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Matters of Substance: “You don’t have to hit, to hurt”

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Many women and men have been referred to me seeking support for depression, anxiety and/or for help with an addiction. Sometimes, during sessions, we come to realize that a person is depressed, anxious, not sleeping or is using alcohol or drugs to cope with the stress or anxiety related to their partner's abusive behavior towards them. They may not be believed because their families or friends say "well, you’re an addict/alcoholic; you're just blaming your partner to justify your problem!"

Certainly, blaming is used by addicts, but if domestic violence is involved, recovery is especially more difficult when you are anxious and in constant fear. And you don't have to hit to hurt someone. Abuse in the home or in our close relationships is usually hidden, not just by hiding bruises etc. but other abusive behaviors can be harder to see.
What does abuse look like? Jane Doe Inc. offers supportive programs and trainings to help us answer this question. They suggest that while there is no typical profile of a domestic violence situation, there are common dynamics that may be present either individually or in combination with each other:

Isolation from family or friends
Name-calling, put-downs, ridicule, and emotional abuse
Manipulation of children or other family members
Hurt or abuse of pets
Withholding medication or assistance for people with disabilities/elders
Physical violence, threats of or acts of homicide
Painful or forced sex
Monitoring activity like reading emails, texts, facebook posts, etc.
Financial exploitation by stealing money, hurting property or interfering with work/ school
Jealousy and possessiveness

These behaviors and experiences are referred to as warning signs or red flags that someone is in an abusive relationship. Sometimes we believe we deserve to be spoken to this way; other times we are so used to being treated like this, we don’t know it’s not okay. There are other blocks to getting the help that you need including:
If you are a lesbian/gay/transgendered person, you may be afraid to get help in case people know about your sexual orientation.

If you are physically/mentally challenged or elderly, you may depend on your abuser to care for you. You may not have other people to help you.

If you are a male victim of abuse, you may be ashamed and scared that no one will believe you.
If you are from another country, you may be afraid of being deported.
If you recognize any of the blocks described above or any of the abusive behavior detailed here, please know there is help, 24 hrs a day, 7 days a week: SafeLink 1-877-785-2020 or National DV Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE(7233). If you are not sure and still have questions, please call Danielle at the IIIC, in complete confidence and without judgment: 617-542-7654 ext. 14 for a free consultation and to explore your options. Change is always possible, let us help.

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