October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. It is important to recognize that domestic violence, while frequently associated with physical violence, is not the only form of violence and abuse that people can face. In reality, domestic abusers often inflict a combination of physical, emotional and psychological abuse, on their victims.
Further, this is pertinent to keep in mind for millennials — who may only have the image of physical abuse in mind, when searching for the warning signs of abuse — when navigating dating, as well as abusive relationships among other millennials.
Among millennials domestic violence is frequently ignored, because many teens are quiet about the issue and parents or peers may be unaware or naïve. According to dosomething.org, “Only one-third of the teens who were involved in an abusive relationship confided in someone about the violence.”
Additionally, Loveisrespect.org cites that, “Girls and young women between the ages of 16 and 24 experience the highest rate of intimate partner violence; almost triple the national average.” With this statistic in mind, it is important to contextualize why these tendencies of millennial domestic violence occur.
So, why do the young people of our generation stay in these abusive relationships?
One could speculate that millennials stay in abusive relationships due to a lack of resources, relationship inexperience. and an inability to determine what is. and is abuse due to the grooming of an older partner with more life experience, manipulation, fear, intimidation, embarrassment, as well as no stable environment to retreat to in order to leave the relationship.
The fear of leaving an abusive relationship often stems from a lack of evidence to prove to one is a victim under state laws. Dosomething.org states that, “eight states in the U.S. do not consider a violent dating relationship domestic abuse. Therefore, adolescents, teens, and 20-somethings are unable to apply for a restraining order for protection from the abuser.”
Young adults stay in these relationships frequently, because they feel as though possessiveness is a sign of love, or they are gaslit into believing that the abuse they experience is their own fault.
The face of domestic abuse is not painted as a young adult issue; most people think of the aging marriages and the social norms of yesterday. But that common perception does not lessen the danger that teens face. The one-third statistic of teens facing domestic abuse exceeds all other types of violence that teens commonly face.
Moreover, while domestic abuse is a gendered crime against women, it is important to recognize that young men experience domestic abuse as well. According to the CDC, “One in four adult men in the U.S. will become a victim of domestic violence during his lifetime. [Which is] upwards of three million male domestic violence victims every year, or, one man in America [is] abused by an intimate or domestic partner every 37.8 seconds.”
Aside from physical abuse where violent altercations take place; there is also verbal abuse, which is strongly linked to emotional abuse. Emotional abuse is often overlooked, however, it is often the very first sign of an abusive relationship, and and often predicts physical abuse.
Emotional abuse is a type of abuse that occurs when an individual puts their partner down or administers fear or humiliation. For example, this is often seen in mind games, explicit or implicit threats, and insults with the intent to lower a partner’s self-esteem, as well as gaslighting in order to instill a false reality into victims, to make them believe that they are the ones’ doing something wrong, rather than their abuser.
Emotional abuse targets the emotional and psychological well-being of a person, making them feel worthless. According to stopdv.org, more than one in four teenage girls in a relationship (26 percent) report enduring repeated verbal abuse. Verbal abuse is taken more lightly than physical abuse, because verbal abuse attacks the mind and the emotions, without leaving a physical scar.
Young adults who experience verbal abuse often do not think much of the mistreatment they endure, as they are not aware that the confusion and sadness they experience is similar to that of physical abuse victims. People are less likely to notify those around them, including but not limited to, authorities, friends and family, if they are a victim of verbal abuse, for fear of not being taken seriously and not having proof.
However, while many cannot see it, emotional abuse does have many of the long-term effects that physical abuse has. According to dosomething.org, teens who suffer dating abuse are subject to long-term consequences that are often unhealthy methods of coping with their abuse: alcoholism, eating disorders, unprotected sex, thoughts of suicide and violent behavior.
But regardless of what form it takes, victims of domestic abuse seldom let someone know what they are going through.
However, people should be actively working to express concern and check on people, whether a family member, a friend, a coworker or even an acquaintance, if one notices that someone has noticeably withdrew from the circles they usually occupy. Especially if this person is young, as millennials’ pain and abuse often goes unnoticed.
While this and many other tactics to help those in an abusive situation are often easier said than done, support is everything to those struggling in abusive situations.
Domestic violence in relationships often does not end well. According to stopdv.org. “Nearly 80 percent of girls who have been physically abused in their intimate relationships continue to date their abuser. Of the women between the ages 15-19 murdered each year, 30 percent are killed by their husband or boyfriend.”
Abuse is inexcusable, and is especially vile when directed at children and young adults. And, while it can be difficult to know how to respond when confronted with an abusive situation, either firsthand or observing someone else’s, knowing the signs of abuse can help prevent abuse, as well as raise awareness for the prevalence of domestic violence.