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Hidden victims of domestic violence

No one deserves abuse from a domestic partner. No one has the right to abuse someone else. There are no exceptions. Yet some victims of domestic violence in Michigan go unrecognized because they do not fit the paradigm of what society expects a domestic violence victim to look like. According to the Mayo Clinic, men and women alike may be victims of intimate partner violence, and domestic abuse can occur in same-sex relationships as well as heterosexual relationships.

It can sometimes be difficult for these hidden victims to recognize their partners as the abuser in the relationship. An abusive partner may manipulate the victim by framing defensive or retaliatory actions as the real abuse, claiming to the victim that he had it coming or he is responsible for the behavior by provoking the abuser. Men who believe that domestic violence is always male-on-female may be more likely to internalize this manipulation.

Victims of abuse also may not recognize their partners' behavior as such because the violence is not always physical in nature. Nonphysical forms of intimate partner violence include the following:

  • Controlling behavior in regard to where the victim goes, whom he sees and how he spends his money
  • Forced sexual activity
  • Excessive jealousy, including unfounded accusations of infidelity
  • Insults and name-calling

Abuse in same-sex relationships often follows the same patterns that it does in heterosexual relationships. However, according to the American Bar Association, abusive partners in LGBT relationships are able to leverage lingering societal bias as a weapon, capitalizing on the victim's insecurities in order to manipulate him or her. Examples include the following:

  • Claiming that no one will be willing to help the victim because of his or her gender identity or sexual orientation
  • Informing the victim that abusive behavior is normal in LGBT relationships
  • Threatening to "out" the victim in regard to gender identity, sexual orientation and HIV/AIDS status to members of the community such as employers or family. 

Abusive behavior is not normal, and it is never acceptable. All who feel they may be victims of domestic violence have the right to seek help.

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