Does this sound familiar?
Everything starts out fine. You are perfect for each other. Slowly, though, he starts to get upset about little things. Every day things get just a little bit different; you begin to feel like you’re walking on eggshells. The tension becomes thicker and thicker, until one day, he blows up. He hurts you. Maybe you leave, maybe you don’t. Then, suddenly, he is regretful. He begs you to forgive him. He gives you flowers, cards, and gifts and tries to explain that he only did this because he loves you too much. You believe him. You forgive him.
And then, the tension starts building again.
This is the cycle of intimate partner violence, also known as “domestic violence.” As the relationship progresses, the abusive behavior usually becomes more severe with each “blow up.” It happens more and more often, and the lovey-dovey “honeymoon period” gets shorter or even disappears.
Even as this happens, it becomes increasingly difficult for women to leave their abusers. As time goes on, the abuser gradually isolates his partner from her family and friends so that she has fewer people to whom she can turn for support. If they live together, he may exercise control over their finances so that she feels she cannot afford to leave.
Intimate partner violence can happen in any intimate relationship, whether you are dating, having sex, living together, or married. Ninety-five percent of the time, the man is the perpetrator, although it occurs just as regularly in lesbian and gay male relationships as it does in relationships between a man and a woman. There are many reasons why people stay in abusive relationships, from the control their partner exercises over them, to the hope that he will change, to fear of what he will do if they leave.
Nearly one in four women in the United States has experienced intimate partner violence, and it often begins during pregnancy – we’ll talk about that next week. For now, please know that if you have found yourself in a relationship like this, help is out there. The National Domestic Violence Hotline has both a 24-hour hotline (1-800-799-7233) and online chat line (www.thehotline.org) that can help you find resources in your area if you need them. You can also get help through loveisrespect.org by calling 1-866-331-9474 or texting “loveis” to 22522.
No one deserves to be hurt. If someone is abusing you, we at Adoptions Together urge you to seek help. If you are working with us or have done so in the past, we hope you know you can always share your story with us without fear of judgment. We want you to be safe.