Detecting the early warning signs in your relationship to determine whether your partner has abusive tendencies, which may over time escalate, is an important first step in the fight against woman abuse. You may not only recognise this in your own partner, but that of your friend, sister or work colleague.
The red flags of an abusive partner are as multifaceted as the problem of women abuse itself including when they use different forms of abuse such as emotional, physical, sexual or financial abuse. Addressing all of these, with the aim to bring the scourge of woman abuse to an end, has been central to the work of the 1st for Women Foundation and more recently, ForWomen.
For over 14 years, 1st for Women has been actively engaged in the fight against woman abuse and to date has raised over R70 million for woman abuse causes and assisted over 90 000 abuse survivors. Much of this incredible work is thanks to the contributions of their customers, who donate a portion of their premiums to the 1st for Women Foundation each month. To give all South Africans the chance to unite and take action against woman abuse, 1st for Women launched ForWomen during 16 Days of Activism in 2017.
This online platform aims to consolidate woman abuse fighting efforts in one place and give all South Africans the chance to take action, 365 days a year, by giving help or getting help in the fight against woman abuse.
Visitors to ForWomen can connect with NGOs who focus on measure of prevention (organisations that work to address the multiple and often interlinked causes of abuse), preparation (organisations that empower women with the tools they need to put an end to this social tragedy) and provision (organisations that can support and assist abuse survivors on their journey).
Under prevention and preparation, it’s critical that women are aware of the warning signs of an abusive partner. This is most apparent when someone acts as manipulative, controlling and asserts their power over another person. Part of recognising the early warning signs of abuse is understanding what comprises the cycle of abuse which consists of four stages.
The four stages of the cycle of abuse are:
- Tension building
- Stress builds as part of daily life where a partner may be struggling with a work problem, experiencing financial difficulty, or there is a misunderstanding or miscommunication between the two partners. The abuser then feels ignored, threatened or wronged in some way.
- Acting out
- This is characterised by outbursts or violence, abusive language, physical or sexual abuse. During this stage, the abuser will try to dominate their partner through some form of abuse. The abuser will use this to release the stress or tension and justify their actions by blaming the survivor.
- The honeymoon period
- The abuser will use this stage for reconciliation by apologising for their actions, making promises it will never happen again and committing to changing their ways. In some instances, the abuser will walk away from the moment of violence, pretend as though it never happened or ignore the situation. The abuser may even use threats of self-harm or suicide to gain sympathy.
- Calming stage
- The relationship at this stage is in its most stable. The abuser may even commit to counselling, buy presents for the survivor and will ask for forgiveness. As the tension phase begins to build up again, the abuser will again turn to violence. The abuse may begin as emotional or verbal before escalating towards physical violence.
By recognising the patterns of abuse and the early warning signs that a partner may be abusive will assist women in being better prepared in the fight against women abuse.
The red flags of abusive behaviour:
- Your partner will act in such a way to make you to feel and eventually become isolated. This includes not allowing you to see certain people like friends or family, by encouraging you to give up your job or putting you down in front of others. They also react negatively when you make contact or spend time with these people.
- There is a difference between a partner being caring or controlling which can also be subjective. It is best to understand that controlling behaviour stems from jealousy. If your partner asks you to do anything which makes you feel uncomfortable or scared, take it as a sign that something is wrong. This could include asking to review your social media feeds, expecting you to go home straight from work or asking to manage your finances.
- Sexual or physical violence. A partner may use words to threaten violence, may act violently towards other people or even share incidents of previous violent acts. Early signs of violence can include rough sex, pinching your arm or applying a tight grip. They may brush off violent behaviour as ‘play fighting,’ but the behaviour is meant to show they have power and strength over the other person. Your partner may be prone to throwing things, at walls or you, slamming or punching doors.
When determining if your partner is displaying these early warning signs of abuse it is important to view it within the context of the cycle of abuse.
Join in the fight against woman abuse and give help or get help at ForWomen today.