It’s not normal, it’s not okay, and it’s not “no big deal.” Abuse in the home, at school, or anywhere else is a serious issue that we face in this country and it needs to be dealt with appropriately.
There are a lot of clear signs that violence is taking place, but sometimes the signs aren’t so obvious. Bruises and other marks are clear indicators of abuse while some abuse leaves no visible marks whatsoever.
The difficulty in determining whether or not violence is taking place has to do in part with boundaries. If you suspect abuse, you generally want to find the middle ground between putting those suspicions to rest and respecting a person’s privacy. What looks like an abusive relationship to you might be a simple misunderstanding. The best way to deal with this is to be direct. When we allow our imaginations to carry us away we may imagine the worst when the reality is quite innocent.
By simply asking your co-worker, a child in your class or a friend if everything is okay, it’s easy to clear up misunderstandings. But be aware that many in abusive relationships may find it hard to open up about their situation.
The truth is that people outside of a relationship simply cannot be completely certain unless the signs are there. When those signs are there, of course, it is our responsibility as caring individuals to contact the proper authorities and give the victims of abuse whatever help and advice we can.
Organizations like the Safe House Alliance offer shelter for those in need. There are enough of these safe houses and shelters and paths away from abuse that there’s no reason for anyone to stay in a bad situation.
When we think of abuse, we typically picture women and children as the victims. The truth is that this isn’t always the case. In fact, the majority of domestic abuse in this country happens to men, as does the majority of sexual assault and rape if you count the abuse that takes place within the prison system. The elderly are major victims of abuse, as well, as are the disabled. Violence does not know or prefer one gender or age or situation over any other. Abuse only tends to prey on those who are emotionally or mentally or physically unable to fight back. Abuse is not about sex or religion or age, it’s about power and vulnerability.
You may feel a bit silly asking a male co-worker if his wife hits him, you may worry that you’re overstepping your bounds wondering if a teenager hits their parents instead of the other way around, but the specifics of domestic violence can be surprising, and at the very least, simply asking can make a world of difference.