Holding Space

Identifying Red Flags in Relationships and Supporting Those Experiencing Domestic Violence

By: Julia Childs
Holding Space

“You’re not a victim for sharing your story, you’re a survivor for setting the world on fire with your truth. You never know who needs your light, your warmth, and raging courage.”

– Alex Elle

 

Love doesn’t hurt, and love doesn’t leave bruises. These are two truths that we believe should be regarded as human rights. Yet, that isn’t the reality. 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have experienced physical violence in a romantic relationship. In grappling with these statistics, it becomes clear that many of us know someone who has experienced domestic violence or are experiencing domestic violence themselves.

When acknowledging the reality of living through a pandemic like COVID-19, there is generally less mobility for all of us. Gone are the days of leaving the house to go out to dinner with friends, and finding privacy while living with others is near impossible to do. Recent stats state that domestic violence rates are increasing in the United States and across the globe. Furthermore, the nature of COVID-19 stay at home mandates can intertwine easily with an abuser’s controlling agenda. 

In accepting the pervasive nature of domestic violence in this current era, we believe it is essential to shine a light on this issue. 

First, let’s discuss some possible red flags:

+ Jealousy can be a crucial indicator of unhealthy dynamics within a relationship. A person’s partner may be so jealous that they begin to limit interactions with their friends, families, and social media. They may want to move fast in regards to the relationship. 

+ Every relationship has its timeline, but it is worth noting if a partner wants to move in together, get married, and have children rather abruptly. It is especially concerning if this behavior is in conjunction with creating a need for their partner to be financially dependent upon them.

+ Cruelty to animals and children, unexpected anger outbursts, breaking objects, the expectation of perfection, and isolation are all other concerning behaviors on the lookout. 

The above red flag scenarios are not sure indicators of finding oneself in a future abusive relationship — instead, these are patterns to be aware of as they are consistently reported in domestic violence survivor stories.

If someone you love is struggling with domestic violence, gently ask your friend how they’re feeling in their partnership. Seeking help is not an easy feat, and there is no guarantee a person is ready to shine a light on what they are experiencing. Be mindful of text messages you send regarding the abuse, as many perpetrators will read texts, emails, and even tap their phones. Meeting up in person with your friend, with some distance, is always safest if you two will be hatching a plan. 

Speaking of safety planning, you can offer to call a domestic violence hotline with or for your friend with their permission, help them find a safe space to stay, or support them in seeking therapy. Leaving an abusive relationship is dangerous and often takes the victim a few attempts before leaving for good — keep this in mind while offering support. Judgment only further isolates an individual, and the truth is, we never know what another person experiences behind closed doors. 

If you or someone you love are experiencing violence in the home, you can call the Jenesse Center, an organization dedicated to supporting domestic violence survivors. They have a hotline available 24/7 at 1-800-479-7328. You can also contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline 24/7 at 1-800-799-SAFE. The National Domestic Violence Hotline also has a chat line that is accessible via its website

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