Pistorius shot dead in February, was also mentioned briefly. Media coverage like this might lead you to believe our society condones domestic violence. It doesn’t — it can’t. Despite the prevalence of intimate-partner violence around the world and the hesitance of some journalists to decry abusers, there are extraordinary survivors, advocates, and organizations out there who are ready to support any young person at risk of being hurt.
Domestic violence is an international epidemic that hits our generation especially hard. Rihanna was 20 when Brown assaulted her before the Grammy Awards, while Reeva Steenkamp was murdered by Pistorius when she was 29. Their stories line up with the experiences of millions of Americans who are abused and thousands who are killed by their partners each year. Almost half are first assaulted between the ages of 18 and 24. These survivors are us, our friends, and our families. If you fear you’re at risk, check out these nine signs of domestic violence from Safe Horizon. You may be in an abusive relationship if your partner...
1. Accuses you of cheating or being disloyal
Intimacy and possessiveness are two very different things. If your partner goes through your belongings, wants you to drop all male or female friends, or shows up at your work or school because he or she’s suspicious of you, that’s not showing love — it’s terrorizing. You deserve a partner who respects, trusts, and listens to you.
2. Makes you feel worthless
Domestic violence isn’t limited to physical outbursts. Abusers wage a long campaign of criticism, humiliation, and degradation on their victims, so victims believe they deserve to be hurt. But you never deserve to be hurt, especially by someone who says he or she cares about you. What would you say to a friend who was being manipulated this way by a partner?
3. Threatens to hurt you or someone you love
Does your partner explode in anger, so you’re always careful about what you say and do around them? Does he or she destroy objects during fights? Does he or she threaten to jeopardize your family members, immigration, or legal status? Abusers escalate — they may start with screaming and end, months or years later, in life-threatening violence. If you’re being threatened, leave now before it gets worse.
4. Threatens to hurt himself or herself
Abusers use your care for them as a weapon. It’s hard to think of a crueler (or more effective) threat than your partner self-harming if you don’t do something he or she wants. Sometimes, a partner will threaten suicide if you leave; sometimes, he or she will tell you you’re responsible for the fallout that comes from reporting abuse, like a criminal record or jail time. This is manipulation: You don’t bear the blame for your partner hurting you or for the consequences of their actions. His or her behavior is not your fault.
5. Isolates you
Your partner wants to cut you off from the outside world. This might start small — always wanting to know where you are, for example, or telling you he or she doesn’t like certain people in your life — and escalate until your partner controls what you can do, where you can go, and how you can see. But no matter how long it’s been, reach out for help. You’ll find your support system is stronger than you ever expected.
6. Pressures you into unwanted sex
Almost one in five women and one in 71 men in the U.S. have been raped, and nearly 80% of female survivors are raped before they are 25. More than half of female rape survivors were sexually assaulted by a current or former partner, and 75% of sexual coercion victims reported perpetration by a partner. Sexual violence is physical violence. It is abuse.
7. Controls your access to money
An abuser might insist on monitoring your finances, restricting you to an allowance, or sabotaging your career. Economic abuse like this is intended to foster dependency, but there are crisis intervention, counseling, and shelter services available for survivors of abuse that will support your freedom. Contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline to find out more about your local resources.
8. Stalks you
One in six women and 1 in 19 men in the U.S. have been stalked. More than half of female and one-third of male survivors of stalking were victimized before the age of 25. For both women and men, their stalkers were most often current or former intimate partners. Someone constantly monitoring you isn’t flattering, it’s terrifying. When you’re stalked, you live in fear for your life and the lives of those you love. Remember: stalking is a crime.
9. Hits, chokes, or kicks you...
Trigger warning: Violence. A powerful PSA for the National Domestic Violence Hotline.
...Or burns, bites, shoves, or cuts you. The list of horrors goes on and on. More than one in three women and one in four men in the U.S. have been abused by a partner — that’s 76.7 million people. A woman is beaten in somewhere this country every nine seconds. An average of three women die every day at the hands of their partners. Survivors’ advocates are forced to tell domestic violence victims a horrific truth: abusers rarely stop. You deserve a life free of violence or intimidation, but you won’t ever have it with an abusive partner. Ask for help today.