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Before this month is over, I want to turn my attention to a serious topic in the realm of love and relationships: abuse. Did you know that October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month? Yeah, me either, until I heard Brenda L. Thomas on 3 Chicks on Lit promoting her memoir Laying Down My Burdens, about the domestic abuse she suffered at the hands of her ex-husband. I had known about breast cancer awareness, but I still haven’t heard any other reference to Domestic Violence in the month of October.

As I was watching the Real Housewives of Atlanta reunion, I was reminded of my need to cover abuse in this blog (yes, that show has been very fruitful for me this season). Cynthia’s mother told her she feared that Cynthia’s fiancée, Peter, was economically abusive. This is a form of abuse that I’ve heard next to nothing about, and I would venture to guess that most people either don’t know or don’t consider this abuse.

Therefore, I felt it was important to share with my readers the many different forms abuse can take. Abuse is about control and power, and can include any tactics or methods used to control or overpower another person with whom you are in a relationship with. Recognized forms of abusive include physical abuse, sexual abuse, psychological abuse, economic abuse, and spiritual abuse.

Physical abuse occurs when one person uses physical pain or threat of physical force to intimidate another person (definition via mentalhelp.net).

Sexual Abuse is any sexual behavior that is unwanted or interferes with your right to say “no” to sexual advances (definition via thesafespace.org)

Psychological abuse (also known as mental abuse or emotional abuse) occurs when one person controls information available to another person so as to manipulate that person’s sense of reality; what is acceptable and what is not acceptable (definition via mentalhelp.net). Verbal/Emotional Abuse is anything that the abuser says or does that causes you to be afraid, lowers your self-esteem, or manipulates or controls your feelings or behavior (via thesafespace.org).

Economic abuse occurs when someone uses monetary means to control an individual. This can include not allowing someone work outside of the home or go to school, controlling all the money, or forcing someone to work to support the family (via mocadsv.org Missouri Coalition Against Domestic & Sexual Violence.

Spiritual abuse is the maltreatment of a person in the name of God, faith, religion, or church, whether habitual or not. It when a person in religious authority or a person with a unique spiritual practice misleads and maltreats another person in the name of God or church or in the mystery of any spiritual concept. Spiritual abuse often refers to an abuser using spiritual or religious rank in taking advantage of the victim’s spirituality (mentality and passion on spiritual matters) by putting the victim in a state of unquestioning obedience to an abusive authority (definition via wikipedia.org)

Some things that I’ve learned are abusive behaviors that I’d never thought about before: not letting someone use birth control or protection against STDs; withholding sex as a punishment; cheating when in a mutually agreed upon monogamous relationship; breaking promises or refusing to take their share of responsibility; keeping someone from practicing their religion of choice.  

Abuse is occurring in relationships of younger and younger couples. Teenagers and middle schoolers are victims of violence in romantic relationships the same as adults. Children are being abused by children. Cycles of abuse are being created and perpetuated in relationships involving people of all nationalities. Abuse is not confined by race, nationality, culture, religion, sex, age, or location.

I’m not equipped to give you any advice on what to do if you are in an abusive relationship. Most people who are killed as a result of domestic abuse are usually killed when they try to leave or have managed to leave. It’s hard to get out of abusive situations, as you are often isolated and/or alienated from friends and family. You may feel ashamed or think no one will believe you. You may think you deserve it. No one deserves abuse. There are many organizations more qualified than I am to help you come up with ways to remove yourself from abusive situations.

Here are a few national websites:

The National Domestic Violence Hotline

Abuse Victim Hotline

National Dating Abuse Helpline

RAINN-Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network