Abusive Relationships

It was International Women’s Day last week.

Large numbers of people all over the world live in abusive relationships. This is not a phenomenon of the East or the West, it is not something that is confined to those who live in poverty, or are relatively uneducated. It is something that can be found in all layers of all societies.


Many do not even recognise that they are in such a relationship.

The most obvious indicator of such a relationship is physical violence, but it is not always the only abusive behaviour present and, sometimes, may not be present at all. Sometimes there is just the implied threat of physical abuse. Sometimes just emotional abuse.

If you are belittled all the time, made to feel inadequate, you are in such a relationship.

If you are not allowed to make your own decisions, you are in such a relationship.

If you are not allowed to control your own money, have your own friends, see your own family, decide what you wear, have a job or go out when and where you wish, then you are in an abusive relationship.

One barrier in the way of reducing the incidence of abusive relationships is society itself. By declaring that men were superior to women, our society used to effectively sanction such a relationship and, in many societies today, it still does. This takes the form of making the victim feel that it is ‘okay’ to be treated that way, or even ‘right’. It also puts barriers in the way of reporting abusive behaviour to authority or to helping the victim. Religions have also sanctioned these behaviours, since they are reflecting the societies that created them in the first place.

Female genital mutilation is a good example of a societal abusive relationship. It is a tool used by a male-dominated society to keep a woman subjugated to males. The victim is mutilated in such a way that sexual intercourse becomes painful and undesirable, with the intention that she will not ‘stray’. Of course, there is nothing to stop the male from straying and, anyway, it is still convenient to blame the woman even if she is the victim of rape.

And it goes by different names; bullying, controlling behaviour, amongst others. But does it sound any less serious if we use these terms? Could it almost be trivialising it?

(It is also important to recognise that a surprisingly large number of victims are male.)

How do we tackle it?

First, we need to call it out. Call it by its proper name. Abuse is abuse. Victims need support, perpetrators need to be exposed and prosecuted.

Nobody has the ‘right’ to act that way within a relationship.

FGM is NOT acceptable. It is NOT a ‘tradition’ that we have no right to interfere in – by education, and by legislation, it needs to be totally eradicated. Those sorts of ‘tradition’, like forced marriages and beating children, have no place in today’s world.

We can all offer support if someone needs it.

29 thoughts on “Abusive Relationships

  1. Well said, Mick. Sadly, paragraphs 5 to 7 describe an awful lot of relationships, at least in the society I live in. Para 5: so often seen in parent to child relationships, and siblings join in.

    Para 6: so often one partner decides that henceforth my friends will be our friends, my hobbies and interests our hobbies and interests, my family our family. And BTW don’t ever think about doing anything/going anywhere on your own.

    And in such dynamics, the gender of the participants is irrelevant.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So right, Denise. And so often the perpetrators have absolutely no idea that is what they are, which is one reason it is so hard to defeat.
      There is still an attitude, too, that much of this behaviour is trivial, almost the stuff of jokes, and therefore it isn’t necessary to do anything about it.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I suspect a lot of parents would be horrified to hear that their behaviour (often targeted at one child in particular) borders on or is abusive. And in relationships between couples, the controlling behaviour can be such a gradual process it’s unnoticed – even by the controlled party.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Yes – the gradual change can certainly go unnoticed, that’s usually how it happens, I believe.
          With parent / children relationships, of course, what is acceptable has changed a huge amount over the last 50 years, which inevitably means that a lot of people are out of step with these changes; the relationships that they may have had with their own parents, might be deemed abusive now, although at the time they would be considered normal.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks, Mick, for shedding light on a very serious and important subject. It will take a lot of cultural change to get us to a point where abusive relationships are unacceptable everywhere, and where perpetrators are held to account for their actions. We have a long way to go!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Its a serious problem that has existed since ages. I’m it has surely to do with male superiority complex and ego! You said it well, it exists in even educated circles. Domestic violence is serious problem even in US. Personally, I feel that all those engaging in such acts should be publicly shamed as legal recourse has done little.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think you’re right in that a lot of it is connected to the problems of male dominance in society, but it is certainly more complicated than that. Males are the victims of females in such a relationship more often than many people believe. As to how it is solved, education must be part of the equation but, as you point out, it even occurs in educated circles – perhaps that suggests that the right kind of education has not taken place!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Well said. The society lives with many preconceived notions which gets passed on. There’s certainly a need to redefine a lot since we live in a different world than say 1900’s or 1950’s. Lesser females opting for marriage, no kids, women forming large work population…. A change in both male and female mindset….

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you for this post, Mick. Well enunciated. It’s unfortunate that loads of relationships fall into the categories that you’ve outlined and the saddest part is where society and religious makes it feel okay that victims of abuse should remain so. I would always tell a woman in such a relationship to get away but somehow most find themselves trapped and finding a way out proves difficult. It’s a serious problem.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Jacqueline. Yes, I am aware that many women feel they cannot get out of the relationship for various reasons – I have had a small amount of experience talking to one or two of them – and it often turns out that their thinking that way has been part of the abusing; they are almost brainwashed into thinking it.


  5. Thank you for this post, Mick. It is a subject very close to my heart having been at the hands of both male and female abusers. As you pointed out also, there as many men as there are women abused in some way. There is also proof now that emotional abuse (especially with children) does as much damage psychologically as other forms of abuse. As for genital mutilation of any person, man or woman – this is an abhorrent ritual, often happening ‘behind closed doors’ and using the excuse of religion or tradition is totally unacceptable. It ought to be a punishable crime as it is mostly definitely, in my eyes, a form of sexual abuse which leads to long-term pain and severe distress. Unfortunately, although it is easy to feel passionate about all types of abuse, it is proving so difficult to stamp out even in our so-called civilised society.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. At least FGM is recognised for what it is in the west, now, and is illegal. Unfortunately, getting convictions seems to be rather more difficult, by all accounts. I do feel that at least we are moving in the right direction over this, though.
      On a more personal level, I can only hope that you have suffered no lasting damage from your experiences, Ellie, and are in a much better place now.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I couldn’t agree with you more about FGM, Mick. A custom being old shouldn’t give it any special protection as far as I’m concerned. Would we allow human sacrifice just because some religion somewhere had been carrying it out for thousands of years?

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Well expressed, Mick. I have long considered the status of ‘custom’ and ‘tradition’ to be artificially raised to a point way above that they deserve. Time we started calling these cruel, abusing habits by the names they really deserve; outdated, unjust, brutal and vile.

    Liked by 1 person

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