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Recognizing Abusive Behavior

March 2, 2017

I chatted with a few women in the past week who were in abusive relationships without realizing it. Because they were not being hit, the abuse wasn’t recognized.

Physical abuse (hitting, kicking, hair pulling, pushing shoving, strangulating, burning) is only one form of abuse although the physicality can take many forms with varying levels of dangerousness.

Less obvious forms of abusive behavior include being harassed to perform or engage in sexual acts to which you do not agree. Even if you do not follow through, being harassed, badgered, guilted, manipulated to still perform or engage in those acts is a form of sexual abuse and psychological abuse.

Other forms of psychological abuse include being frequently lied too; having your thoughts and views dismissed; being blamed or shamed particularly for things beyond your control or for matters that simply are not of your making; being made to feel guilty as a means of manipulation; being told things are other that what they appear.

Verbal abuse includes being called names, causing you to feel less about yourself which in turn can also be categorized as psychological abuse.

Lording power and control over another person for one’s one gratification is yet another form of abuse. This includes controlling all the money; not allowing the other to input or allocate spending; restricting contact with others be they friends or family; controlling how one dresses and where on goes; threatening harm to self, you, pets, children, your friends or family; forcing religious beliefs or practices.

In truth, the list of abusive behavior continues and takes many forms. Underneath the abuse is someone seeking to control or limit or manipulate the behavior of another for their own personal gain or gratification.

Physical abuse tends to be obvious. The other forms of abuse may make you feel like you are trying to catch smoke – difficult to see and get your hands on.

If you feel like you are being driven crazy, if you are at your wits end, then you may be in an abusive relationship.

Get help.

Women can always call their local women abuse shelter. Virtually all women’s shelters provide counseling services. You don’t have to go into a shelter to receive the counseling services. Their services are very discrete and many women’s shelters can send someone to meet with you wherever you feel safe. You can discuss your situation and determine your next steps.

Very often women in these situations are told by their partners what their legal options are and they believe their partner. More to the fact, they are often provided misinformation that favors the abuser. You can usually be provided bias-free legal information through the women’s shelter services or they will refer you to receive free legal information so the information you receive is untainted by the person providing the information.

Bottom line – you need to manage yourself and obtain unbiased – neutral information. You need to explore your options. Beyond that, what you choose to do is up to you.

Men in abusive situations similarly need support. Because there is a differential and systemic power imbalances that is gender based in society, there tends not to be available public services for men. Men can still seek support at general public counseling services and both men and women can also try their family doctor for support and referral.

I referred the women who called this week to a local women’s shelter.

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. Check out all my services and then call me if you need help with a personal issue, mental health concern, child behavior or relationship, divorce or separation issue. I am available in person and by Skype.

Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

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Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas and Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America.

If your relationship is faltering, then set it as your priority.

Read: Marriage Rescue: Overcoming ten deadly sins in failing relationships

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