Valentine’s Day is a special day of celebration for many, but for others, it can be a chilling reminder that what looks like love can be part of a wider pattern of abusive behaviour.
For instance, a person’s partner insisting on buying all their clothes might seem innocent or trivial, but it could indicate a pattern of control and isolation.
Family violence response service, Shine, is highlighting the importance of knowing common signs to look out for.
“Everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. Unwanted attention, constant monitoring and surveillance, isolating you from your family and friends, limiting what you can do, making you too uncomfortable or scared to disagree, insulting you, humiliating you and controlling your money are all forms of coercive control and family violence. They’re all dangerous. Family violence is not only physical violence,” says Shine DVFREE Lead and Senior Trainer, Mira Taitz.
If your partner or ex-partner:
- continually sends you unwanted flowers despite you not wanting contact, buys you lavish gifts that others might envy, but they are actually to “apologise” for violence they used against you just the day before
- buys fancy lingerie for you that is actually deliberately the wrong size, or in a style that makes you uncomfortable
- always buys your clothes for you and sulks when you wear clothes of your own choosing
- constantly texts or calls in an intrusive way to monitor where you are and what you are doing
- sends you money but with bank transfer messages that are abusive or unwanted
- “love bombs” you with lots of gifts and attention at the beginning of the relationship and then starts to subtly put you down, isolate you and control you
- tells you that you need no one else, and discourages contact with friends and family until you’re completely isolated
- tells you not to go out at night preventing you from going to the gym or your community class
- tells you that they will always look after you, but as part of financially controlling you, stops you doing the job you love.
In reality, these are not signs of love. They are all forms of control and types of family violence.
For instance, when Emma* first met Pete*, he “love bombed” her, showering her with love and attention. He told all their friends and family how amazing she was, but before long, his behaviour changed to the opposite when they were alone, and her life deteriorated into a living nightmare.
Pete started putting her down and blaming her for things. He’d over-react and explode over nothing. He was always angry and yelling and his drinking grew steadily worse. Not long after they moved in together, he smashed up their artwork and threw it out of their first-storey apartment on to parked cars below. Emma urged him to seek help, but he refused and his behaviour continued to deteriorate. Emma managed to leave the relationship, but the violence went on for years.
“We can all help by being aware of the signs, and offering people around us support to get help without judgement,” says Mira Taitz.
Shine welcomes calls from anyone who is worried about their own situation or who is concerned about a friend, family member, child or anyone they know who might be experiencing family violence.
Call the Shine Helpline on 0508 744 633 or use the webchat service on www2shine.org.nz.
To support Shine’s work, please donate by visiting www.2shine.org.nz
* names changed to protect privacy.