When a friend told me to call Domestic Violence services to get help my response was typical, “But this isn’t domestic violence.”
As I remember it, she said it didn’t have to be a beating to be abuse, and domestic violence services is about preventing all kinds of abuse. Looking at several domestic violence websites I found that what she said was true.
From the National Domestic Violence Hotline:
“Domestic violence doesn’t look the same in every relationship because every relationship is different. But one thing most abusive relationships have in common is that the abusive partner does many different kinds of things to have more power and control over their partners.”
For a person who is deeply entrenched in their abusive relationship, it can be difficult to see the relationship in terms of power and control. You may feel so confused that you can’t figure out who’s driving the relationship, but it sure feels like it isn’t you. Or it could be that all you feel about your relationship is pain, you can’t remember past events well enough to explain an ongoing pattern. Or it could be that you’ve been told so long that everything is your fault that you believe it, you believe the names he calls you, you may even believe you deserve to be hit or otherwise demeaned.
If you follow the above link to the NDVH, you’ll find a list of warnings and red flags. You’ll also find the power and control wheel.
This wheel aids understanding, showing how a pattern of control and power can take place in our lives while we don’t even see it. Never feel guilty about not seeing it before, that is the very nature of abuse, that it is manipulative and deceiving.
This single post can’t possibly explain all aspects of domestic violence. There is one type of abuse that is more prevalent in LDS homes, one which isn’t written about very often – spiritual abuse. This type of abuse can have the traits of other types of abuse; using male priviledge, emotional abuse, blame shifting, intimidation. This is a type of abuse that uses that most precious gift from our Father, the gospel, to manipulate and control. It poisons the very vehicle of healing, making it all the more difficult for a victim to become a survivor. All of this equates to a term most LDS people are familiar with, unrighteous dominion.
“Life can be such a lonely struggle for women in these situations, for if they go to others for help they are most often told to change their own attitudes, to love their companions more, and to be willing to compromise to get along. So she gives up her desires, hopes, and dreams—which would appear to fit easily within the framework of righteous living—to one who reminds her continually of her failings, letting her know she is not living up to his expectations. How can a woman feel she’ll ever become what our Heavenly Father expects of her when no matter how hard she tries, she never pleases her husband?” -Elder H. Burke Peterson
If any of this sounds familiar, or if in the following days something you read here happens in your relationship, you could be a victim of domestic violence. Do not confront your abuser directly. Often an abuser will escalate their abuse if directly confronted. It is best to seek professional help and make a safety plan.
This site is not a substitute for professionals who can be there for you in your moment of need. Call your local domestic violence hotline or the national hotline 800-799-7233. Call on a phone which your abuser won’t see a record of your phone calls; use a friend’s phone, or even the phone at your local meetinghouse. If you are in immediate danger please call 911. Please be smart and be safe. You are a survivor!