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Solving Domestic Violence – It Starts With You

Despite lots of attention to the problem of intimate-partner / domestic violence over many years, there are still indicators of a high prevalence of abusive behaviors in relationships. Not all of the situations that are counted in statistics involve physical violence or chronic abuse, but any abusive behavior is cause for concern. If you’re interested in being part of the solution, it’s important to take a hard look at yourself as your first step. Most of us have at least flirted with the line between “typical” relationship behaviors regarding jealousy, being upset with our significant other, etc., and being abusive to our partner.

Most of us can think of a time we said or did something we regretted in a relationship. While saying or doing something we regret doesn’t automatically mean we are abusive or that our relationships are unhealthy, it is an indicator that we all have the potential to be abusive. Hopefully, most of us recognized our behavior as a problem when we had that moment of regret, and adjusted accordingly. It’s important to always pay attention, though, to the way we interact with and react to others if we want to be part of the movement to end domestic violence. Consider the following:

  • In your romantic relationship, are there times you feel threatened by something? How do you handle that? Is it possible that sometimes you try to exert control over your significant other? For example, do you try to get them to give up an activity or a relationship with a friend or family member because you feel threatened by it?
    • A better approach is to ask yourself why, exactly, you feel threatened. What is that really about? Once you give yourself a chance to think it through, you might just realize your fears don’t really have much to do with your partner or your partner’s love for you.
    • If you’re really concerned that something is going to come between you and your partner, instead of trying to pressure your partner into giving up the activity / event / relationship, have an honest conversation about how you feel and why you are concerned. Hopefully, you can both talk through the issue and figure out how to move forward in a healthy way. Don’t be afraid to seek the help of a counselor if you need some help working through this – these conversations can be difficult!
    • Bear in mind that sometimes, something does come between two people in a relationship. People and relationships change over time, and not all relationships will be long-term. It’s far better to end a relationship than turn to coercion, threats, and / or violence to try to make someone do what you want them to do.

  • Are there times when you shame or belittle another person? That may seem like an obvious “no” sitting here reading this. But in the heat of an argument, it can be easy to use shame or belittlement to try to “win” the argument.
    • Instead of slipping into this temptation, take a break. Walk, talk to a friend, watch TV – anything to give you a chance to take your mind off of the problem for a little while. When you’ve calmed down and given yourself some time, then think about what you’re angry about. Plan ahead how you can talk with your partner in a non-threatening way.
    • If you catch yourself slipping into the use of shame / belittlement again, stop the argument and apologize. Take a break. Try again when you’re calm. Repeat.

  • Are there times when you minimize or excuse violence? Have you heard about a situation between friends where one shoved the other, slapped the other, and you rationalized it?
    • If we’re going to reduce the rate of violence in our communities, it’s important that we call violence what it is. There’s never an excuse, and even a “mild” violent act is a red flag for further violence. Once a person has crossed that threshold and engaged in a single act of violence toward their partner, it’s unlikely that they will suddenly reverse course and choose not to engage in further violence.
    • When something like this comes up in conversation and hear people making excuses, you can respond in several ways:
      • Don’t join in. Simply staying silent and refusing to offer your approval for the violent act is certainly preferable to joining the rationalization.
      • Offer your perspective. You don’t have to be confrontational. You can simply say something like, “You know, I understand why John was upset, but it really concerns me to hear that he pushed Jane. That’s not a good sign at all, and I’m worried about both of them.” Or, “I realize that Jane slapping John in the face probably doesn’t seem like a big deal, and I realize John wasn’t hurt. But a slap is violence. I wouldn’t want someone to do that to me and I’d like to think I would never do that to someone I love. That’s not how grown adults should handle disagreements.”

If you are concerned about your relationship, please seek help. If you recognize yourself in some of the examples above and you want to improve, there’s help available for that, too. Tarleton students on the Stephenville campus can access the Student Counseling Services at 254-968-9044 or TSC 212. Faculty and staff can call the Student Counseling Services for consultation or referrals. In the Stephenville / Erath County communities, Cross Timbers Family Services offers assistance to victims of violence and abuse: 866-934-4357.

Not sure if you qualify? Cross Timbers can provide referrals to other resources and providers if needed. Anyone may contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline to seek help for themselves, to learn how to help a friend or loved one, or for referrals for help: 800-799-7233 or www.thehotline.org