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The signs of domestic violence

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Imagine, imagine you’re in a restaurant. A couple is sitting at the next table when all of a sudden you overhear this conversation: “From the moment I saw you I knew you were the one. Marry me. I will treat you like a queen. Say yes.” “We’ve only been dating a few weeks. Yes.” I’ve heard this before. This is moving fast. Is there a sign here of an abusive relationship? Their relationship is just beginning. But let’s step away from our couple for a moment. Did you know – according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, nearly 50% of intimate
relationships experienced some form of domestic violence. When we think about
domestic violence, we typically think about someone being beaten up, but not
always. As a founder of a global organization in support of shelters for
victims of abuse, I get asked to speak at fundraising events on a regular basis. Now, think of a time when you donated to a charity. Why did you do it? A part of
you wants to be a hero. You want to help and make a difference. But what if the
problem your donation is supposed to fix is simply getting worse. What do you do? About a year ago, I spoke at a fundraiser
for a local shelter and after accepting the donation, the representative of the
shelter said “We will always need more beds. We will always need more shelters. And we will always need more money … because the problem is getting worse.” How can that be? I thought to myself with all the
awareness today, how is it getting worse. Why in spite of all of our efforts is
domestic violence increasing? More importantly, how do we turn this around?” So what exactly is domestic violence? It is defined as a pattern of behavior used by one partner to maintain power and
control over another in an intimate relationship. For the last 9 years
I’ve been running an annual global fundraising event. It takes place in
hundreds of cities around the world to support domestic violence shelters. It involves the work and participation of thousands of people every year. And now, to my complete shock I was hearing that we were not making any real difference in lowering the statistics. Were we doing this for nothing? Of course not! Shelters are necessary and continue to need our support. But by the time a person gets into a shelter, the physical abuse has already occurred and some don’t make it to a shelter … they go straight to the
cemetery. It’s true, domestic violence is increasing everywhere including the
country you live in right now. Abuse does not discriminate and when we look closer we can see the signs. Let’s return to our couple for a moment. A year has gone by since their dinner date. Imagine now we go behind closed doors
and just like a fly on the wall, we hear this: “Oh yes, he’s so wonderful. He loves
me so much. You should see our home. It’s full of gifts he’s been showering me
with since we first started dating. I can’t wait for you to meet him. OK. Thank you. Bye.” “Honey, my friend Angie’s invited us to dinner.” “We’re not going anywhere. I want you all
to myself, OK.” “But I haven’t seen Angie in over a year and she’s my best friend.” In
my research I’ve learned of one very important pattern. When you see the signs, you can see the pattern. In domestic violence, physical abuse is almost always preceded by emotional abuse. When you see the signs you can see the pattern and if we can interrupt that pattern we can prevent the physical abuse. And yes, there is abuse happening in our couple. The warning signs we’ve seen here are the rushing into commitments: “marry me” only after a few weeks of dating. The showering of gifts, also known as “love bombing”. The isolation and control. Not being allowed to spend time with friends. And we’ve only scratched the surface. Add to these: controlling your behavior, threatening to leave, or what to commit suicide if you
leave, criticizing what you do, wear or think. And there are many more signs most of which go unnoticed unless you know what they are. When I first started
my annual global fundraising event I was in an abusive relationship. Ironically I
had no clue. I did not know that constantly walking on eggshells around
my partner was a symptom of emotional abuse. I did not know that having to agree with everything he said, because he would tolerate no less, was emotional
abuse. And I did not know that being made to feel like there was something very
wrong with me because nothing I did would please him, was emotional abuse. He’d get angry, break things and as his anger increased he’d come closer and
closer, cornering me, ’til I could feel his breath on my face. His hands on my
shoulders moving up to my neck, threatening me. Am I going to die? Is today the day he’s going to kill me? And you know what, I didn’t care. I was so emotionally worn
down that I simply did not care. But to the outside world I had a great relationship. I was happy, or so I convinced myself and everyone else. One day while all this was happening, I
managed to reconnect with an old friend. And over coffee I confided in her. I said “I dread going home. He lectures me. He blames me for everything bad that
happens to him and then makes me feel guilty for things that I have no control
over. Nothing I do pleases him. I feel like a total failure.” My friend looked deep into my eyes
and she whispered “Francesca do you not realize you’re in an abusive
relationship.” “No, no, no, no, no, no, no it’s not like that. No. He loves me. You know what, everything’s fine … it’s me.” But in the days that followed, whenever
he did something, I could no longer ignore it. My friend helped me open my eyes. She helped me see the signs. She broke
the spell I was under. Had she not, I may not be standing in front of you today. With help, I was able to get myself out safely. Not everyone is so lucky. Many in similar situations never manage to leave. They end up in a morgue. My friend is a hero to me for helping me see the signs. When you learn the signs
you will see that they’re all around you. They may even be part of your own life. Understand the signs of emotional abuse for what they are – huge, flashing, warning signals. When you know the signs you can help somebody. You can be a hero in someone else’s life and perhaps even your own. Don’t wait until someone has to
tell you what has become obvious to everyone but you. Don’t wait until you
sink so low that you don’t care about yourself anymore. See the signs. Take a few moments to learn the signs of emotional abuse. Break the pattern. If you are in an abusive relationship, call the national domestic
violence hotline for guidance. Do it to-day. Do it for yourself. And if you have
children, do it for them. Be a hero when you know someone in an abusive situation. Gently guide them, gently, gently guide them and help them recognize what is happening. Be supportive like my friend. Be there for them. We can turn this
around. See the signs, break the pattern. Be a hero.

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8 thoughts on “The signs of domestic violence”

  1. Get Inspired Talks says:

    Francesca Anastasi has experienced abuse in multiple forms. Her talk taught me how to recognise some of the signs of domestic abuse.

  2. Get Inspired Talks says:

    Visit https://get-inspired-talks.actionable.co/session/151 and take up one of Francesca’s calls to action.

  3. Francesca Anastasi says:

    It was an honor to be able to share this message on the Get Inspired Talks stage.
    Please share your biggest takeaway in the comments and let me know if you have any questions.

  4. Keith Tong says:

    A much need inspiring speech regarding domestic violence. Well done.

  5. Rumana Monzur says:

    You have shown tremendous courage and hats off to you on this international day for the elimination of violence against women.

  6. Champion Up® says:

    Excellent talk Francesca 👏👏

  7. Public Speaking - Inspiration Into Action says:

    You brought new awareness to an everyday problem. I’m experiencing friendships with deeper understandings. Thank You!

  8. Sharookh Daroowala says:

    Francesca, two thumbs up to you for rising above your pain and speaking out about this atrocity. It is eloquent and spirited ambassadors like you that can move the needle forward towards eliminating this scourge.

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