On the Dating and Relationship Show, we often discuss how to get through hard times in relationships. And recently I invited Leanne Townsend, a Family and Criminal Lawyer and relationship blogger onto the show, to discuss both the legal and emotional aspects of dealing with abusive relationships.
Abusive Relationships Are More Than Physical Harm
Leanne has seen her fair share of domestic abuse cases and first and foremost, she was able to tell us that not all abusive relationships are just physical harm. The different types of abusive relationships can range from physical/sexual, emotional, mental and verbal. Now, physical/sexual abusive relationships are the only type that are recognized/investigated by the court, however, there are adjustments being made to soon recognize verbal abuse in law.
In a relationship, you may accept the actions or flaws of your partner early on and become used to some of their negative tendencies as a ‘normal’ part of your lives. But I wanted to ask Leanne what the signs of abusive relationships are since as she mentioned, physically hitting/hurting someone is not the only form of abusive relationships. Leanne said the biggest sign is control issues. A partners need to always know where you’re going and who you’re hanging out with is a red flag since control issues/the desire to control is something all abusers have. Jealousy can also be a cause for concern since it shows a lack of trust and aggression and abuse can stem from jealousy. It is important to know that these signs apply to all relationships including romantic partners, family and friends, so we need to be aware if anyone is trying to gain control over our lives.
Leanne explained the sure signs, however, many of these signs might not appear until later in the relationship. I asked her if there are any initial signs of an aggressive partner that you can identify before you get into a relationship. She says that many abusers have narcissistic personality disorder. This type of person has exaggerated feelings of self-importance, the excessive need for admiration and a lack of empathy. This type of person will be unbelievably charming at first and almost sweep you off your feet in a way that seems too good to be true. Well just like in most cases, if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. They wrap you up in a fairytale like romance at first since they have a need for you to admire them so much that you fall for it. This matched with their lack of empathy is characteristic of an abuser since convincing you they are so perfect is something they use to gain control. Now you may think, shoot, if I start dating someone and they are so wonderful and romantic, does this mean I am dating an abuser? No. What you need to do after initially meeting them and loving this romantic ride, is look for some of the other signs of control Leanne mentioned such as seeing if he/she always wants to know where you’re going and who you are hanging out with other than them. This will allow you to identify earlier on if this is an unhealthy relationship and if your new partner has the potential to be abusive.
Taking Legal Action Against Abusive Relationships
Though unfortunately many people don’t know they have an abusive partner until it’s already too late and the abuse has started, Leanne says that the #1 reason people stay in these relationships is because of fear. This can be fear regarding many different factors such as safety, fear of the unknown, financial dependency, fear of family or cultural pressures and even fear of your feelings for this person since sometimes ‘it isn’t all bad’ and you have a unique love for this person. But what someone in this relationship needs to know even if ‘it isn’t always bad’ is that if you ever for a second feel fear for your safety or the safety of your family, it is a sure sign you should leave the relationship. If you feel fear for your life or your partner has threatened your life, legal action should be taken. Threatening death or bodily harm is a criminal offence. If you call the police after you’re threatened they will lay a charge on your partner, remove them from the home, take them to bail court or the station, put conditions in place such as no contact with you or permission to be near your home/work, and no weapons. These steps and conditions work well to keep you safe, however, I mentioned to Leanne that even though there are conditions to stay away from you, if this person is not detained, they could still go after their partner! Leanne explained that yes unfortunately this is true, that is why victims are put in contact with victim’s services and women’s shelters if they feel their partner may return and harm them. They are also given counseling on protection planning and the best options to keep them safe at this time.
Leanne helped us understand both the legal and first hand aspects of dealing with abusive relationships. As a Family and Criminal Lawyer and relationship blogger, She’s seen many cases with all of the characteristics we discussed and has helped many people through hard times with an effort to get their lives back after being in a relationship like this. To listen to our full conversation with Leanne about our legal system dealing with abuse in different cultures as well as the affect an abusive relationship has on children visit www.640toronto.com or subscribe to “The Dating and Relationship Show” on Apple Podcasts!