Intimate partner violence (IPV) has been defined by the Centers for Disease Control as physical violence, sexual violence, stalking and psychological aggression by a current or former intimate partner.  

This occurs mostly in intimate, interdependent relationships and research shows that young people in the age range of 15-24 are most vulnerable.  Anyone can experience IPV, as factors such as wealth, literacy or religion do not directly influence the prevalence or intensity of such dysfunction.  Therefore, it is important for young women to know and recognize the signs and types of abusive relationship.  Drawn from research, there are three major types of abuse occurring in relationships; psychological abuse, physical abuse, and sexual abuse.

Psychological abuse is the most common and subtle form, because unlike both physical and sexual abuse, which require only a single act of violence or unwanted sexual contact to be defined, psychological abuse involves a pervasive, repetitive pattern of behavior.  It manifests in many forms, including uncontrolled anger, verbal battering, abusive text messages, isolation from family and friends, excessive possessiveness, silent treatment, destruction of personal property, denial of the abusive events and blaming the victim for causing the abuse.  Most times, its aim is to strip the victim of their independence, willful self-expression and self-worth, and increase their dependence upon their partner.

Physical abuse involves the threat or act of violent bodily harm.  This could take the form of a vigorous shake or push, slapping, punching, kicking, or the more obvious strangling, drowning, stabbing, or shooting.  Other forms of physical abuse are exposure to cold, burning with a hot object, withholding clothes or food, and throwing things at or towards one’s partner.  If your relationship is at this stage, then your life could also be in danger.

Finally, sexual abuse is the act of forcing sexual behavior on an unwilling partner.  Sexual abuse could manifest as unwanted touching, excessive demand for sex in unsuitable conditions, refusal to use safe sex practices or contraception, accusations of prostitution or cheating, or initiating sex after an episode of physical abuse.  Some sexual assault survivors might also be forced to have sex with others against their will, or be subjected to ‘revenge porn’, in which photographs or video recordings of sexual activities are shared online without their permission. Whilst mental health issues are a common occurrence following singular or ongoing sexual abuse, there is also the physical health risk of unwanted pregnancy, unsafe abortion, or contraction of sexually transmitted infection.

The very first step to leaving an abusive relationship is to recognize that you are being abused, and understand that whatever anybody says, you don’t deserve it. The next step is to accept that the abuser won’t change or get better in any way, and that the correlation between the relationship ‘improving’ or them expressing remorse or guilt for their actions is directly as a result of, or precedes, a new incidence of abuse.  After all, if they were truly abusive all of the time, their partner would be more likely to leave.  It is the promise of things ‘returning to the way they were’ before the violence – and the hope of a brighter future – that persuades so many people to stay in abusive relationships.  Regardless of whether the abuser may suffer from a personality disorder or other psychological problems, this does not justify abuse and an abuser cannot be saved by love.  It is not easy, but if you are being abused by an intimate partner, you need to make a firm decision to end the relationship. It will be difficult, but is the right thing to do.

Abuse of any sort thrives in silence.  You need to seek help by speaking out and talking openly with people who will care about you.  Once you have broken the silence, your support network will be able to help as you take the next huge step towards being free.  However, a great deal of caution is required, as most abusers would do anything to keep their victims in the relationship.  You may need to keep audio records and pictures as evidence in case a legal situation arises.  If you are co-habiting with the abuser, ensure that you find a safe place to move to and keep all of your plans secret until you leave.

I encourage you to stay frequently around caring friends and loved ones, or seek help at welfare centers or any known non-profit organization established for this purpose.  These bodies are equipped to provide moral, social, medical, and psychological support to victims of abuse.  Finally, if you are a victim of relationship abuse, you must recognize that you are not alone and that many people have survived and moved on to live wholesome lives. It takes courage to leave an abusive relationship after falling in love and sacrificing so much, but all people have the power to transform from ‘victim’ to ‘survivor’.  The road to freedom, to happiness, and to real, healthy, supportive love is before you… and I believe in you.

 

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