By: Jean Johnson for Uterus1
Sex ranks right up there on the list of powerful motivators. Even the thought of an amorous evening can send a flush to one’s cheeks – make the current task at hand turn suddenly unimportant and cause one to wonder where one’s lover is.
| The University of Buffalo, SUNY offers the following warning signs of relationship violence. The key, say experts, is to pay attention to cues listed below when you are getting to know someone. |
Emotionally abuses you (insults, belittling comments, ignoring you, acting sulky or angry when you initiate an action or idea).
Tells you who you may be friends with, how you should dress, or tries to control other elements of your life or relationship.
Talks negatively about women in general.
Gets jealous when there is no reason.
Drinks heavily, uses drugs or tries to get you drunk.
Berates you for not wanting to get drunk, get high, have sex or go with him to an isolated or personal place.
Refuses to let you share any of the expenses of a date and gets angry when you offer to pay.
Is physically violent to you or others, even if it's "just" grabbing and pushing to get his way.
Acts in an intimidating way toward you by invading your "personal space" (sits too close, speaks as if he knows you much better than he does, touches you when you tell him not to).
Is unable to handle sexual and emotional frustrations without becoming angry.
Does not view you as an equal – because he's older or sees himself as smarter or socially superior.
Thinks poorly of himself and guards his masculinity by acting tough.
Goes through extreme highs and lows, is kind one minute and cruel the next.
Is angry and threatening to the extent that you have changed your life so as not to anger him.
Problems arise, though, when wondering where one’s wife or girlfriend is turns into a paranoid form of hyper-vigilance. At least that’s the conclusion of a study published in the December 2005 issue of Personal Relationships, a scholarly journal that publishes interdisciplinary papers on the subject.
Indeed, sex and mating can make normally sensible animals – humans included – act in strange irrational ways that only experts who study emotions seem to be able to unravel. Add love and caring into the mix, and the quirkiness associated with romance becomes endearing, if not comic. Let relationships come under the cloud of paranoia, however, and sexual partnerships can all too often turn violent.
“Mate retention behaviors are designed to solve several adaptive problems such as deterring a partner’s infidelity and preventing defection from the mating relationship,” study author and associate professor of psychology at Florida Atlantic University, Todd Shackelford, Ph.D., wrote. “At a practical level the results can potentially be used to inform women and men, friends and relatives, of danger signals – the specific acts and tactics of male retention that portend the possibility of future violence in relationships in order to prevent it before it has been enacted.”
Relationship violence is rather frightening. So are the numbers that say in 1998 (the latest year statistics are available from the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics) about 876,000 women were victims of violent crimes by a current or former male partner. More, 1,300 of these women were murdered. That said the figures do not include females residing in shelters, hospitals, and other institutions or homes for battered women.
Additionally since shame and denial surrounds the problem of relationship violence, most experts think that the majority of physical and sexual partner abuse is never reported. Indeed, the best estimates the New York Times has come up on the basis of various studies is that “one out of every three to four women in the United States will be physically abused by a husband or boyfriend at some point in her life.”
Part of the reason domestic violence is so prevalent in the United States is that women often feel they have little recourse once they become embroiled in a relationship. According to the executive director of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Rita Smith, “Every battered woman I’ve even talked to thinks, ‘How can I get out?’ At some point, probably all of them will make some attempt. The question is, what’s in place to help her do that? And it’s often very limited.”
Currently there are 2,000 shelters for abused women in the country, a considerable leap from the 1970s when there were none. Still, despite the rise in shelters, the complex web that traps battered women in abusive relationships leaves them with so little self-esteem not to mention depression and fears of economic insecurity, that they are largely unable to help themselves.
“We are in a culture that in many ways celebrates male dominance and female submission, and that is in some way the definition of an erotic heterosexual relationship,” said associate professor and expect in family law at Rutgers School of Law, Sally Goldfarb.
Susan Wilt, Ph.D., Assistant Commissioner in the Division of Epidemiology at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, whose research focuses on intimate partner violence, female homicide, youth violence and sexual assault and disaster related injuries, concurs with Goldfarb on the complexity of this social and cultural dynamic.
“We haven’t come close to affecting the intimate partner violence and homicide the way we have other kinds of violence and assault,” said Wilt. “It remains a shocking issue that this is the main reason that women end up dead and that it occurs within their home and family where they are supposed to be safe.”
We assume that by now we have your undivided attention on this disturbing state of affairs. So, perhaps a further word on possible predictors of relationship violence is in order.
In addition to hyper-vigilance, watch for emotional manipulation, drives to monopolize time and threats of punishment for infidelity. Fierce talk that includes extremist rhetoric including talk of “dying” if his partner ever leaves him is also a predictor according to Shackelford.
In sum, as Susan Wilt says, “women worry when they go out, [but] they should worry when they stay in.”
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