Op-Ed: Signs of Psychological Abuse in a Relationship and Prevention Strategies

Domestic abuse. It’s arguably one of the touchiest topics out there. On one far end of the conversation, we have the Social Justice Warrior (SJW) crowd who is known to hold victim culture high on a pedestal and shove it down everyone’s throats. On the other side of the spectrum, you have those who argue that the SJW crowd has taken it too far with the oppressed victim narrative, and essentially bury their heads in the sand about the issue. Who is more accurate, though?


It turns out that there is a ton of gray area, and the truth is lost somewhere in the middle. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) as a “serious, preventable public health problem that affects millions of Americans.” IPV is broken down into four main types: physical violence, sexual violence, stalking, and psychological aggression. Merriam-Webster goes as far as to define aggression as “hostile, injurious, or destructive behaviour or outlook.”

Psychological aggression is the use of communication with intent to harm. This includes humiliation, name-calling, coercive control, threats of violence, manipulation/mind games, and exploitation of vulnerabilities such as disabilities. A young author from Texas State University, Bridget Reneau, recently published a piece essentially saying the same thing in simpler terms:

“Possible signs of an emotionally abusive situation are degrading comments, shameful statements, a partner unable to own up to their own shortcomings, isolation from friends and family, and enmeshment in the relationship.”



So we can objectively establish that this is a legitimate issue. But what is at stake, and what can be done about it? The first step, of course, is to understand what the reality of the situation is. Variables on both sides of the equation are important to acknowledge.

The CDC shines some light on this:

“A combination of individual, relational, community, and societal factors contribute to the risk of becoming an IPV perpetrator or victim. Understanding these multilevel factors can help identify various opportunities for prevention.”

The individual risk factors include but are not limited to depression, unemployment, low self-esteem, financial stress, heavy alcohol and drug use, the desire of control in a relationship, a personal or family history of IPV, and many others. This doesn’t even cover the multiple relational, communal, and societal factors that come into play.

The American Psychological Association (APA) points out that there is double the average rates of suicide attempts among victims of IPV. Suicide, according to data released by the CDC in 2014, is the second leading cause of death in the United States among the age groups between ten and thirty-four, and the third leading cause of death for people in between the ages of thirty-five and fifty-four. Wow, right? What the hell?! We should probably attempt to intervene. 



The solutions are just as complex as the problem. Ideally, we need to address preventative measures and solutions applicable to each of the levels of influence.  According to the CDC, these methods include promoting resiliency for the individual, raising awareness via education, and encouragement of social change. 

A secondary analysis of a study published in February 2016 in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health evaluated community prevention efforts in 8 different communities (4 intervention, 4 control) in Kampala, Uganda. It turns out there were statistically significant effects for each strain of IPV observed within the communities that implemented the intervention efforts. The Centre for Public Health at Liverpool John Moores University is in partnership with the World Health Organization (WHO) to bring you a really cool database consisting of the abstracts of a ton of similar studies, original research, and systematic literature reviews.

The takeaway from this is that IPV is undeniably a serious, worldwide public health and human rights issue. The studies have shown that intervention at the community level is effective, but not a cure-all. Establishing resiliency, and efforts at the relationship and societal levels are all necessary if we care to ever see any progress made. Let’s not let the tactics of the incredibly regressive SJW crowd get in the way of that.

Joshua D. Speer

I'm an undergraduate student living in Denver, CO. I am currently working on my prerequisites at Front Range Community College--where I'm a staff writer for the Front Page (campus newspaper) and chapter president of Young Americans for Liberty (YAL). I intend to transfer into a four-year Bioengineering program, sub-specialty of Neuroengineering. Feel free to follow me on Twitter at @JoshuaDSpeer.

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