One of the things I’ve learned after years of working in the field of domestic abuse recovery may seem surprising to many people:
Although individuals can admit they’re in a difficult relationship, they often don’t realize that what they’re experiencing isn’t ordinary martial challenges, but is intimate partner violence. This is especially true when the abuse is covert and there’s no physical violence present. However, “violence” doesn’t always take place on a physical level—as a matter of fact, aggression that’s sly and hidden tends to be more damaging than the overt, physical forms of violence.
Why can it so difficult to tell the difference between normal marital discord and domestic abuse?
Every marriage has challenges, and every couple will get into disagreements from time to time—perhaps even frequently. Disagreements, even if they get out of hand, aren’t themselves a sign of abuse.
The true markers of ordinary challenges versus coercive abuse can be seen in how those differences are handled and resolved, and whether or not mutual self-giving exists in the relationship. Situations of power-over—where one spouse attempts to dominate the other or consistently prove the other wrong—are both red flags. Remember, abuse is a pattern of behavior, not a one-time event.
I'm Jenny duBay, a domestic abuse survivor and now advocate. My degree is in Christian theology with a concentration on spiritual direction, and my vocational emphasis is on helping those who have suffered from domestic abuse to heal and reclaim their true selves.