Controlling or Abusive Relationships

Controlling or Abusive RelationshipsAttending a Victim’s Rights Ceremony in Hall County recently turned my
thoughts to the dynamics of abusive relationships, as well as the tragedy of
domestic homicide and the triumph of individuals who escape a hurtful
intimate partner or parent. As a culture, we can be tempted to “explain
away” bad behavior, when the necessary response is to say it isn’t okay.
Those who work or volunteer in domestic violence frequently witness the
phenomenon of denial among families and friends, co-workers or neighbors,
and even trained professionals in the health fields. Even calling it
“domestic violence” helps facilitate denial of abusive behaviors, especially
when physical assault is hidden, subtle, or absent. Sometimes, it is just
plain difficult to wrap our heads around the painful reality of abusive
behaviors in what are supposed to be close relationships. Abuse happening in
the absence of physical violence is particularly problematic. Controlling
tactics, such as jealous rages, are a frequent problem in intimate
partnerships that contain abusive dynamics. Confusing this behavior with
“just” jealousy (a potential problem but not necessarily abuse) can be
risky. Abusive behaviors can masquerade as insecurity, another common
misconception from targeted partners at risk of becoming victims to an
abusive intimate. Coercion is one of the most unrecognized tactics by
hurtful and destructive partners. An abusive intimate partner is also at
great risk of being a destructive parent, if not outright abusive, to their
children. Abuse by one parent to another parent is damaging to children.
Verbal, emotional, and psychological abuses (not physical) are often cited
as the most difficult behaviors to recover from in an abusive or controlling
relationship. More importantly, the tendency of community members,
professional or otherwise, to get sidetracked with the victim/target’s human
shortcomings, mental health difficulties, or even symptoms arising from the
abuse itself, can severely interfere with recognizing and intervening in
situations containing intimate partner abuse. It is critically important
that health professionals and the community at large recognize our tendency
to notice the proverbial smoke but ignore the fire. The Georgia Coalition
Against Domestic Violence is a great resource for educating yourself on this
topic; for more information, see some of our past blogs, watch for future
blogs, or visit

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