Talking to Our Daughters About Domestic Abuse

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Please note this blog contains resources and the topic of domestic abuse. If you are in an emergency situation, please call 911 or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.

© Deyan Georgiev via Canva.com

As someone who grew up with domestic abuse, I regularly find myself annoyed at things I read or see on the internet relating to abuse against girls or women. The number one annoyance is victim-blaming and asking why the woman did not leave her partner. The truth is that in many cases, abuse, in all of its forms, is normalized in society, and therefore, the beautiful, young, and intelligent girls of today are finding themselves deep in domestic abuse and wondering how they got there in the first place. We need to start talking to our daughters about domestic abuse in all of its many forms and teaching them not only how to recognize red flags early on but also to know that we understand abuse and that we are there for them.

I spoke with a few of my girl-mom friends to ask their opinions on this, and surprisingly, none of them had spoken to their daughters about abuse. In case you are unaware of how serious domestic abuse in the USA is, more women have been killed by their domestic partners since 9/11 than all of the people killed in 9/11, terrorist attacks on US soil, and US soldiers killed in combat or ensuing wars. That works out at roughly 4 women per day being murdered by their intimate partners in the USA.  I am aware that domestic abuse also happens to men but as the red flags in both male and female abuse are different, I am focusing on abuse towards women only in this blog.

Now that we realize how serious domestic abuse against women is, the question is, how do we talk to our daughters about abuse? The first thing we need to discuss is the various forms of domestic abuse. Surprisingly, many young women only equate domestic abuse with physical abuse. Abuse can be found in many forms; for the purpose of making this more illustrative, I have added examples of the abuse (taken from womenagainstabuse.org);

Physical abuse

Being physically abusive or destroying personal property as a way to intimidate the partner.

Examples of behavior: hitting, slapping, pushing, use of weapons, destroying property e.g., punching a wall or kicking furniture

Emotional Abuse

Using emotional behavior to control and manipulate.

Examples of behavior: name-calling, shaming, humiliation, isolating from family and friends, telling their partner that their family and friends do not have their best interests at heart, controlling who the partner sees, controlling what the partner does or where they go, extreme jealousy, stalking, accusing the partner of cheating

Financial Abuse

A behavior that controls finances, including infliction of job loss.

Examples of behavior: harassing partner at work, inflicting injury to ensure partner cannot work, controlling finances and assets, setting an allowance for the partner, damaging a partner’s credit score

Sexual Abuse

This is about power over the partner and includes any incident where any sexual behavior is performed without the partner’s consent.

Examples of behavior: forcing the partner to have sex with others, coercing the partner to have sex without their consent, having sex with the partner when they are unable to consent, such as being under the influence of drugs or alcohol, physically harming your partner during sexual activity

Technological Abuse

Using technology to stalk and control the partner.

Examples of behavior include using social media/technological interactions to control the partner, hacking into personal accounts such as emails or social media, and using a tracking device (such as on a phone or car) to stalk the partner.

Typically, when one form of abuse is being used, other forms of abuse are present. Abuse typically, over time, will escalate and worsen. Partners who have committed abuse in the past are not only more likely to commit abuse again, but the abuse in the new relationship will tend to be worse than the previous relationship. Abusers have personality traits, and these traits are red flags. According to Psychology Today, abusers often have the following personality traits;

  • Insecure
  • Needy with unrealistic expectations of a relationship
  • Distrustful
  • Often jealous
  • Verbally abusive
  • Needs to be right and in control
  • Possessive, may try to isolate their partner from friends and family.
  • Hypersensitive and reacts aggressively
  • Has a history of aggression
  • Is cruel to animals or children
  • Blames their behavior on others

Talking to our daughters about domestic abuse does not need to be formal or even scheduled. When watching television or reading a book where the topic arises, feel free to casually discuss that those behaviors are not acceptable and define them as abuse. Once it is age-appropriate, highlight news stories or watch movies that have examples of domestic abuse and open a discussion with your daughter. Your goal is to create a safe space where your daughter can openly discuss any abuse that is being directed at her.

I grew up believing that women who were abused were vulnerable prior to the relationship, but speaking openly about domestic abuse has opened my eyes to how domestic abuse does not affect only one demographic. I know of confident women from all backgrounds who have been victims of domestic abuse, so please do not think your daughter is immune to abuse due to her demographic, class, or background. Unfortunately, abusers are smart and can manipulate any personality type into becoming victims, which is why we need to talk to our daughters about abuse, educate them, give them the tools to identify red-flag behaviors and have the confidence to confide in us when something is going wrong without feeling judged or humiliated. It is our responsibility, as parents, to talk to our daughters about abuse.

For more resources on talking to our daughters about abuse, please check the following websites;

Domestic Shelters – www.domesticshelters.org

Women Against Abuse – www.womenagainstabuse.org

National Coalition Against Domestic Violence – www.ncadv.org

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