Domestic and family violence is complex yet often preventable. But how do we recognise it when it often occurs in the privacy of the home?
It is important to learn how to recognise the difference between healthy relationship conflict, and a pattern of abusive behaviours within a relationship.
Normal relationship conflict
This exists when two equals have trouble solving a shared problem. Frustration and hurt may be present, but both partners feel safe and respected. They feel free to state their opinions, to make their own decisions, to be themselves, and to say no to sex.
The difference with relationship abuse
Any discrete 'abusive' behaviour is not good for a relationship, but an abusive relationship involves a pattern of behaviour by one person aimed at forcing the other person to submit to their will. An abusive relationship is one in which there is a chronic imbalance of power and control. The abuser uses force, threats, intimidation, fear, isolation, manipulation and other tactics to coerce the abused partner to behave in certain ways and to prevent him or her from confiding in others.
The goal of this kind of violence is having power over someone in order to limit their options.
Love involves empowering the other. Power over a person and love for them are incompatible. Love leaves room for influence and intimate partners should always want to influence each other, but influence should never be forced or gained by manipulation. When power and control are held by one partner over another, escalation of abuse is extremely likely.