In Part One of "It's (Just) the Way that I Love You," I gave you an overview, a "broad brush" of Intimate Partner Violence/Abuse (IPV/A), defining and explaining this horrific, demoralizing, and potentially life-threatening behavior. Now, I'm drilling down on it -- focusing on the abuser's behavior.
So, can an abuser really control his or her behavior? Without a doubt! Actually, they do it all the time. But before going further, let's recap what IPV/A is all about.
According to the National Coalition of Domestic Violence, IPV/A is the "pattern of behavior used to establish power and control through fear and intimidation, often including the threat or use of violence, when on e person believes that they are entitled to control another." The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs defines it as "a pattern of behaviors utilized by one partner (the abuser or batterer) to exert and maintain control over another person (the survivor or victim) where there exists an intimate, loving and dependent relationship."
Statistics show that this form of abuse occurs with similar frequency as in heterosexual relationships. Additionally, new research suggests that a greater percentage of LGBTI individuals are living in fear of an abusive partner than previously thought. And each year, between 50,000-100,000 lesbians (or more) and as many as 500,000 (or more) gay men are battered, and about one in four LGBTI relationships/partnerships are abusive in some way.
According to psychologists and authors Jeanne Segal and Melinda Smith, "Domestic violence and abuse are used for one purpose and one purpose only: to gain and maintain total control over you. An abuser doesn't 'play fair.' Abusers use fear, guilt, shame, and
intimidation to wear you down and keep you under his or her 'thumb.' Your abuser may also threaten you, hurt you, or hurt those around you."
Segal and Smith add, "The bottom line is that abusive behavior is never acceptable, whether it's coming from a man, a woman, a teenager, or an older adult. You deserve to feel valued, respected, and safe."
So again, can abusers really control their behavior? Segal and Smith state:
· Abusers pick and choose whom to abuse. They don't insult, threaten, or physically attack everyone who gives them grief. Typically, they save their abuse for those they claim to love.
· Abusers carefully choose when and where to strike. They control themselves until no one else is present to witness their abusive behavior.
· Abusers are able to stop their abusive behavior when it benefits them. Most abusers are NOT out of control. When it's to their advantage, they're able to immediately end their abusive behavior (for example, when the police arrive or the boss calls).
· Violent abusers usually direct their blows where they won't be seen. Instead of acting out in a mindless rage, many physically violent abusers carefully aim their blows where the bruises and marks won't show.
Segal and Smith write that abusers employ a variety of methods and schemes to manipulate you and wield their power. These include:
· Dominance. Abusers need to feel in charge of the relationship. They will make decisions for you, tell you what to do--and expect you to obey without question. He/she may treat you like a child, slave, or even as a possession.
· Humiliation. Abusers will do everything to make you feel bad about yourself or defective in some way. After all, if you believe you're worthless and that no one else will want you, you're less likely to leave. Insults, name-calling, shaming, and public put-downs are all weapons of abuse designed to eat away at your self-esteem and make you feel powerless.
· Isolation. In efforts to increase your dependence, abusers will cut you off from the outside world by stopping you from seeing family and friends, or even preventing you from going to work or school. .
· Intimidation. Your abuser may use a number of tactics designed to frighten you into submission. These include making threatening looks/gestures, displaying weapons, destroying property, etc. The clear message is that if you do not do as you're told, there will be violent consequences.
· Threats. Abusers commonly use threats to keep their partners from leaving, or to scare them into dropping criminal charges. Such tactics include threatening to hurt/kill you, family members, and even pets.
Part three of "It's (Just) the Way that I Love You," my next column, will detail the complete cycle of IPV/A. If you or someone you know is experiencing IPV/A, call: the National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-7233) or the Gay Men's Domestic Violence Project Hotline (1-800-832-1901). And always remember: it ain't (just) the way that he/she loves you.
Wyatt O'Brian Evans is a journalist, instructor, motivational speaker and author of "Nothing Can Tear Us Apart--Uncensored" (gay/ethnic), and "RAGE!", its upcoming sequel. You may visit Wyatt at: www.wyattobrianevans.com, and follow him on
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