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Could identifying the flags help kerb domestic violence



A story about recognising the red flags of the violent relationship.

Content Warning: This Story discusses domestic and family violence and abusive relationships.

For two years, I was in love with a man. He was charismatic, intelligent, attractive and affluent. Women seemed to flock to him. He was everything a woman could want.

One year into our relationship, he hit me once; began telling me I was of average intellect, and refused to care for me financially, though I was studying and had little money. Worst of all, he began to down play his initial attraction, eventually telling me, I wasn't model material. Unbeknownst to me, he was incrementally carrying out, what is now deemed “coercive control” - a sign of much worse to come in an abusive relationship.

A woman sitting under a window with her head in her arms.
Image: A woman sitting under a window with her head in her arms.

I am one of the lucky ones. I had the right circumstances to leave him. We weren't married and our tenure was reasonably short. I shudder to think what might have happened if our assets were combined or I stayed longer. Some women spend a lifetime battling with the psychological torture… living in constant fear. That's why greater awareness is crucial.

Violent perpetrators and abusers share a commonality - maintaining the perfect image by way of deception, in order to incrementally gain relationship control. This does not apply to all men, but it is fundamentally linked to the larger power imbalance between men and women that undeniably underpins domestic and family violence.

SBS documentary, 'See What You Made Me Do,' - all about domestic violence – discusses the power dynamics that are linked to relationship control.

As is always the case, any epidemic is a result of much wider issues. Educating young people on the gendered nature of violence, and encouraging them to battle the stereotypes is a start.

However, the consequences of missing red flags seem to come after the fact - once crimes have been committed. If teens can be warned about the rates of gender violence, educators could also warn kids or women's groups about the red flags that precipitate the violence.

One common myth is that women's self-esteem is attributable to abusive relationships - that they stay despite the consequences. This helps vilify and profile all women, often shaping apathy and lack of policy change.

Perhaps if we understood how abusers operate, we would not be so focussed on why women maintain these relationships. Often, abusers are masters of disguise, making even the discerning individuals appear gullible and desperate.

A man wearing a blue shirt looking to the left thinking. He has his chin rested on his hand. In the background is a woman looking the other way.
Image: A man wearing a blue shirt looking to the left thinking. He has his chin rested on his hand. In the background is a woman looking the other way.

Famous psychologist, expert journalist, and New York bestseller of “The Confidence Game,” Maria Konnikova, outlines roughly three phases of the con. The profile of a con-artist is an initial red flag. Their image often seems too good to be true, overwhelming, or that of a power imbalance - they appear to be of higher status than you. This is what gets so many women in. The second phase is what's known as “the hook.” Con-artists gain the person's trust by demonstrable action. They might actually pay for something; give their bank details to you; return your money. The third phase is victim denial. Dialectical opposites in behaviours emerge, often confusing recipients. This is often where it is too late to get out of the swindle.

Due to the humiliation of being wrong or having been duped, victim-survivors often keep silent, allowing perpetrators to continue their exploits.

In its very essence, expert advice is telling us that abuse fears exposure; that openness, communication and education is not only progressive but dire. 

If you are affected by violence you can contact 1800RESPECT for counselling, support and referral.
Call 1800 737 732 or chat to someone online (external link). If you are in immediate danger, call 000.

Respectful Relationships
To learn more about red flags in relationships, go to our page on Respectful Relationships

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This story is tagged under:

Life Choices
Taking Part
Sex and Your Body
Safety and violence
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