Amelia recently sent me a link to a Tumblr that will absolutely gut you. It’s called When Women Refuse and it collects news article about women who became victims of violence after they tried to leave a male partner or rejected sexual advances. We know that violence is fundamentally about control and therefore the most dangerous time during an abusive relationship is when a person tries to leave. All too often, children and other bystanders are injured or killed, too. The statistics about abusive relationships show that they are frighteningly common. According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, one in four women and one in seven men over age 18 will be the victims of severe physical violence during their lifetime. Statistics also show that half of both men and women will experience “psychological aggression” by a partner during their lifetime. Stereotypes about what an “abused woman” is supposed to look like don’t do us any good because victims are all around us. They are our neighbors, our cousins, our sisters, our coworkers, our friends. Abusive relationships thrive in part because over time, the pattern of the abuse becomes normal. The abuse starts with smaller areas of control and then escalates until it becomes reality, which the person on the inside may not even see. But even if we have not been in a textbook abusive relationship per se, I’m sure many of us have had moments with partner or a friend where he or she did something that felt wrong.
In the spirit of #YesAllWomen — which is drawing attention to the physical and sexual violence all women experience — I want to share some warning signs that a partner or other person does not respect you, your boundaries, or your personal space. These are all anonymous, real world examples from me, my friends and co-workers.
1. He shows up at your work, class, or home unannounced and uninvited. He causes a scene until you acknowledge him.
“I had just broken up with my ex-boyfriend when he began consistently showing up at my place unannounced, screaming at me through my door until I showed my face.”
“[One guy] memorized my class schedule without telling me and would often meet me at my classroom to walk me to my next one, even when it meant he’d be late to his own. It felt stifling, but because he was ‘nice,’ I didn’t know how to tell him to stop.”
2. She refuses to leave your home when you ask her to go. Or he uses doors, locks, or his own physical strength to keep you from leaving the home.
“My boyfriend and I were in a fight in my apartment—a crazy screaming match. I told him he needed to leave immediately and he wouldn’t. I had to pick up the phone and dial 911 before he left.”
3. He tries to force sex though sexual assault, rape or coercion.
“In college, I had a crush on a South African tennis player who lived in my dorm. My aunt sent me homemade cookies and I took them up to his room to offer him one. He locked me in the room and said he wouldn’t let me leave until I gave him a blow job. I didn’t and he sat at his desk, eating all the cookies. I was crying, and finally his roommate came back and I grabbed whatever was left of my cookies and ran out. I didn’t report him, but thankfully other women did for similar instances, and he was asked to leave school. He moved back to South Africa before completing his sophomore year.”
“[There’s this thing where] you say you don’t want to do something sexual — for example, anal — and he does it anyway and claims it was an accident. But it totally, totally wasn’t. This happened to a friend of mine, ugh.”
4. She puts you down. She tells you that you’re lucky to be with her.
“My ex-girlfriend was constantly making little comments about my weight vis a vis the food I ate and how often I worked out. She would make remarks like “Oh, you’re going to eat that? I thought you were trying to lose weight.” She also complained when I cut and colored my hair (I liked my hair!) and bought me new clothes that she encouraged me to wear. It was almost like she wanted to dress me up herself, as if how I looked reflected on her. The kicker was when she told me that I was lucky to be with her. The implication was that no one else would want me.”
5. He tries to control your friendships (i.e. he isolates you from other people).
“I was not allowed to have my own male friends unless he was also friends with them, and under no circumstance was I to hang out with any of them by myself without him.”
“A guy that I was friends with in high school invited us both to a party at his place. My ex freaked out because he thought this guy had a crush on me. He’d never even met the guy before but he just assumed he must want to hang out because he wanted me. He basically wouldn’t let us go to the party because he thought it would signal to the guy that I was ‘interested.’ It was so ridiculous.”
6. She refuses to let you have privacy, such as reading your texts, emails and IMs.
“[She was] demanding to know my Facebook/phone passwords.”
7. He threatens to hurt himself if you don’t do what he wants, or otherwise manipulates you into believing his behavior is your fault.
“He threatened to kill himself by driving off a bridge (and calling me from the car to make me believe him) if I broke up with him.”
8. She ignores “no.”
“I think there can be really little signs in the way a partner treats your body and responds to the word “no.” For example, continuing to tickle you even when you’re begging her to stop and your tone has clearly turned serious instead of fun and flirty; making comments about what you’re wearing/should wear that make you feel weird or uncomfortable; pushing you REALLY hard to do things that scare you instead of respecting your boundaries.”