Healthy/Abusive Relationships and Domestic Violence
Itís been said over and over again: relationships are complicated. One important aspect of relationships is compromise, as it is crucial if both partners are to be satisfied. However, there is a clear difference between the kind of compromise that comes from both partners in a healthy relationship and the compromise of freedom that is almost forced onto a partner in an abusive relationship. This chapter is written in the hope that by reading it readers will think about the treatment they should expect from their partners in a relationship as well as the best way to treat their partners. Additionally, it is intended as a starting point for those who may realize or already think that they are a partner in an abusive relationship to seek help in the hope of changing their partnerís and/or their own habits.
Abusive and Healthy Relationships
Abusive relationships are characterized by extreme jealousy, emotional withholding, lack of intimacy, raging, sexual coercion, infidelity, verbal abuse, threats, lies, broken promises, physical violence, power plays, and control games. These symptoms can worsen over time unless it is recognized and addressed by both parties involved. Abuse does not have to be physical; it can be emotional as well. Emotional abuse is as damaging as physical abuse, though it is often harder to recognize, and therefore to recover from. Emotional abuse causes long term self esteem issues and profound emotional repercussions for the partners of abusers. Abuse typically alternates with declarations of love and statements that they will change, providing a "hook" to keep the partner in the relationship.
To help make it easier to distinguish between an abusive and a healthy relationship, hereís a breakdown of healthy and abusive relationships.
A Healthy Relationship Includes:
On the other hand, an abusive relationship is characterized by some or all of the following:
If you are in an Abusive Relationship:
Abusive relationships do not change without therapy targeted towards changing the abusive patterns. Group therapy is a highly recommended form of therapy, as it helps the abusers break through any denial that may exist. Group therapy will also help the partners of abusers, as it will help them see relationship patterns from a wider scope. However, both parties must be willing to work towards ending the abusive cycle for the relationship to change. If you would like to try individual or coupleís therapy, please contact Student Counseling and Resource Services (contact information is listed below) or any of the Abuser Services hotlines listed under the Domestic Violence Resources part of the chapter. If the abuser is unwilling to admit to the abusive behavior, the prudent action would be to remove yourself from the abusive situation. This is the healthiest choice for both parties involved; however; it is important to keep in mind that the abuse may escalate after you leave (75% of women killed by their abusive partners are murdered after they leave).
According to the American Bar Association, the least conservative estimate says that 1 million American women suffer nonfatal violence from an intimate each year. Another estimate says that 4 million American women experience a serious assault by an intimate partner each year. Furthermore, nearly 1 in 3 women experience at least one physical assault by a partner during adulthood. While domestic violence is statistically consistent among racial and ethnic boundaries, it is thought that it is more prevalent among immigrant women than among U.S. citizens. This may be because immigrant women come from cultures which accept domestic violence or because they have less access to legal and social services. Also, immigrant batterers and victims may believe that the penalties and protections of the U.S. legal system do not apply to them. Women aged 19-29 reported more violence by intimates than any other age group, while women aged 46 or older are least likely to be battered by an intimate. In heterosexual relationships, 90-95% of domestic violence victims are women. Much of female domestic violence is committed in self defense, and often inflicts less injury than male violence. Within same-sex relationships, domestic violence occurs as frequently as in heterosexual relationships; each year, between 50,000 and 100,000 Lesbian women are battered. However, the victims of same-sex battering receive fewer legal protections than victims of heterosexual domestic violence. For more statistics on domestic violence in the United States, go to the web site mentioned at the beginning of the paragraph.
There exists somewhat of an overlap between abusive relationships and domestic violence. However, as you can see from the above, there are some types of abusive relationships (for example, some emotionally abusive relationships) from which one must escape without the help of the law. On the other hand, some abusive relationships may be characterized as domestic violence; here, legal procedures are available or necessary to put an end to the abuse. According to Womenslaw.org, domestic violence is defined as ďphysical abuse, harassment, intimidation of a dependent, interference with personal liberty or willful deprivation but does not include reasonable direction of a minor child by a parent or person in loco parentis.Ē If you believe you are a victim of domestic violence, it is important to recognize that you do not deserve the treatment that you are receiving and to know that you can put an end to it. If you desire to not only put an end to the abusive relationship but seek justice through the justice system, you can press charges against the abuser.
In terms of legal counsel, the justice system is divided into two areas: civil law and criminal law. Civil law solves disputes without accusing anyone of a crime; in this sphere, a person (or persons) is asking for the court to protect him/her from the abusive person without asking the court to punish the person for the crime. The area of criminal law covers cases where one person accuses another of a crime. It handles all cases that involve violations of criminal law such as assault, murder, theft, etc. It is possible and may be in oneís best interest to take both civil and criminal actions against the abuser.
In Illinois, there is a difference between a restraining order and an order of protection. A restraining order will not provide the same amount of protection as an order of protection; domestic violence victims are advised to seek the latter. An order of protection is a court order that is designed to stop violent and harassing behavior and to protect the victim and the victimís family from the abuser. An emergency order will give you protection for 14-21 days and your testimony to a judge is the only requirement for obtaining one. They judge will grant the order if s/he is convinced that harm will come to you if s/he does not grant the order. You can ask for an emergency order at the same time you ask for a plenary order. A plenary order is the type of court order that offers long-term protection. To obtain one, the victim must go to the circuit court where s/he lives, where the abuser lives, or where the abuse occurred. The Circuit Court of Cook Countyís contact information is listed below. This is where you would go if you were seeking a court for Chicago; if you are looking for a court in another location, go to WomensLaw.org and search for your state and county. At the circuit court, you will need to fill out a petition, which will be reviewed by a judge. Next, the abuser will be informed about the date of the hearing and about any interim orders that the judge has given. Lastly, the hearing will occur, to which both you and the abuser are required to report. At the hearing, you must prove that the abuser has committed acts of domestic violence, as defined by law, and that you need protection and the things for which you asked in the petition.
For more detailed information on the types of orders of protection available in Illinois and how to go about obtaining one, click here.
Domestic Violence Resources