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Our Partners Should Love Us

Updated: Sep 28, 2021

TW: Domestic Violence, Assault

National Domestic Violence 24-Hour Hotline 1-800-799-7233 or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY for Deaf/Hard of Hearing) (24-hour hotline, 7 days a week, 365 days a year)

In light of the recent and tragic death of Gabby Petito and tragedies gone unnoticed like Destini Smothers and of so many women of color, my mind keeps coming back to a statistic I learned in a psychology textbook about families and stress.

That women are more likely to be abused or sexually assaulted by a former or current partner than they are to be harmed by a stranger or acquaintance.

1 out of 3 women will face sexual or physical violence in their lifetimes and a majority of these cases are perpetrated by an intimate partner.

Women find themselves again and again harmed and treated with violence by those we expect to love us and cherish us. All I can think of that helps this horrific pattern continue is the cycle of violence. Many of us, especially as women, have a fundamental belief that our worth is tied to the happiness and satisfaction we bring to others and our families. Some women may not relate to this, but I have seen this generationally in my family and so many others. People pleasing tendencies that are socialized within us from a young age and as we are learning what love is affects each of us in different ways. These fundamental beliefs about our worth may encourage us to tolerate or blame ourselves for the behaviors of more abusive and unloving partners.

That is not to say that survivors of violence are at fault or that violence in domestic partnerships is caused by or encouraged by any behavior of the survivor, this note is just to say that some of us are more willing to believe we somehow “deserve” abusive treatment from partners or others in our lives. It is also not to say that women are the only victims of abuse but that they are more greatly impacted by intimate partner violence than other groups particularly within heterosexual relationships.

This cycle of violence is perpetuated in other ways too, patriarchal structures are also at fault particularly where heterosexual partnerships are involved. Many abusive partners had a same-sex parent who was abusive in their childhood. The rejection of the “feminine” and adoption of the belief that men shouldn’t express emotionality in many ways also contributes to violence and poor mental health that leads to these types of tragedies.

This train of thought also made me wonder if the narrative that we are likely to be kidnapped or harmed outside of the home is actually a narrative that is meant to keep women loyal to patriarchal society that keeps us inside and remaining in partnerships that we are supposed to feel safe in. But are we really safe married and at home with partners with statistics that show us otherwise? Clearly we aren’t.

The real tragedy is that we believe the people abusing us are the ones that love us, and maybe we think they are the only ones who will be able to. Survivors can’t always see a way out even if they want a way out, they may fear consequences of angering their abusive partner by leaving and both their health and safety and the health and safety of their closest loved ones.

The pervasiveness of this issue and related topics is deeply concerning because it is so normalized and accepted behind closed doors in our society. In fact a culture of silence is encouraged. This trend can be seen within the #metoo movement where survivors coming forward and are continously doubted and not believed. We see it also when we seek support and safety from violent situations but have no where to turn. When mental health isn’t taken seriously in this country we also see a culture of silence encouraged.

Other places we can see the culture of silence is when we seek support and safety from violent situations and yet find no safe place or resources to turn to. On that note, these resources are even more difficult to come by for women of color or from marginalized communities. The conversation has been going on that so many women with the same story were not provided investigation or search teams. The clear cause of this neglect is the systemic racism that this country upholds through white supremacy. Destini Smothers had a nearly identical case, but despite her family's attempts to get help in searching for her, their need for support was denied and ignored by not only the state of New York but the country as a whole.

I grieve the loss of these women and the injustices that they faced. I also grieve that the tragedies they and their families faced are the fears of so many of us.

The lack of resources and respect for women in this country and globally is upsetting and disturbing, it is time we turn our attention to it to create change and save the lives of the wonderful women all around the world. We are all feeling at a loss for next steps and how we can help, in this case, I encourage each and every one of you to check on your loved ones regularly and to support women's shelters as well as legislation that supports survivors. We won’t be able to change this tragic reality overnight but if we can change the future of one victim of intimate partner violence then it is something we must do.

Our partners should love us. Our partners should help ensure our safety and provide us a place to rest. With your help we can work towards that future.

If you are facing intimate partner violence of any kind, there is help available for you.

National Domestic Violence 24-Hour Hotline 1-800-799-7233 or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY for Deaf/Hard of Hearing) (24-hour hotline, 7 days a week, 365 days a year)

Action Items will be posted @feministfreeway on all social media accounts within the next few days.

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