This month is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, along with Breast Cancer Awareness Month and many others. However, domestic violence, while a virulent disease, receives very little attention and is pushed under the rug.
Some years ago when I first moved to Los Angeles, I dated a man briefly whom I'd met salsa dancing. He was intelligent, attractive, and an amazing dancer. He was also abusive. On our first date, we met at a dance club where he and some of his salsa friends liked to go. We were having a great time until he said something that made me pause: "I would never allow one of my friends to dance with you. They might steal you away." A little voice in my head whispered: "Wait a minute, weren't these people his friends? And when did I become his property?" But I ignored that voice and gave him the benefit of the doubt.
By the second date, he had insulted me several times, but in an insidious manner that had me questioning myself. (The insults seemed to have a kernel of truth, but only enough to make the insults seem plausible and start the questions.) When I realized what was happening and that my self-esteem was spiraling, that little voice grew louder, more insistent. I listened--because whenever I don't, I usually end up in trouble. That's when the answer hit me: this man was an abuser. I felt in my bones. If someone is attracted to you and supposedly likes you, they don't insult you and they certainly don't treat you like property. If someone likes you, they praise you, they respect you, and they support your dreams.
In any case, we were supposed to see each other again the next day, but I decided that he was not good for me. The following phone call confirmed my suspicions. He belittled me in an attempt to get me to see him again. I refused. I am so thankful that I did and consider myself lucky to have escaped with very little damage.
I encourage every person who has ever heard that little voice warning them to get out...do it. That voice will never lie to you. It is protecting you. It is never wrong and it is never too late to listen. And you deserve better. You deserve to be emotionally supported, to be loved, to be praised, to be respected.
Most of us don't realize what constitutes abuse. Here is a list of behaviors that can be found in the foreword of Dreams & Desires: A Collection of Romance and Erotic Tales, published by Freya's Bower.
- Jeckel and Hyde behavior: Your partner is wonderful and caring for a while and then will do an about face and be angry about things that they thought were fine at an earlier time. They switch back and forth between behaviors for no apparent reason.
- Life Would be so Good If: You frequently think that your relationship would be perfect if not for his or her emotional storms. The storms seem to be coming more and more frequently. Between times, life is wonderful, but when a storm is coming, you can often tell by that Walking on Eggs Feeling.
- That Walking On Eggs Feeling: You feel at times that any action on your part will cause your partner to erupt into anger. You try to do everything you can think of to avoid it, but the longer the feeling goes on, the more likely the blowup will happen, no matter what you do.
- I Can't Stand You, But You Better Not Leave: Your partner keeps telling you that you aren't worth having a relationship with, but will not consider breaking off the relationship and acts more outrageously when he or she finds out you are attempting to leave the relationship.
- So Much, So Fast: Your partner just met you and doesn't know much about you, but he or she has to have you, so you must commit now.
- It's You That's the Problem: Your partner never seems to consider his or her own part in your domestic disputes. You get blamed for all problems because of the most ridiculous things.
- This Happened to Me and It's All Your Fault: You are blamed for your partner's problems even when it was his or her responsibility to not make mistakes. This could be things like him or her not getting to work on time and getting in trouble, not getting a job, not paying the bills in a timely manner, etc.
- It's Their Fault: Your partner is never the cause of his own problems; if it's not your fault, it was somebody else's.
- Overreacting: Your partner overreacts to little irritations. Small offenses like leaving the cap off the toothpaste cause him or her to have huge anger scenes or act out in an outrageous manner.
- I Will Get You for That: Your partner doesn't try to negotiate a better relationship, but retaliates by doing something to you that he or she knows will hurt you emotionally.
- All the Fights are about What I Do Wrong: You never seem to be able to talk about his or her wrong actions; the discussion always seems to be about what you did wrong, and there always seems to be something new that you did wrong.
- You are Worthless: Your partner keeps telling you that all your problems are because you can't manage to do anything right.
- Unrealistic Expectations: Your partner is dependent on you for all his/her needs and expects you to be the perfect mate, lover and friend. You are expected to meet all of his/her needs.
- Blames Others for His/Her Feelings: You are told, "You make me mad," "you're hurting me by not doing what I ask," or "I can't help being angry".
- Intense Jealousy: Your partner tells you that expressing jealousy is a sign of love. Jealousy is a sign of insecurity, not love. You are questioned about who you talk to and you may frequently receive calls or unexpected visits during the day.
- Isolation: He or she has attempted to cut off your family, friends, and independent financial resources. Your friends and family are put down, and you are put down for socializing with them. You or they are accused of ridiculous motives.
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