By Morgen Wells
Bruises go away, but words never do.
Carol Jordan, director of UK’s Center for Research on Violence Against Women, says many women who have been victims of abusive relationships often suffer the consequences of verbal assault long-term. Although physically abusive relationships almost always include psychological abuse, not all abusive relationships are physical, Jordan said.
Between the ages of 16 and 24 is the most crucial time for developing relationships, and the time when one is most vulnerable to experiencing dating violence, said director of UK’s Violence Intervention and Prevention Center, Melanie Matson.
According to loveisrespect.org, 43 percent of dating college women have reported experiencing abusive dating behavior such as physical, sexual, verbal and controlling abuse, and nearly one in three has reported being in an abusive relationship.
Getting involved in this type of relationship is deceptively easy and can happen to anyone, because most violent relationships begin with behavior that may seem positive, Matson said.
It may seem typical to want to spend the majority of time and energy with a new partner during the “honeymoon stage,” which includes texting each other all day, waiting for one another after class and only spending time with one another, Matson said.
Often only outsiders notice isolation and jealousy in the beginning, both of which are red flags.
“A partner who shows jealousy is often misinterpreted as a positive,” Jordan said. “Jealousy and attempts to control aren’t flattering.
Instead, he should show positive interaction such as giving a gift or a compliment.”
Control is the common thread in violent relationships, Jordan added.
Constantly breaking up and getting back together, while unhealthy, may not be classified as abuse.
“We can’t over paint abuse, or people won’t take it seriously,” Jordan said.
A major sign of dating violence is the presence of one-sided assertion of power, which includes behavior such as stalking, isolating a partner, degradation and name-calling, threats and installation of fear.
Jordan has two golden rules for determining when it’s time to leave a relationship: If the behavior is not extreme, and both partners agree that it is wrong and will not happen again, and it doesn’t, a second chance is viable.
However, “When you find yourself in a pattern, and in three or four weeks he’s doing it again, the behavior is cyclical and won’t change. It is extremely difficult to stop,” Jordan said.
If the behavior is severe or crosses a physical line, the slim chance that it will not happen again is not worth the risk, Jordan said.
A common behavior of the abuser is to blame their victim.
“They’ll say things like ‘I’ve never been this jealous over any one before you’ or ‘something about you makes me act this way’. The greater truth is that that’s an excuse,” Jordan said. “If a woman has that much control over a man’s behavior, then he’s weak and frightening. People have more control over their behavior than that.”
When a violent partner does change, it’s a result of conscious effort and external pressures.
“As a general rule, in my experience, it’s not easy. Something has to cause change and ensure that it will remain,” Jordan said. “If it happens again and again, it won’t stop.”
While any two people will have disagreements, a healthy fight does not lose focus on the issue in order to personally attack or degrade a partner.
“A loving partner isn’t demeaning during a fight. They don’t withhold resources as punishment. Both parties have equal rights,” Matson said.
“If this is not the case, it is time to move on.”
“Leaving an abusive relationship is the most dangerous time,” Matson said. “The abuser knows they are losing control and because psychological abuse isn’t enough, it may escalate their behavior to include physical violence.”
Breaking off contact with a toxic partner can be complicated by isolation, fear, ostracism or blackmail, which can be used as fuel by the abuser.
“Safety is first and foremost. One must have a plan in place and have support,” Matson said. “It may take a few tries (to leave).”
Jordan encourages people to communicate.
“Talk about it. Call VIP, talk to advocates, talk to other women. At the core of psychological abuse is isolation. She’s often isolated because of jealousy– he needs to be wherever she is. If something feels wrong, or a little scary, talk. Go with your instincts,” Jordan said.
The Student Activities Board, Center for Student Involvement, Residence Life and Campus Recreation, among organizations, can help combat feelings of loneliness and isolation.
Student Health offers individual or group counseling, and the VIP center is always available to help those who have experienced dating violence or find themselves in an abusive situation.
The VIP Center also offers an educational seminar series about healthy relationships each semester that can be attended in whole or in part.
“Connecting with resources both on and off of campus can help emotional healing,” Matson said.
For a complete list of VIP contacts, events, and workshops, please visit uky.edu/studentaffairs/VIPCenter.