Editor’s Note: We had the opportunity to interview an amazing mama of color, who is also a BOSS in the field of sexuality and relationships. She holds a Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy and a Doctorate of Education in Human Sexuality. We asked her about forms of domestic violence, and how we can support our tribe if we see signs. Read her responses below, and check out more info on her services at the end. Let’s talk about this real issue affecting us, over in our community section.
This month is Domestic Violence Awareness month. Many people think physical abuse is the only type. Can you share other types of domestic abuse?
Sadly, there are various types of domestic violence.
• Economic control
• Verbal coercion and threats
• Manipulation of children
• Emotional abuse (putting down, shaming, calling names, humiliation)
• Manipulation (being defensive, blaming for the other for their behavior, not taking responsibility or denying the abuse exists)
• Isolation from others, family, friends, social networks, etc.
What are some signals that a relationship might be headed in an unhealthy direction?
There are so many factors, but to list them here would be to list every behavior ever as perpetrators of violence can be very savvy. The best thing to do is to trust your gut. Are you feeling humiliated, loss of self esteem, alone, unimportant or not valued regularly by your paramour? Is there fear in your interactions? If there are times when you believe you deserve to be mistreated or punished, this is a sign that there is some sort of domestic violence going on. And last, but not least, there is gaslighting- a manipulation tool used to make the victim question their own sanity. This looks like: Did that really happen? Am I imagining things?
What type of advice to you have for us if we recognize we may be in an unhealthy relationship?
Always take safety into account first. Are you and those who you are caring for safe? If the answer is no, or not all the time, it may be time to start to recognize changes need to be made.
It is honestly really hard to know what to do and how to navigate the situation safely.
If you find that you are in a domestic violence situation:
Do not alert your abuser that you are planning to end the relationship.
Start to reach out to local resources and support networks. Check the YMCA, or national hotlines like NCADV or The National Domestic Violence Hotline for help with information about rights, legal actions, safe places to stay, and possible financial support.
Reach out to a trusted friend or family member who will not contact your abuser.
Get therapy one on one help. Sometimes this even works when you are in the relationship as your rights are protected in regard to information and you might be able to go under the guise that you need help learning how to please them, all the while you and your therapist are making an escape plan.
How can we help our close friends find their way out of an unsafe relationship?
First and foremost, do not judge your loved one. These situations are always tough and “I told you so” is not helpful for anyone. Secondly, DO NOT CONFRONT THE ABUSER. This puts everyone in danger. Offer help, can you offer a couch or a room for awhile, financial support, a ride, to help them pack or store items at your home? Remember that the person’s home, internet use and cell phone may not be safe, so offer to do some research into resources for them.
Do you have any other advice?
No matter how frustrating it may be, trust the person (your loved one or friend) to make the right decision for them in the time that is right for them. Pushing them, tricking them or doing things that are ahead of their own pace are sabotaging and abusive. It takes a lot of courage to exit their situation. Also remember that women are not the only victims of domestic violence, it can happen to anyone of any orientation or gender expression.
Dr. Lexx [she|her|Dr] is a sexuality educating marriage and family therapist. Her Institute for Sexuality & Intimacy, LLC offers therapy, pre-marital coaching, professional development and educational seminars both in person and online. She offers free 15 minute consultations and desires to help all people reach true intimacy & in their personal and professional relationships. You can access her resources through lexxsexdoc.com