Love Shouldn’t Hurt: Abusive Relationships

By Samantha Armstrong

As many people celebrate love during the week of Valentine’s Day, many experience gloom caused by suffering through domestic abuse.

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, in the United States an average of 20 people are physically abused by intimate partners every minute. This equates to roughly 10 million abuse victims annually.

Abuse, whether physical, verbal or emotional, is prominent in relationships and does not discriminate in gender or age. Both men, women, students and staff at Youngstown State University can be and have been victims of relationship abuse.

Dr. Tiffany Anderson, a professor in the Africana Studies department, endured an abusive relationship for nearly five years before she took permanent action.

The relationship was physically and emotionally abusive. It involved throwing her belongings, choking, kicking, spitting and pushing.

The abuse started two months into her marriage. Prior to that, there was only one instance that may have been a red flag.

“There was one time when we were just dating that he got very upset that I was late,” Anderson said. “I can’t remember if he pushed me or not but it was something so small that I wasn’t scared.”

Anderson’s ex-husband never owned up to his actions and would classify the relationship as mutually abusive.

“One time when we were having a conversation about divorce, the entire time he had a butterfly knife and he kept spinning the knife when we were talking,” Anderson said. “The counselor said that this was his way of exerting a sense of power and dominance. Which is why I’m very upfront about the abuse I endured because [for] some reason people think that strong women cannot be abused.”

The relationship finally ended after a final altercation where the police were involved. Anderson gave her abuser the option to get out of her house for good or she would press charges.

Ohio law takes domestic violence seriously, so although he moved out of the house, he ended up being arrested.

Emma Vickers, a social work student at YSU, said she has had a few friends involved in physical and emotional abusive relationships.

“The friends that were being abused at the time always hid the details from their other friends and I. Nobody wants their friends to dislike their boyfriend,” Vickers said. “You can try to counsel them through it, but most times they will just be manipulated by their boyfriend.”

According to Dr. Ann Jaronski of YSU Student Counseling Services, warning signs of a possible abusive relationship include a lack of trust, a partner who is controlling, demeaning and keeps constant tabs on your whereabouts, friendships, cellphone and social media accounts.

“Once you’re involved in an abusive relationship, some of the first steps we can take is self-care. One of the only things we have control over is ourselves,” Jaronski said. “If there is a financial component, we’d talk about how to gain financial independence or making sure you have different friends or perspectives.”

Jaronski said that another important factor to look at is that men can be the victims of abuse just like women can.

“For men who are in abusive relationships there are additional layers of shame and guilt that we have to work through,” Jaronski said. “Our gender norms do not allow a great amount of flexibility for men. Being abused does not fit in the masculine stereotype.”

Trust and respecting physical, emotional and financial boundaries is the biggest factor to achieving a healthy relationship. But Jaronski believes that knowing whether a person is involved in a healthy relationship develops over time.

*If you are involved or feel like you may be a victim of relationship abuse reach out and contact YSU Student Counseling Services at 330-941-3737 to schedule an appointment.