Domestic Abuse Is An Epidemic And No One Is Immune

Domestic Abuse Is An Epidemic And No One Is Immune

Many people are victims of domestic abuse and are unaware because they do not know what red flags to look for.

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Trigger Warning: This article discusses signs of domestic abuse as well as statistics concerning it.

Every minute, 20 people are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States; that is over 10 million men and women over the course of one year. That number does is enormous, but it does not even encompass the vast number of people (48.8% of men and 48.4% of women) who experience emotional abuse by an intimate partner. In the era of #metoo and self-empowerment, there are still many men and women who are unable to speak out against their abuser for a long list of reasons. Many people are not even aware that what they are experiencing is domestic abuse because they have either never learned the signs or the behaviors are just so common to them that they cannot even tell the difference anymore.

There are five different types of common domestic abuse: physical, emotional/psychological, sexual, financial, and digital. When someone says "abuse" most people immediately think of physical abuse; they picture a black eye or a bruised wrist. But abuse can take many forms and none are less legitimate than others; abuse is abuse. There are many warning signs that heavily imply the presence of domestic abuse; here are a few of them pertaining to each type of abuse:

Physical Abuse

  • Forbidding you from eating or sleeping
  • Pulling hair, choking, punching, slapping, kicking, etc.
  • Abandoning you in unfamiliar places
  • Driving dangerously with you in the car
  • Forcing you to use drugs or alcohol
  • Using weapons against you

Emotional/Psychological Abuse

  • Continually insulting you
  • Trying to isolate you from your family/friends
  • Telling you what you can and cannot do
  • Putting you down in front of other people
  • Preventing you from leaving your home
  • Threatening you
  • Punishing you by withholding affection
  • Humiliating you on purpose
  • Gaslighting (defined as manipulating someone into questioning their own sanity)
  • Refusing to trust you
  • Blaming you for the abuse
  • Attempting to control your appearance (makeup, clothing, haircut, etc.)
  • Cheating
  • Telling you no one will ever love you as much as they do

Sexual Abuse

  • Forcing you to dress in a provocative or "sexy" way that you are not comfortable with
  • Insulting you sexually/calling you sexual names
  • Forcing/manipulating you into engaging in sexual acts
  • Holding you down during sex
  • Demanding sex after hurting you
  • Demanding sex as a way to "make something up" to them
  • Hurting you with weapons/objects during sex
  • Forcing you to watch pornography
  • Purposefully trying to give you an STD
  • Sabotaging methods of birth control during or before intercourse (taking away BC pills, poking holes in a condom, etc.)

Financial Abuse

  • Forbidding you from working
  • Monitoring your spending habits
  • Taking your paycheck from you
  • Stealing money from you
  • Forcing you to buy them things

Digital Abuse

  • Stalks you using social media
  • Tracks your location using your phone
  • Puts you down on public forums (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.)
  • Sends you unwanted, explicit pictures and/or demands them in return
  • Looks through your phone or computer without your permission
  • Steals or forces you to give them the passwords to your phone, computer, social media accounts
  • Circulates humiliating or explicit images of you digitally

Domestic abuse affects people of every age, race, gender, religion, ethnicity, and economic background. 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men, aged 18 and older, in the US have been the victim of severe violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime. That is a staggeringly large amount. Particularly at college, the prevalence of domestic abuse and rape are horrifying. 43% of dating college women reported experiencing abusive behavior from an intimate partner and date rape among college students accounts for 35% of all attempted rapes.

Domestic abuse is by no means in the past; it is something that is occurring right in front of us that needs to stop. Abuse is abuse no matter what form it takes; don't turn a blind eye to it because you don't want to "get in the middle" of someone's relationship or your own. If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic abuse, visit The National Domestic Violence Hotline website to call or chat online with them. You are never alone.

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An Open Letter To The Girl Who Doesn't Know If She Was Raped

You're a victim. Let yourself feel like one.
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I know exactly how you feel. I know the shame, the guilt, the regret and the loneliness. You've heard countless times that it's never the victim's fault, that you should never blame yourself, but you still do because you don't know if you're a victim of rape or merely one of your own denial. You're constantly fighting with yourself over whether your mind blew things out of proportion to shield you from having to face the reality of your decisions. I know how you feel, and I'm here to tell you this: you have nothing to be ashamed, guilty, or regretful of. Rape is not a one-size-fits-all crime with a cookie-cutter definition. It's different for every victim, and it isn't always forcible. Sometimes it's more subtle, an act of manipulation rather than one of carnal impulse and rage. That's how it was for me. Maybe my story will help you be a little more gentle with yourself.

I had been dating a guy for about two months, long enough for my trust in him to build. We had so much in common: we're both bodybuilders, our religious and political views aligned, and we had the same taste in music and food, among many other things. He gave me pointers in the gym, cooked dinner for me when I came over and was the kind of person you could just lay in bed with and talk about random things to for hours without getting bored. In my mind, he was perfect. That made it so much easier to ignore all the bright red flags until it was too late.

First of all, he went through girls like dollar bills. There were 34 before me, if I'm not mistaken, and he was all too eager to disclose this information, almost as if he were bragging. He did that a lot. He always felt the need to talk about how fit, attractive and smart he was and compare himself to others, putting himself on a pedestal that nobody else could ever reach. He required validation from everyone around him, constantly going out of his way to receive compliments and praise. In short, he was a narcissist. A leech who fed on other people to boost his ego and mask the extreme insecurity he was truly feeling inside. It was never about me. I was just a means to an end for him, the end being self-confidence. People like him aren't capable of love or emotional attachment. That's why it was so easy for him to trick me into getting what he wanted.

One night, we were watching a movie at his apartment and he offered me a drink. He was fully aware that I had never had more than a few sips of alcohol and had expressed interest in sharing that new experience with me. I found that incredibly sweet and agreed. I wasn't driving anywhere that night, I was supervised, and he knew how low my tolerance was so he wouldn't give me enough to get me drunk...or so I thought. When I was about halfway done, he said "Wait about fifteen minutes and see how you feel. If you're okay, finish the rest and you'll still feel fine afterwards." I was even more reassured after that. He told me to wait and see how I feel AND that I wouldn't be drunk if I was still okay after fifteen minutes. That meant I was right about his intentions all along - he just wanted to be present for my first time drinking because he cared about me and wanted to see me trying new things. What a naive girl I was...

I ended up getting VERY drunk. I don't remember much of what happened other than us having sex. That was nothing new, it wasn't my first time with him, but what he said a few days later will haunt me until the day I die. We were talking on the phone when I asked him why he gave me so much alcohol when he said he wasn't going to. His response was, "I wanted sexual aggression from you. I was tired of you never initiating things, and I knew you would if you were drunk."

I didn't know what to make of that. A wave of confusion, hurt and anger hit me like a brick wall. I immediately blamed myself for everything: I should've known more about alcohol, I should've watched him pour the drink, I should've refused it altogether.

Even if you didn't go through this exact situation, the advice I'm giving applies to any encounter where the lines were "blurred." I say that in quotes because blurred lines don't exist. The line between consensual sex and rape is as bold as the dividing line on a highway. If all parties aren't fully aware of each others' intentions beforehand and/or don't maintain affirmative, SOBER consent throughout the duration of the act, it's rape. Plain and simple. And prior consent does not guarantee future consent. So, yes, I might have consented to the alcohol and the sex, but I never would've had I known his intentions, not to mention I wasn't sober at the time of consent. He just assumed I'd be okay with it because I usually was in the past.

So even though the law doesn't believe you, I need you to know that I (and thousands of others like us) do. Your feelings are valid and nobody has the right to tell you that you weren't assaulted just because physical force wasn't used. It's imperative that our society understands this, especially with the continued normalization of rape culture rhetoric that we've seen lately. So let yourself be confused, hurt, and angry. Don't try to bottle up all your emotions and pretend like everything is okay. You're a victim and you deserve to feel like one. Only then, after you've let yourself grieve, will you be able to truly rise up and move on. You will recover from this, but only after you've faced it and realized the gravity of what happened to you rather than letting society define how you should feel based on its perceived notions of what rape looks like. Only you know what it looks like for you and whether you experienced it or not, and yours is the only opinion that should hold any weight in your life.

Cover Image Credit: Flickr/zenonline

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The Real Reasons Women Don't Report Sexual Assault

Content warning: Sexual assault.

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These days in the United States, it is hard to get online and not see a headline of a woman coming forward telling her story of how she was sexually assaulted. You read the article and scroll through the comments underneath. Whether it happened last night, or 20 years ago, you'll probably see questions like these: "what was she wearing?" "was she drunk" "was she walking alone late at night?" If the rape didn't happen the night before, you'll probably see this question as well: "Well what took her so long to report?" Followed by an "I don't believe her, just another whore looking for attention." or.."He probably didn't call her back, so now she's looking for revenge." We can't forget my favorite, though "Was she drunk and just woke up regretting it?" Those are just a few reasons women don't report.

We see headlines about Brock Turner violently raping an unconscious girl, and getting sentenced only SIX MONTHS in jail. He only served three months. Brett Kavanaugh, who was accused of sexual assault by three women, was appointed as Supreme Court Justice. Donald Trump, the President of the United States, sexualizes his own daughter and says things like "grab her by the pussy." The leader of the free world speaks about women like that. Are you still questioning why we don't come forward?

If you find a woman willing to open up about her experience with sexual assault, her story will probably sound something like this. First comes the shock, what you just went through is unfathomable. You're not even completely sure if what you think just happened, happened. You blame yourself, you go through every second kicking yourself for not fighting back harder, not yelling, and maybe kicking yourself for not saying anything at all. Denial sets in shortly after. You tell yourself "no, that wasn't rape. That couldn't happen to me."

Eventually, the pain sets in and there are a lot of tears. It sucks, the dreams, the flashbacks, even certain sounds will take you back to that moment. Sometimes it causes panic attacks and severe anxiety. You dissociate, you don't want to socialize, you don't want to go out and have fun, because you're scared you'll break down. When the anger sets in, though, that's a different story. No man stands a chance, especially those who resemble him. You are repulsed by everything men do, and you think it will never go away. Honestly, you pity the next man you fall for, if that even happens because you don't know how you'll be intimate again, both emotionally and physically.

The last thing a sexual assault survivor wants is to see the person who did it again. So that plays a huge part in not reporting, along with the trauma that comes with getting a rape kit and being interrogated by the police, as if you've done something wrong. Once you've been completely violated, having a stranger poke and prod you to make sure you're not pregnant or don't have an STD feels like a violation all over again.

Don't ever ask a woman why she didn't report and do not ever ask why it took so long. You don't know what courage it took to accept it come forward in the first place.

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