Yes…All Men

all men

Hiding Behind A Hashtag

#NotAllMen was trending once again on Twitter within the past few weeks.  It rears its ugly head quite frequently.  Whenever there is some public sexual harassment or sexual assault scandal, we hear the same cries from “the good guys.”  These men will post about how they “respect women,” and may even mention that…surprise, surprise…there are also female members of their family, and they love those female members of their family.

Unfortunately, it is all men.  

The Problem With “Not All Men

Why this hashtag, and sentiments like “nice guys finish last” have such a negative effect on our discourse about sexual harassment, sexual assault, and Domestic Violence is that the people who are saying it honestly believe it to be true.  Of course, there are men who intentionally and deliberately use this as a weapon to control the narrative, but bad-faith actors aren’t the only ones using the hashtag.  Many of the men saying “not all men” have never intended to hurt a woman.  Many of the men saying “not all men” have probably even tried to be allies to women in difficult situations.

The sheer fact that #NotAllMen can trend on social media indicates that many men are oblivious to the problem.  In fact, the absurdity of men flocking to Twitter to say that they have never sexually harassed a woman is a big part of the problem.  They are setting themselves up as the defendant, defense attorney, and judge in a proceeding that doesn’t even have an accuser.  These men may not be aware of times that their words or actions have made a woman feel uncomfortable sexually.  These men may have had interactions with women that have been resolved through a conversation.  They may even have learned from those interactions and conversations.  Learning does not absolve.  Forgiveness does not absolve.  It is still a mistake.

Missing the Point

#NotAllMen isn’t a symptom of the problem, it is the problem.  The hashtag reframes the discussion to be one of intent.  With an act of rhetorical slight-of-hand, sexual harassment is no longer the center of the conversation.  The proverbial magician has created a diversion with his left hand, while pulling out the Ace from his right sleeve.  Conversations of sexual harassment, sexual assault, and Domestic Violence need to focus on the women, and often men, who are victims of this behavior.  This isn’t the time to coddle male egos.  Instead of hijacking the conversation with a hashtag intent to vindicate you from any potential criticism, join the conversation.  If you truly are a “good guy,” irradicating sexual harassment would be a higher priority than a preemptive public relations campaign against non-existent accusations.

As a man, I have 100% made mistakes in this area in my life.  It was never my intent to make someone feel uncomfortable, but that doesn’t matter.  It may be a hard pill for a lot of us men to swallow, but there are probably times that we have made people feel uncomfortable sexually in public or business settings, and nobody ever told us.  We could be blissfully ignorant of the joke, comment, or well-intentioned compliment that someone just accepted as a “cost of doing business.”  How can we claim #NotAllMen, when there could be dozens of these little moments out in the universe?  

Accountability of All Men Over Taglines

Justice is hard.  We have to be able to admit #YesAllMen, so that we can turn the mirrors towards ourselves and our own actions.  As men, if we accept that we have almost certainly made mistakes, we can work on not making those same mistakes in the future.  In recent years, it has become glaringly obvious even to the most unreceptive observer that sexual harassment is a huge problem that permeates all aspects of society from sports to politics to Hollywood to offices.  People are being harmed by this every day.  We can’t shirk responsibility.

Luckily, many women commandeered the hashtag to tell their stories about harassment.  We need to hear those stories.  Men, we need to stop making this about our intentions.  Most abusers don’t view themselves as abusers.  Most harassers don’t view themselves as harassers.  It is a small segment of society that goes out and tries to harm people.  Until we can all listen to victims of sexual harassment without getting defensive, we will never learn ways to be even better.  We can’t be “good guys” until we have learned what that actually means, and how it looks in our societal interactions.  We can’t be “good guys” until we can look back on a situation and admit we made a mistake.  To truly be a “good guy,” you have to work towards equitable workplaces and public spaces where people can feel safe and comfortable to interact.            

Survivors in the Grey-Area: Intersecting Identities, Vulnerabilities, and Inequalities

The characteristics of our identities are multi-faceted. They are based on our race, class, gender, sexuality, faith, nationality, and many other factors. But these aspects don’t just stack up on top of each other to create the layered people we all are. Instead, they interact, intersect and collide. This places us in a grey area, where we don’t feel 100% like any one of our identities. The ways in which our multiple identities interact can also potentiate discrimination associated with each of them. However, the Law doesn’t fully address the complex issues of the victims and survivors who live in this grey-area.

Intersectionality = Grey-Area

Before 1964, General Motors did not hire black women. In the early 1970s, a recession that brought about seniority-based layoffs hit. The firm laid off all black women hired after 1964. Five black women sued General Motors, claiming that its policies were targeted solely at black women. In the DeGraffenreid v. General Motors 1976 case, Judge Harris Wangelin ruled against the plaintiffs. This was done by arguing that black women shouldn’t be deemed a separate legal class. What he failed to realize was that these women were under a double bind that required special attention. The layoffs did not seem prejudiced against black men or against white women. However, it was prejudiced towards those at the intersection of race and gender who suffered from the firm’s policies.  

In 1989, black feminist Kimberlé Crenshaw coined the term “intersectionality.” She describes it as a unique framework for understanding how different forms of disadvantage associated with each of our identities sometimes compound themselves (Crenshaw 1991). In the previous example, the General Motors workers’ disadvantage of being black ganged up with their disadvantage of being a woman in the 1970s.

Grey-Area in Domestic Violence

Crenshaw further pointed out that mainstream feminist and anti-racist institutions resisted publishing socio-demographic statistics about victims and perpetrators of domestic violence. They feared authorities would use these statistics to portray DV as a minority crime, reinforce negative racial stereotypes, and ultimately cut off their financial support. Collins (2017) furthered this claim, arguing that mainstream feminist research tends to focus on domestic violence against white women whereas racial scholarship usually looks into public violence against black men (such as police brutality). Mainstream research thus somewhat overlooked domestic violence against black women, pushing black female victims to the backdrop of the social debate on intimate partner violence.  

Types of Intersectionality Within Domestic Violence and Survivors

So, how can we use the framework of intersectionality to better help survivors of domestic violence? Ultimately, intersectionality is a tool that allows us to pinpoint why victims are treated differently. It also helps us identify the ways in which laws need to change to accommodate survivors whose intersecting identities push them to the margins of existing DV legislation. 

Immigration status

Migrants are often at high risk of domestic violence (Morash et al. 2009). In addition, being an immigrant is usually a racialized identity, which adds another layer of complexity to the experiences of migrant survivors. One of the particular vulnerabilities associated with migrants’ identity, especially for illegal immigrants, is their legitimate reluctance to report their abuse for fear of deportation, which national citizens don’t face. 

An officer described how the police handled the case of a migrant survivor in the UK as follows: 

The police came round and found her [the survivor] unconscious on the floor and found him strangling her … he was arrested… she disappeared. … only through going back through their records [were we] able to find a phone number (Day and Gill, 2020).

In the end, the police referred the victims to immigration services: 

we’d have to refer that to the Border Agency, but we’d also refer that in the context of how we’ve come across them… we’d have to do a Nacro check and things like that on the suspect, and similarly if we think the victims are here illegally.

(Day and Gill, 2020)

This account highlights the dangers of our failure to acknowledge the intersecting vulnerabilities migrant survivors face, particularly illegal ones. Whereas we might not, abusers who are not migrants themselves most certainly do, and they will use the cruel ways in which the criminal system treats migrant survivors against them. 

Pregnancy and Class

Pregnant working women may suffer employment discrimination and see their wages or career progression hindered as a consequence; worse, they are at a higher risk of being fired. Women in low-paid or precarious jobs may not have access to even basic maternity employment rights (James 2012), sometimes having to rely on their abusive partners for financial support. Intersectionality is at play in the lives of pregnant working survivors because their limited financial resources interlock with their vulnerability as new mums. What are their intersecting vulnerabilities? As a woman, a new mother, and someone who might struggle financially to escape their abuser, pregnant working survivors need and deserve to see their compounding vulnerabilities recognized by employers, legislators, shelters, helplines, and other resources. They deserve their situation to be seen through the lens of intersectionality.

Gender

The intersection of gender with other identities fosters discrimination against not only female survivors but also men.  

On the one hand, by-standers and the criminal system sometimes use male survivor’s gender to belittle their pain, directly or indirectly telling them to “man-up”. On the other hand, this appeal to toxic masculinity may headbutt survivors’ identity as someone who thinks it’s morally wrong to harass or strike back. Here also, the concept of intersectionality can help us understand why male survivors are usually not afforded sufficient recognition, as noted by a DV advocate:

I’ve got a male client… he’s a straight man in a relationship with a woman; she’s harassed him a lot. When the case didn’t go to charge, because … there wasn’t enough evidence, the police officer in the case said to the victim, ‘Taking my police officer’s hat off, this is because you’re a man’ .

(Day and Gill, 2020)

Moving Forward

As a survivor and/or advocate, you can use the framework of intersectionality to better understand the inequalities that DV victims who are very different from you face on a daily basis. Ask yourself: How can this victim’s identities (race, gender, class, sexuality, etc.) put them at a higher risk of discrimination? Does current legislation honor the struggles that this victim faces? For example, should victims who are illegal immigrants face arrest or deportation given their vulnerabilities as an immigrant and a DV victim?

Your thoughts on these questions can advance current debates on how DV legislation should change to accommodate the intersecting identities of more survivors and victims. Your voice can help press for more awareness and better laws.

References

[1] Collins, P. (2017), ‘“On Violence, Intersectionality and Transversal Politics,” Ethnic and Racial Studies’, Taylor & Francis, 40: 1460–73.

[2] Crenshaw,  K. (1991), ‘Stanford Law Review Mapping the Margins : Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence against Women of Color’, Stanford Law Review, 43: 1241–99.

[3] Day, A. S., & Gill, A. K. (2020). Applying intersectionality to partnerships between women’s organizations and the criminal justice system in relation to domestic violence. The British Journal of Criminology, 60(4), 830-850.

[4] James, S. (2012), Sex, Race and Class—The Perspective of Winning: A Selection of Writings 1952– 2011. The Merlin Press.

[5] Morash, M., Erez, E., Adelman, M. and Gregory, C. (2009), ‘Intersections of Immigration and Domestic Violence’, Feminist Criminology, 4: 32–56.

Advocating for Teens in a Domestic Violence Relationship

advocating-for-teens

Our relationship started as a happy one. He was charming, a track star, and showered me with attention. We were teens and high school sweethearts, and I thought we would stay that way forever.

I still remember the first time he was violent towards me. We were arguing, and he pushed me into a snowbank. I got up, and we continued walking as if nothing happened. Things only escalated from there. 

It was my first relationship. I thought I was in love. I didn’t know love wasn’t supposed to hurt. It was hard to leave– despite the abuse, my feelings for this boy were strong, although misconstrued. I stayed in the relationship for the first year of college before I was able to break free.

Being young and confused, I didn’t know what love was supposed to feel like or look like. I thought abusive relationships affected isolated adults stuck in unhappy marriages, not valedictorians with plans to attend college. It would honestly be a long time before I could look back on the relationship and see it for what it was– toxic, abusive, and far from love. 

I’m still healing from this abusive relationship that began when I was 16. I’m still trying to understand my emotions and learn what a healthy relationship is seven years later. 

Teen Dating Violence Survivor

What is Teen Dating Violence (TDV)? 

Teen dating violence, also known as dating violence, is abuse between two people in an intimate relationship between the ages of 13-19 [1]

Dating violence does not have to be physical abuse; it can include [2]:

  • Physical violence—  intentional acts of physical violence, like shoving, kicking, hitting, grabbing, choking, restraining. 
  • Sexual Violence— forcing or attempting to engage in a sexual act, such as intercourse, touching, or sexting without receiving consent.
  • Psychological aggression (verbal/emotional)— tactics used to harm the victim emotionally. This can include name-calling, isolating the victim from family and friends, attempting to control the victim, and manipulation. 
  • Stalking— a pattern of unwanted attention that causes, or would reasonably cause, the victim fear

This is not an exhaustive list. Any time a person is intentionally causing harm to their intimate partner, it can be considered abuse. No one should feel afraid in their relationship or fear their intimate partner– that is NOT normal. 

How common is TDV? 

Teen dating violence affects millions of US teenagers each year. While TDV, like most violent crime types, disproportionately affects females, anyone can be a victim of TDV [2]

  • One in three people will experience some type of intimate partner abuse before they reach adulthood [3].
  • According to a CDC survey, 1 in 11 females and 1 in 15 males under 18 reported experiencing physical dating violence in the last year [2].
  • One in 9 female and 1 in 36 male high schoolers report having experienced sexual violence in the last year from an intimate partner [2]
  • LGBTQ+ youth are at a higher risk for TDV victimization. Forty-three percent of LGBTQ+ youth reported experiencing physical dating violence compared to 29% of heterosexual youth [4]
  • Transgender youth, predominantly female, report the highest levels of TDV, with 89% of transgender youth reporting physical dating violence and 59% reporting emotional abuse [4].

The Impact on Teens

TDV, just like domestic violence, is ruthless, and the road to recovery is often long and uphill. This is why it is an issue that should not be minimized and, instead, should be taken as seriously as intimate partner violence in adults. As seen in the survivor story above, it can affect survivors long after leaving the abusive relationship. And for some victims of TDV, the consequences can affect every aspect of their teen years. 

Victims/survivors of TDV are more likely to:

  • Miss or receive low grades in classes due to feeling unsafe [5]
  • Become pregnant or contract an STD [5]
  • Engage in unhealthy behaviors, such as drinking, drugs, or disordered eating [2]
  • Attempt or commit suicide [5]
  • Have lowered self-esteem [5]
  • Continue a pattern of abusive relationships [2]
  • Face mental health issues, like depression and anxiety [2]
  • Have trouble maintaining independence and establishing a personal identity in adulthood [5]

Advocating For Your Teen

Teenage years are meant for the giddy feeling of butterflies in the stomach. Many teens are experiencing their first relationship and learning what it means to be “in love.” Young relationships can set a precedent for their future relationships and their perception of what love is. 

That is why one of the most effective ways of preventing teen dating violence is showing your teen or teens in your life what a healthy relationship should look and feel like while also opening up the discussion about what an unhealthy relationship looks like.

Characteristics of a healthy relationship:

  • Respect. Both partners should like their feelings and wishes are valued and understood by their partner.
  • Individual Identities. Both partners should have lives outside of the relationship. This includes spending time with friends, engaging in hobbies, and pursuing their interests. Partners should maintain, or even grow, their self-esteem when in the relationship. 
  • Openness and Trust. Both partners should feel comfortable being honest with each other and have trust in each other. 
  • Good Communication. Each partner should communicate with the other freely, without fear, and without getting hostile. Intimate partners should not ever resort to violence or name-calling when disagreeing and work together to solve problems. 

Characteristics of an unhealthy relationship:

  • Controlling behavior/Jealousy. One partner attempts to exploit the other partner. This can mean keeping him/her from seeing family members and friends, dictating what he/she wears and does, and making the majority of choices for the relationship.
  • Hostility/Intimidation. An intimate partner using intimidation or hostility to manipulate the other member of the relationship. 
  • Dependence (Trauma Bond). When an intimate partner feels as if he/she cannot live without the other partner. They feel entirely reliant on their partner and cannot imagine life without them. 
  • Any type of violence. Intimate partners intentionally hurting or attempting to harm each other in any way. This can include physical, emotional, verbal, or sexual abuse. 

**For information about what a healthy teenage relationship should look like, check out Dating Matters— a prevention model put forth by the CDC for educational use by individuals, peers, families, schools, and neighborhoods.

Receiving Help for Teens in an Abusive Relationship

For teenagers facing the dangerous reality of being in a toxic or abusive relationship, know you are not alone, and there are resources to help you reach the pathway of healing. 

First of all, we encourage you to break your silence. Speak up to a peer, teacher, parent, law enforcement officer, or anyone else you trust. You can contact our helpline at 1-855-287-1777 or share your story

You can also contact organizations within the community:

Find a Safe Place— you can enter your zip code and find a safe place near you. 

The National Dating Abuse Helpline 1.866.331.9474 is similar to the Hotline and specializes in assisting teens and young adults. 

National Center for Victims of Crime 1-800-FYI-CALL– serves victims of crime and assists them in finding proper counseling services. 

Break the Cycle— for more information about teen dating violence and how to break the cycle. 

Remember: Everyone deserves a loving and healthy relationship. No matter what your age is.

References

  1. Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence. (n.d.). What is teen dating violence TDV. https://www.mocadsv.org/What-is-Teen-Dating-Violence-TDV/
  2. CDC. (2020, Jan 27). Preventing teen dating violence. https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/intimatepartnerviolence/teendatingviolence/fastfact.html
  3. Love is Respect. (n.d.) Teen dating violence awareness month. https://www.loveisrespect.org/get-involved/tdvam/
  4. Teen Dating Violence. (2020, Oct 28). Studies show LGBT youth face higher risk of dating violence. https://www.teendvmonth.org/studies-show-lgbt-youth-face-higher-risk-of-dating-violence/
  5. Youth.gov. (n.d.) Consequences. https://youth.gov/youth-topics/teen-dating-violence/consequences

The Dangerous Reality of Stalking

Stalking

We’ve all done it. We’ve met a cute guy or girl at a party and know nothing about this person except their name. A quick Facebook search of their name leads to thousands of results. 

But, wait, this person is from your area and has mutual friends.

Looking at the thumbnail picture, you recognize the person you met at the party. You found him/her! Now you know this person’s last name. You know where they went to high school, their birthday, where this person works, and all of their connections. 

Looking up a potential suitor on social media is a relatively harmless form of “stalking.” In fact, many people use it to background check a person before they risk meeting them for a date. Once you find who you were looking for and determine they are a safe bet for a date, you playfully brag to your friends about what an “expert stalker” you are. 


Truth About Stalking

However, stalking is not a playful matter. It is a dangerous reality for over 6 million people in the United States who are stalked each year. Three out of 10 victims report emotional or psychological harm, and 81% of women stalked by a current or former partner were physically assaulted [1, 2]. Although statistics show that women are more likely to be stalked than men, this crime can affect anyone. Six percent of men will be stalked in their lifetime [6]. Currently, there is a lack of research dealing with stalking and LGBTQ+ communities. Still, one study found that 15% of LGBTQ+ study participants had experienced stalking [7].

In some cases, stalking has even led to murder; this statement is especially true when dealing with men and their intimate, female ex-partner. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, “76% of women murdered by an intimate partner were stalked first, while 85% of women who survived murder attempts were stalked.” Even more shocking is that 54% of women stalking victims reported the stalking to law enforcement before being murdered by their stalkers [1]

What is Stalking?

Stalking is usually defined as intimidating or threatening, repeated behavior. It is a type of obsessive harassment that could reasonably cause fear in the stalked person and may or may not lead to assault or murder [3].

Acts of stalking often start small, like sending numerous direct messages to the victim’s social media sites, but can quickly escalate into in-person surveillance of the victim, among other things. 

If you believe you are being stalked or are curious to know signs to look out for, here are some methods stalkers may utilize:

  • Making unwanted phone calls to your home or work
  • Sending unwanted texts, direct messages, or emails continuously with no response
  • Seemingly knowing your schedule or where you will be without any legitimate reason. 
  • Frequent appearances in places you are, like work or school, when they have never been there before stalking or have no reason to be there.
  • Stealing or asking for your property 
  • Sending unwanted gifts 
  • Driving or walking around places you frequent
  • Becoming friends with people you associate with
  • Researching you on social media or public records
  • Asking around about you to people in your social circle
  • Taking pictures or videos of you or collecting photos of you off your social accounts
  • Talking about you to others as if you are friends or intimate partners even though you aren’t
  • Attempting to gain access to your private accounts
  • Attempting to gain access to your residence, car, or other private places

What does a stalker look like?

While mainstream movies and TV shows often depict a stalker as strange and a loner with a false sense of reality, that is not always the case. A stalker could be anyone– the charming football player with lots of friends, an ex-girlfriend who can’t seem to let go, the guy you met at the party last week. 

There are no prerequisites for stalking behavior. Some characteristics that many stalkers share, according to onelove, include:

  • Gets jealous easily
  • Narcissistic behavior
  • Compulsive
  • Falls intensely “in-love” overnight 
  • Lacks accountability for actions
  • Values having control over situations and people
  • Often views themselves as a victim
  • Can be socially awkward
  • Refuses to take “no” as an answer
  • Deceptive
  • Unpredictable–switches back and forth between love and rage
  • Hard time recognizing the difference between fantasy and reality
  • Sense of entitlement and hard time accepting rejection

What are the Types of Stalkers?

Stalkers broadly fall into one of two categories:

1) Simple obsession– This is the most common type of stalker. Stalkers in this category knew their victim personally, often intimately, before engaging in stalking [4]. Usually, the simple obsession stalker is an ex-partner who refuses to let go of the relationship. They attempt to exert power over the victim and boost their own self-esteem through stalking behavior.

2) Love obsession– This type of stalker has a false sense of reality. They do not know their victim personally; the victim could be a complete stranger or someone they have met casually. The stalker develops an obsession, often feeling “in love” with their victim. This type of stalking is commonly associated with celebrity victims [4].

Stalkers can also be classified into 5 different stalker types. Knowing the kind of stalker you are dealing with can aid in what kind of intervention you should choose. 

Incompetent

This stalker is usually socially awkward and intellectually lacking. This stalker picks strangers or acquaintances as their victims and believes that they can convince the victim to date or hook up with them. An incompetent stalker, as the name suggests, does not always realize their stalking is unwanted or causing distress. 

Rejected

This person was either rejected by a potential date or recently went through a breakup with the victim. They use stalking as a form of staying close to their victim in hopes of reconciliation or revenge. 

Resentful

This person holds the belief that they have been mistreated. They usually have a mental illness and narcissistic characteristics. They use stalking as a way to gain power over their victim and get revenge for the “mistreatment.”

Predatory

This person is likely sex-obsessed. They often have a history of sexual misconduct. They are stalking as a way to “prep” for their eventual sexual attack.

Intimacy-Seeking

This person typically has a false sense of reality, believing that their victim will fall in love with them or is already in love with them. This is the most common type of celebrity stalker.

What can I do?

By taking the time to read this article, you educate yourself about what stalking behavior is and the different types of stalkers. This allows you to remain vigilant and alert to these behaviors in your own life. You will be more likely to recognize if you are being stalked and determine possible explanations for the stalking. 

If you believe you are a victim, here are some tips:

  • Make it clear to your stalker that their contact is unwanted. Avoid all future contact with the stalker.
  • Document everything– emails, phone calls, text messages, any sort of contact with the stalker. 
  • Inform people close to you about your stalker, including a description and a name, if you know it.
  • Protect your privacy by making sure your social media accounts are private. Turn off your location services on mobile apps. Ensure you lock your car and house doors.
  • Alternate routes. Try to switch things up to predict where you will be at what time.
  • Consider contacting the police and getting a protective order against your stalker.
  • As always, if you feel like you are in danger, call 9-1-1.

More resources for victims of stalking:

  • National Center for Victims of Crime provides more resources and information about stalking for victims and practitioners. 
  • VictimConnect Resource Center: A referral helpline (in the form of a call line, live chat, or online website resources) that informs victims of a crime of their rights and options. 
  • The National Domestic Violence Hotline: A 24/7 hotline for victims of domestic abuse, including stalking. They offer resources and information, such as a stalking safety plan
  • WomensLaw provides advice on the legal aspect of stalking. This includes finding the stalking laws for your state and where to look for information about a restraining order. This website is for any victim of stalking, not just women. 

References

  1. National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. (2017, Jan 30). Quick guide to stalking: 16 important statistics, and what you can do about it. https://ncadv.org/blog/posts/quick-guide-to-stalking-16-important-statistics-and-what-you-can-do-about-it
  2. Manner, C. (2020). Inside the mind of a stalker. Onelove. https://www.joinonelove.org/learn/inside-the-mind-of-a-stalker/
  3. Dana. (2020). Stalking safety planning. National Domestic Violence Hotline. https://www.thehotline.org/resources/stalking-safety-planning/
  4. Judicial Education Center. (2021). Categories of stalking. http://jec.unm.edu/education/online-training/stalking-tutorial/categories-of-stalking
  5. Knoll, J., & Resnick, P. J. (2007). Stalking intervention: Know the 5 stalker types, safety strategies for victims. Current Psychiatry, 6 (5), 31-38. https://cdn.mdedge.com/files/s3fs-public/Document/September-2017/0605CP_Article2.pdf
  6. Safe Horizon. (2020). Stalking statistics and facts. https://www.safehorizon.org/get-informed/stalking-statistics-facts/#definition/
  7.   Langenderfer-Magruder, L., Walls, N. E., Whitfield, D. L., Kattari, S. K., & Ramos, D. (2020). Stalking Victimization in LGBTQ Adults: A Brief Report. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 35(5–6), 1442–1453. https://doi.org/10.1177/0886260517696871

Domestic Violence in Unexpected Places

domestic violence in unexpected placed

Could someone millions of people view as a role model be an abuser? Is it possible that the very person who is supposed to be the hero in a victim’s story is the villain in their own relationship? Domestic violence shows up in every unexpected place. From the smiling faces, you idolize on television to the people dressed in uniform who swore to serve and protect-–no one is exempt from DV, regardless of their image or status.

Fitting the Stereotype

In DV cases where the perpetrator doesn’t fit the “typical” abuser stereotype, it is no surprise that they may get more sympathy in the system. After all, “they were a good guy who attended church every Sunday and always donated to school fundraisers.” The sense of expectations not matching reality becomes even more problematic when the abuser also has a significant amount of power via profession, reputation, or money. 

Domestic Violence in the Professional World

According to Forbes, 16% of young boys dream of being a professional athlete when they grow up. In their eyes, the athletes they see on the big screen can do no wrong. However, what they don’t recognize is that domestic abuse is no stranger in the world of professional athletes.

In the NFL

In 2014, NFL star Ray Rice was caught knocking his girlfriend unconscious and dragging her out of an elevator. He was suspended for a measly two games. However, after the release of elevator footage depicting the incident of abuse, public backlash pushed the league to suspend Rice indefinitely and change their domestic abuse policies [1].

A Heavyweight Champion

Famous boxer Mike Tyson describes an act of abuse towards his ex-wife stating, “She really offended me and I went BAM. She flew backwards, hitting every wall in the apartment, That was the best punch I’ve ever thrown in my entire life [2].”

Soccer Star

Olympic soccer player, Hope Solo, was arrested for domestic violence after drunkenly beating her sister and nephew. The case was later dismissed [3]. The list could go on and on. Professional athletes are given a platform that allows them to influence younger generations who idolize them. Unfortunately, many are instead using this power to influence the system in their favor, leading to lighter punishments, lack of accountability, and an “out of sight, out of mind” mentality.

Abuse in Professions Meant to Protect

Perhaps even more surprising than DV associated with professional athletes is the prevalence of DV in professions that are meant to protect, such as law enforcement. According to studies, at least 40 percent of law enforcement families experience domestic violence-–talk about expectations not matching up with reality [4] The very people victims of DV expect to call upon to come to their rescue have a good chance of being perpetrators themselves. Less surprising is that abusive members of law enforcement use their power and status to manipulate the victim and the system. In one case, a Florida officer was cleared in the murder of his wife in less than 24 hours, after evidence was ignored and zero interviews were conducted [4]

In Our Military

Much like law enforcement, DV in military families can be both shocking and shielded by status. Kate Ranta, a survivor, reported the abuse to her husband’s commanding officer. It was “handled administratively,” according to them. No further action was taken, allowing her husband to show up at her house and shoot both her and her father in front of their 4-year-old son. Thankfully, they all survived and the husband was convicted of attempted murder in civilian court [5]. The DV case should have been properly handled when Ranta first came forward, instead it was hushed and swept under the rug. They gave her abuser “the benefit of the doubt”. Unfortunately, Ranta is not alone. In 2002, over 18,000 incidents of spousal abuse were reported in the military [6]. Even for their own, an agency that victims should be able to trust as one to serve and protect, falls short. 

Double-Edged Sword

Professional athletes, law enforcement officers, and members of the military share a  reputation as heroes. With the title comes power. And with that power, comes the ability to abuse it. When “heroes” become the perpetrators of abuse, there is a double-edged sword of action without consequence that makes situations like these especially dangerous for victims of DV. There are no stereotypical victims of abuse, and when anyone can fall prey, it makes predators in power even more lethal.

Photo Credit: Anastasiia Arakelian, via Unsplash

Resources

  1. Axon, R. (2019, Sep 20). Ray Rice case prompted NFL changes on domestic violence, but cases continue to test policy. USA Today. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/investigations/2019/09/18/nfl-domestic-violence-ray-rice-tyreek-hill-ezekiel-elliott-adrian-peterson/2215187001/
  2. Desert News. (1989, Jun 24). Tyson says he bounced his ex-wife off walls with his best-ever punch. Desert News. https://www.deseret.com/1989/6/24/18812820/tyson-says-he-bounced-ex-wife-off-walls-with-his-best-ever-punch
  3. Young, C. (2014, June 25). The surprising truth about women and violence. Time. https://time.com/2921491/hope-solo-women-violence/
  4. Deane, M. (2016). Black and Blue Bloods : Protecting Police Officer Families from Domestic Violence. 
  5. Taylor, J. (2019, Sep 18). Lawmakers hear emotional stories from ‘forgotten crisis’ of military domestic violence. NPR. https://www.npr.org/2019/09/18/762100271/lawmakers-hear-emotional-stories-from-forgotten-crisis-of-military-domestic-viol
  6. National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. (n.d.). Domestic violence in the military. http://www.ncdsv.org/images/DOMESTICVIOLENCEINMILITARY.pdf

Sometimes It’s Deeper Than Love: It’s Trauma Bonding

trauma bonding in ocean

 You’ve had enough.

You’ve made plans to leave and have everything ready. 

You know you don’t deserve the maltreatment and abuse that you are subject to day after day at the hands of your intimate partner. 

It’s time to finally flee.

But, he loves you.

And you love him. 

He’s the only person who truly understands and cares for you. 

An indescribable force forbids you from deserting the relationship. 

What is Trauma Bonding?

This “indescribable force” is known as trauma bonding.  Lack of money/resources, nowhere to go, and fear are often brought up when listing reasons why a victim of domestic violence (DV)— aka intimate partner violence (IPV)—refuses to leave or returns to their abuser. Of course, these are all valid reasons why a person may choose to stay in an unhealthy relationship; however, trauma bonding describes a less measurable, less visible reason many victims have a difficult time leaving their abuser. The term trauma bonding is a relatively new concept first used by Patrick Carnes to describe “the misuse of fear, excitement, sexual feelings, and sexual physiology to entangle another person [1].” 

How does it relate to abuse?

Trauma bonding directly ties into the cycle of abuse that is often discussed with IPV. In this cycle, the abused person learns to associate the violent episode with the showering of love and affection that follows. Because the victim feels intense love and care from the abuser during the crisis and honeymoon phase, they often believe that the abuse that follows is due to something they have done, and therefore, something they can change/control. This is especially true for people who were also victims of abuse in their childhood [2]; for them, every form of “love” they have received, has followed abuse. Ultimately, these intense feelings of love and excitement followed by neglect and abuse create a chemical and hormonal bond between the abused and abuser [3]. The “indescribable force” of this bond is often confused with love by the abused person. You are not alone if you feel love for your abuser; however, it is crucial that you can recognize signs of a trauma bond and learn ways to break free from this force.

Signs of a Trauma Bond

  • You realize your partner is mistreating you, but continue to make excuses for them.

In your eyes, every act of abuse is meant with good intentions. They are keeping you from your friends and family because they want to spend all their time with you. Yes, your partner calls you degrading names, but it’s only because they were bullied as a child. You may even blame the abuse on yourself, deciding that you must not have given your partner enough love. 

  • You have a hard time imagining life without your abuser.

The idea of leaving your partner is hard to fathom. You may even want to leave, but feel a sense of panic every time you think of life without your partner. The abuse that your partner disguises as “love” creates intense feelings inside of you, making it extremely difficult to break the bond and end the relationship. 

  • The belief that things will “go back to normal” one day.

The memory of when your partner and you first started dating is still fresh. They used to give you butterflies in your stomach, shower you with gifts, and make you feel like the most important person in the world. You know your partner is capable of being that person again; you just need to figure out a way to “fix” them. According to Psychology Today, a narcissist (the abuser) will first “love bomb” their intimate partner to gain trust. Next, they condition their partner to depend on them for love and affection. Once they feel they have the victim “under their hold”, they will gradually start the cycle of abuse. The more the victim fights for the abuser’s love, the stronger the trauma bond becomes, and the more control the abuser gains.

Breaking Free of the Bond

  • Education. Good news! If you believe you might be experiencing a trauma bond, you are already taking the first steps of breaking free by reading this article. The more you know about the cycle of abuse, narcissistic behavior, and the signs/processes of trauma bonding, the easier it will be to recognize these behaviors in your own relationship. To add, reading about others’ experiences in similar situations can make you feel less alone and more motivated to succeed in breaking the bond.
  • Separate yourself from your abuser. You need to completely cut your abuser off. This, of course, is easier said than done, but once you are able to maintain no contact with the person you are bonded with, the hormones that made you feel “addicted” to your abuser will die down [3].
  • Keep yourself busy. When you are in the no contact phase, your thoughts will likely be consumed by your abuser. A good way to fight these thoughts is to stay focused on other things—catch up with old friends, start going to counseling, join a club, volunteer. 

The important thing to remember if you think you may be stuck in a trauma bond with an abusive partner is that you are not alone. It is justifiable that you have feelings of love for someone with whom you have shared intimate and emotional moments, especially when the relationship started with a showering of affection. However, if while reading this article you were reminded of your own relationship, it is time to focus on breaking free of the bond. 

Photo Credit: Marcis Berzins, via Unsplash

References

[1] Samsel, M. (2018). Trauma bonding. Abuse and relationships. https://www.abuseandrelationships.org/Content/Survivors/trauma_bonding.html

[2] Carbone, N. (2019, August 8). How to recognize the signs of trauma bonding. Pysch Central. https://psychcentral.com/blog/how-to-recognize-the-signs-of-trauma-bonding/

[3] Leigh, H. (2019, Nov 22). Recognizing and breaking a trauma bond. CPTSD Foundation. https://cptsdfoundation.org/2019/11/22/recognizing-and-breaking-a-trauma-bond/

[4] Greenberg, E. (2018, Jan 21). Why is it so hard to leave the narcissist in your life? Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/understanding-narcissism/201801/why-is-it-so-hard-leave-the-narcissist-in-your-life