Domestic violence isn’t a black-and-white term. There are different types of domestic violence, each presented in a different way and each carrying their own effect on the victim. Knowing the difference can not only help you to realize them, but to understand the true gravity of what millions of women have endured, and continue to endure every day.
- Inflicting or attempting to inflict physical injury
Conducting uncomfortable or unwanted movements towards the victim can be a common act that leads to further intentions of physical attempts. Sometimes even taking away objects aiding in keeping health stability, such as medication or wheelchairs.
- Coercing or attempting to coerce any sexual contact without consent
Sexual assault, another more widely recognized form of domestic violence, includes rape, attacks on sexual parts of the body, forced prostitution, and more. Any kind of sexual contact that occurs without the victim’s consent is considered sexual assault. Attempting to undermine the victim’ sexuality can occur when treating the victim in a sexually derogatory manner, withholding sex, and criticizing sexual performance and desirability.
- Instilling or attempting to instill fear
Intimidation, threatening physical harm to victim or to oneself, threatening to harm or kidnap children, blackmail, destruction of pets or property, mind games, and stalking all fall under psychological abuse. This is looked at when limiting anothers action and contact, and being hostile towards the victim.
- Undermining or attempting to undermine victim sense of worth
constant criticism, belittling victim’s abilities and competency, name-calling, insults, put-downs, silent treatment, manipulating victim’s feelings and emotions to induce guilt, subverting a partner’s relationship with the children, repeatedly making and breaking promises.
From a piece by Christin P. Bowman, MS, MA (Doctoral student in Critical Social-Personality Psychology at The Graduate Center, City University of New York))
To begin, rape is caused by rape culture.
Rape culture is a phenomenon that is made up of many different ingredients – and so, like a recipe, when they are combined together it can be difficult to identify each individual flavor. Rape culture is so entrenched in our society that it is hard for people to even recognize, much less prevent. It is important to educate yourself and others to change this culture and combat its effects.
#1 Power, Anger, and Hyper-Masculinity
While it may be true that men perform the vast majority of raping in society, they did not become rapists through a vacuum.
Our society values men who conform to the revered idea of hyper-masculinity: men should be powerful, dominant, and emotionless – except for when it comes to anger. Research shows that most rapes are an outcome of a need for power or outlet for anger. Hyper-masculinity also suggests that men are always, no matter what, hungry for sex. Our society’s rhetoric and history depicts the idea that a man’s sex drive is so uncontrollable and all-consuming, a woman somehow owes it to him to allow him to release those desires. We’ve all heard the phrase “she was asking for it” and “leading on”, suggesting that if a woman were to allegedly engage in these behaviors then she is not allowed to change her mind, and rape is justifiable.
It has been said that rape is “human nature” – which is still used as a justification for it today. But men are not all rapists by nature. Men are socialized by a rape culture which promotes that hyper-masculinity we’re talking about. Simply blaming men is unfair and sells them short – we must acknowledge the culture that makes (some) of them that way.
#2 Sexual Objectification
Our society’s obsession with a woman’s body intensifies rape culture. Girls are taught from a young age that their most important feature is the way they look, and boys are taught to value that feature above all else. This focus on women’s appearance to see their own selves as sexual objects, or self-objectification. This can lead to body shame, low self-esteem, and sexual dysfunction. This objectification of women dehumanizes them- or makes them seem more like an object: something that doesn’t have thoughts or feelings, which you can do what you want with. To this end, it is much easier to commit violence against a woman that you don’t respect, or don’t even view as human.
#3 Systemic and Institutional Support
When classifying a problem as “systemic”, it means that the issue spreads throughout the whole system (or society). When something is “institutional”, it means there are structures and mechanisms in place to maintain it. Rape culture is both.
When a rape victim comes forward, they are subjected to essentially an interrogation that is oftentimes invasive, offensive, and derogatory. They often are made to feel the need to defend themselves or the circumstances of the rape, because of the common rhetoric implying that the situation is somehow her fault. Furthermore, there are thousands of cases in which a rape kit was never even analyzed. These things are not the fault of one individual – they are embedded in our very social order.
Perhaps the most significant (and damaging) case made against rape is that women lie about it. They are painted as emotional nutcases who pull the “rape card” when something doesn’t go their way. They “overreact” or “blow it out of proportion” just like all women supposedly do. Due to the nature of the crime and the role consent plays, rape crimes are notoriously some of the hardest to prove. This has created a society that instantly questions the victim’s believability before they even approach the subject of whose fault it was.
These discrepancies have created a conversation wherein rape can be “illegitimate”, or “a mistake”, or even “an accident.” Many politicians defend rapists by claiming that the “blurred line” was too blurry to be held responsible for, as if restraining oneself from having sex is never an acceptable alternative. The issue of sex crimes is not viewed as black and white. Gray means go, when it should mean no.
This systemic rhetoric’s damage is already done. Women are ridiculed, belittled, and ignored when they actually do have the courage to come forward, and research shows that thousands go unreported every year.
The following is directly from Christin P. Bowman’s article:
How to Fight Back
Preventing rape means changing an entire culture. Here’s how to get started:
Encourage boys and men to express emotions and unravel hyper-masculinity: William Pollack’s work is a great place to start, and look out for a documentary on the topic coming soon.
Push back against sexual objectification: Evidence-based activists at the girl-fueled organization, SPARK, provide a great model and the Miss Representation documentary is a must.
Rape prevention courses: Foubert, Godin, and Tatum found that men can take a rape prevention class in college that affects them for years. The course teaches empathy and then how to intervene in dangerous situations, support a rape survivor, and even confront others who tell jokes about rape. Another study by Klaw and colleagues found similar results. Get involved here.
Engage bystanders: Cases like the Steubenville rapes remind us there are often times when people see something bad happening, and don’t know how to stop it. The National Sexual Violence Resource Center provides tons of research and information about how to reverse this trend.
Change public perception of what’s acceptable: Several successful anti-rape campaigns all around the globe are working to dismantle rape culture. Check out the “Don’t be that guy” campaign in Canada that has cut sexual assaults in Vancouver by 10%. A campaign in the UK takes a similar approach. Feminist organizations like Take Back the Night and V-Day have long histories of pushing back against sexual violence. And remember that women have many male allies committed to tearing down rape culture (including President Obama).”
Dating violence is emotional, physical or mental abuse within the bounds of a romantic or potential relationship, according to the National Center for Victims of Crime. Unfortunately, dating violence usually stems from a relationship that began as good or even healthy, and then spiraled out of control. No one deserves to be in a relationship that hurts them, shames them, or abuses them.
It’s important to note that it is never a victim’s fault when they are attacked or abused by someone, even if it’s someone they are in a relationship with. There is no behavior that makes violence okay. That being said, there are certain precautions that one can take to try to avoid dating violence as much as possible.
Talk to Someone
As strange as it may seem when said aloud, some people don’t even realize they are in a violent dating situation. Many times, victims try to justify their abuser’s actions, especially if they are emotionally involved with them. Violence hotlines and resource centers can be a very effective outlet when you don’t want to speak with someone close to you. They can help identify the abuse and then offer help in getting through it. If you don’t want to talk to a stranger, seek out someone you trust and who has your best interests at heart.
It’s better to get out early than in too deep of a potentially dangerous relationship. Looking for signs like controlling behavior, sudden mood changes, or threats of violence can let you know to seek help sooner rather than later.
Some dating violence can occur early on in the relationship, before the two people are actually dating. Date rape is an example of a terrible aspect of dating violence that can occur early on. When you first start dating someone, it is safer to go out with another couple you do know for the first or second dates to avoid being alone with someone you don’t know.
Be Aware of Your Surroundings
The date rape drug is not just a myth – it can and does happen to anyone. This isn’t meant to necessarily scare you, but you can never be too careful around drinks in an unfamiliar place or with unfamiliar people.
If you feel uncomfortable in a dating situation, don’t hesitate to leave the second you start feeling that way. Make sure you bring your cell phone and money for a cab – anything you might need to get out of a sketchy situation. It might sound unnecessary to get up and leave in the middle of a date, but being polite isn’t worth the risk in this case.
According to Help Guide, behaviors such as destroying your belongings or an unpredictable temper may foreshadow dating violence. Sometimes warning signs can occur right under your nose. As always, if you get a bad vibe, trust your gut.