About This Website About Abuse
The purpose of this site is to reduce harm and lessen suffering, by bringing clarity to the confusing area of intimate partner violence. This site is not designed to help survivors with immediate safety planning. If that is needed, the National Domestic Abuse Hotline, 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) can help with finding a hotline and advocates in your area. If you believe you are in, or entering an abusive relationship, the following list of warning signs, and other information on this site may be useful. However it is not intended to substitute for the advice and support of a trained community victim's advocate.
This site is not about bringing therapeutic change to individuals. That is a crucial and worthy undertaking that, in the field of domestic violence, is very much under development and the subject of controversy. Rather, this site is about a crucial pre-step to change in individuals-- recognizing abuse in all its aspects.
Sensitive people have always been able to recognize abuse on a gut level, and I encourage all people to continue to honor their gut feelings. However, gut feelings are hard to articulate and hard to coordinate among groups of individuals. And gut feelings are are easy to miss, and easy to doubt, especially since one effect of abuse is to separate survivors from their sense of self.
Some abuse is so abhorrent that even insensitive people recognize it as such. But some of the tools of abuse in relationships are acts that can be hidden as expressions of upset or self-assertion, if close attention is not paid to the details and patterns. Abuse is a twisted way to get needs met, but the twist toward limiting the other person's options is exactly where the destructiveness comes from.
That is why this site emphasizes more the 'how' of domestic abuse than the 'why.' When it comes to changing something, understanding how something is done is more useful than understanding why it is done. Understanding how domestic abuse and control is carried out can, by itself, bring some sense of sanity where before there was confusion, mystification, and self-doubt.
For a long time in our history, control through violence in the family was considered permissible. After it was finally considered unacceptable, there was a lag before anything could be done about it. Perhaps that is because our culture had been swimming in power and control, and could no more describe it than a fish can describe water.
This site is meant to be informative, but not scholarly. Abusive relationships exist between people. In the study of persons, total objectivity is an illusion. The use of subjective knowledge is inevitable and legitimate. However, it is therefore all the more subject to discussion and debate. The ideas are presented here not as dogma, but rather as tools. If a tool is not getting the job done, then by all means, set it down. The job is to end abuse, and that starts with first recognizing abuse and all its ingredients.
I have chosen to use the pronoun 'he' when referring to a primary aggressor in general and the pronoun 'she' when referring to a survivors in general. This is challenged routinely in comments by readers who are men. It is not an easy decision. Although I recognize there are some exceptions, intimate partner violence is overwhelmingly gendered. Using the politically correct construction of 'he/ she' or 'he or she' is possible of course, and certainly speaks to those exceptions, but I believe it has the following problem. It suggests that to recognize abuse one should take equally the behavior of men and women in distressed relationships and find universal elements. I believe this approach results in confusion and dilution
Explained differently, the site is not meant to be centered around 'mere' mistreatment (though many non-gendered tactics of mistreatment are described) but centered around a qualitatively distinct, sexually-driven pattern of power and control which is under-pinned by the plausible fear of the target being eventually killed. Individual abusive behaviors have a different import and effect in this context. This site takes a public health approach, not a moral approach, to domestic violence. No group is condemned, including men. Rather risk factors and dangerous behaviors are identified.
As the author, I take responsibility for all opinions on this site. A few I have formed on my own, most I have borrowed from pioneers and researchers in the field. Comments are welcomed and appreciated.
Michael Samsel LMHC