Safety. It is one of the most basic needs of human existence. Yet every day, the physical, emotional, and mental safety of millions of people are stripped away from them in the places and relationships in which they should feel the safest.
Domestic violence is the secret thief of the security to which we are all entitled.
November is Domestic Violence Awareness Month in Canada. This month of awareness serves as a way to connect and unite individuals and organizations working on domestic violence issues while raising awareness for those issues.
Because Excel Martial Arts in Port Coquitlam is committed to helping people feel safe and empowered, this cause is close to our hearts. We are taking this opportunity to assist with the education of the public, to provide information to those in need, and to help directly support our community members and organizations that aid with domestic abuse issues.
What is Domestic Violence?
Often, when one thinks of domestic violence, one might picture a bruised woman who has just been beaten by a spouse. While this certainly does happen, the topic is often far more complex than that.
Domestic abuse can include:
- Physical Abuse
- Sexual Abuse
- Emotional Abuse & Intimidation
- Verbal Abuse: Coercion, Threats, & Blame
- Economic Abuse
If we consider that 1 in 3 women experience some form of domestic abuse, it quickly becomes apparent that someone you know is likely living with a dark secret. Further, not all domestic violence situations are reported, and not all instances include women.
Controlling behavior is a way for the abuser to maintain dominance over the victim. Controlling behavior is often at the heart of domestic violence as the abusers tend to have deeply held beliefs that their control is justified. The resulting behaviors and actions are then also justified in their minds.
Controlling behavior is often subtle, almost always insidious, and pervasive. Many abusers are able to convince their victims that infractions are the victim’s fault. Gaslighting by the abuser can lead to the victim feeling as if they are crazy, or seeing things that aren’t real.
Controlling behaviors can include things like:
- Checking the mileage on the odometer or restricting access to transportation
- Monitoring phone calls, using caller ID or other number monitoring devices, or not allowing the victim to make or receive phone calls.
- Not allowing freedom of choice in terms of clothing styles or hairstyle. This may include forcing the victim to dress in a specific way such as more seductively or more conservatively than they are comfortable.
- Calling or coming home unexpectedly to check up on them.
- Invading their privacy by not allowing them time and space of their own. This can include bathroom time and interruption of sleep patterns.
- Forcing or encouraging dependency by making the victim believe they’re incapable of surviving or performing simple tasks without the abuser or on their own.
- Using the children to control the victim parent by using the children as spies, threatening to kill, hurt or kidnap the children, physical and/or sexual abuse of the children, and threats to call Department of Child Safety (DCS, formerly CPS) if the mother leaves the relationship.
Abusers who use this sort of manipulation may initially start off by disguising it as a loving gesture, but over time these activities become more severe and are accompanied by signs of jealousy or possessiveness.
Physical abuse is likely what most people think of when the subject of domestic violence comes up. Physical abuse is most typically directed at women and children, often by a father or other male member of the household. That said, there are many cases of violence aimed at men. These latter cases are likely underreported due to social pressures and stereotypes of masculinity.
Physical abuse is often there most visible to the outside observer, but in many cases, there are no marks to see. Physical abuse is any physically aggressive behavior, withholding of physical needs, indirect physically harmful behavior, or threat of physical abuse. It is important to educate ourselves about what physical domestic violence looks like so we can be better prepared to help.
Physical abuse can include:
- Striking, hitting, kicking, biting, slapping, shaking, pushing, pulling, punching, choking, beating, scratching, pinching, pulling hair, stabbing, shooting, drowning, burning, hitting with an object, threatening with a weapon, or threatening to physically assault.
- Use of corporal punishment against children
- Denial of food, money, health care
- Restriction of movement, being locked in a room, being physically held or restrained so the victim is unable to leave
- Hitting or kicking walls, doors, or other inanimate objects during an argument, throwing things in anger, destruction of property.
- Abusing, injuring, or threatening to injure others like children, pets, or special property.
Sexual abuse is often thought of as rape, but it can be far more insidious. This type of violence is defined as using sex in an exploitative fashion or forcing sex on another person. It often crosses the lines of consent leaving the victim with little or no control over their bodies and minds. Having consented to an activity in the past does not indicate current consent. Sexual abuse may involve both verbal and physical behavior.
Sexual abuse may include, but is not limited to:
- Using force, coercion, guilt, or manipulation or not considering the victim’s desire to have sex. This may include making the victim have sex with others, have unwanted sexual experiences, or be involuntarily involved in prostitution.
- Exploiting a victim who is unable to make an informed decision about involvement in sexual activity because of being asleep, intoxicated, drugged, disabled, too young, too old, or dependent upon or afraid of the perpetrator.
- Laughing or making fun of another’s sexuality or body, making offensive statements, insulting, or name-calling in relation to the victim’s sexual preferences/behavior.
- Making contact with the victim in any nonconsensual way, or touching on any part of the victim’s body.
- Exhibiting excessive jealousy resulting in false accusations of infidelity and controlling behaviors to limit the victim’s contact with the outside world.
- Having affairs with other people and using that information to taunt the victim.
- Withholding from the victim as a control mechanism.
Emotional abuse is any behavior that exploits another’s vulnerability, insecurity, or character. Emotional abuse is one of the most common forms of abuse, yet the one which is most often dismissed. Courts and other outside observers often look for physical evidence of abuse. Because emotional abuse does not leave visible scars, it is often dismissed as “overreacting,” which can leave victims feeling helpless, or worse, as if they might be imagining it all.
Emotionally abusive behaviors include continuous degradation, intimidation, manipulation, brainwashing, or control of another to the detriment of the individual.
Emotional abuse may include but is not limited to:
- Insulting or criticizing to undermine the victim’s self-confidence. This includes both private and public humiliation, as well as actual or threatened rejection.
- Threatening with the intention to cause emotional or physical harm or loss. For instance, threatening to kill the victim or themselves, or both.
- Using reality distorting statements or behaviors that create confusion and insecurity in the victim like saying one thing and doing another, stating untrue facts as truth, and neglecting to follow through on stated intentions. This can include denying the abuse occurred and/or telling the victim they’re is making up the abuse. It might also include crazy-making behaviors like hiding the victim’s keys and berating them for losing them.
- Consistently disregarding, ignoring, or neglecting the victim’s requests and needs.
- Using actions, statements, or gestures that attack the victim’s self-esteem and self-worth with the intention to humiliate.
- Telling the victim they’re mentally unstable or incompetent.
- Forcing the victim to take drugs or alcohol.
- Not allowing the victim to practice their religious beliefs, isolating them from the religious community, or using religion as an excuse for abuse.
- Using any form of coercion or manipulation which is disempowering to the victim.
Strong social and family networks can quickly expose abuse, diminish control, and provide exits for victims. Knowing this, many abusers are quick to isolate those in their power. By minimizing exposure to the outside world, the victim is kept from the resources (personal and public) which may help them leave the relationship.
Further, some victims isolate themselves. This may stem from embarrassment over what is happening to them, or from a desire to keep the abuser happy, thereby avoiding escalation of hostility.
As with control-based abuse, isolation often begins as an expression of their love for the victim with statements like, “if you really loved me you would want to spend time with me, not your family”. As it progresses, the isolation expands, limiting or excluding their contact with anyone but the batterer. Eventually, the victim is left totally alone and without the internal and external resources to change their life.
Isolation abuse may include:
- Not being allowed to go out with friends
- Not being allowed to see family
- Not being allowed to invite friends and family for holidays or visits
- Not being allowed to have a job
- Only hanging out with the abuser’s social groups
- Not being allowed access to email, phone, text, etc
Verbal abuse is often paired with its mental and emotional counterparts. It is the tool by which the abuser sets the barbs in the soul of the victim. Verbal abuse includes coercion, threats, blame, and any abusive language used to denigrate, embarrass or threaten the victim. This type of abuse is also often directed at children.
Verbal abuse may include:
- Threatening to hurt or kill the victim or their children, family, pets, property, or reputation.
- Telling the victim they are unattractive or undesirable., or that they would be attractive if they met some condition.
- Yelling, screaming, rampaging, terrorizing
- Giving the silent treatment or refusing to talk
Financial abuse is a way to control the victim through the manipulation of economic resources. This can take many forms. Victims may not be allowed to have a job or career. They may only be allowed to draw an “allowance” and have to account for how they spend it. If they are allowed to work, they may have to turn their paychecks over to their abuser. More subtly, they may be manipulated into believing that are not good with accounting and should not be allowed access to the family budget or accounts.
Financial abuse may include:
- Controlling the family income
- Not allowing the victim access to money, or only providing an allowance
- Limiting the victim’s access to family accounts.
- The abuser has hidden accounts
- Making the victim give their paycheck over to the perpetrator.
- Causing the victim to lose a job or preventing them from taking a job.
- Making the victim late for work, refusing to provide transportation to work, calling/harassing them at work, or even calling supervisors and managers directly.
- Spending money for necessities (food, rent, utilities) on nonessential items (drugs, alcohol, hobbies), especially the victim’s money.
- opening accounts in the victim’s name without their consent and using the credit or funds for their personal enjoyment.
Signs of Domestic Abuse
By now, one might recognize that domestic violence takes many forms, most of which or invisible to the eye, or carefully concealed from outside observers.
While black eyes and broken arms do happen, and falls down the stairs or in the shower are too often blamed, it is important for us to be aware of the more subtle signs of abuse.
“What we see often is a change in behaviour or mood, which can be brushed off as having a bad day or another mental health situation. If she’s a parent, it can manifest as she becomes less involved with her child… forgetfulness is also another sign. Signs of domestic violence aren’t always visible as a black eye.”
~Ester Pike, Kelowna Women’s Shelter
Common signs of domestic violence
People who are being abused may
- Seem afraid
- Go along with everything their partner says and does
- Check in often with their partner to report where they are an what they are doing
- Talk about their partners temper, jealousy, or possessiveness
- Have frequent injuries, with the excuse of “accidents”
- Frequently miss work, school, or social occasions, without explanation
- Dress in unseasonal clothing designed to hide bruises or scars (e.g. wearing long sleeves in the summer or sunglasses indoors)
- Suddenly be absent from family and social events
- Rarely go out in public without their partner
- Have limited access to money, credit cards or the car
- Have very low self-esteem, even if they use to be confident
- Show major personality changes (e.g.an outgoing person becomes withdrawn)
- Be depressed, anxious, or suicidal
While many of these signs might be attributable to other causes, it is important for us to watch for patterns or changes in the behaviors of those around us.
Very often, a victim of abuse does not even know that they are being abused until the trap is firmly closed around them. Just as often, they are convinced that what is happening is normal, or their own fault, or they are too embarrassed to discuss it.
Sometimes, the outside observer has the perspective and impartiality to notice changes before the victim can see them for themselves.
Where to Find Help
When seeking help for yourself or a friend, discretion is important. Many abusers will become enraged and clamp down even harder if the person they are abusing seeks help. Because domestic abusers often monitor the actions of their family, web history, caller ID, or sudden changes in expected behavior can easily to them off.
Because of this, you can often help simply by acting as a go-between when help is needed. It is rarely advisable to get in the middle of a domestic violence situation yourself, for your own safety as well as that of those involved. Everyone is better served by involving authorities and organizations trained and empowered to assist.
Because the trauma of abuse often inhibits memory formation, you can also be of service by helping to document what you see and what you are told. This helps the one you are assisting by helping them see the patterns of abuse, and helps those authorities and agencies have better information with which to act.
If there is imminent danger, the best course of action is to call the police by dialing 911 or the local emergency number.
For those living with abuse who are ready to make a change, there are many resources available to help. These include the police n0n-emergency contact numbers, women’s shelters (which also often accept children), and other organizations committed to helping people escape abuse and restart their lives.
Some available resources include:
(Remember that internet browsing and phone call history can be tracked. If you need help, it may be best to have a friend explore these resources with you on their device.)
- Tri-City Transitions: Offering women and children a safe, secure place to rest, rejuvenate, and rebuild their lives.
- tel: 604-941-7111
- Emergency help line: (604) 492-1700
- BC211:A free, confidential, multilingual service that links people to resources for help, where and when they need it. Help is available to people anywhere in British Columbia, 24/7 by calling or texting 2-1-1.
- VictimLink BC: VictimLink BC is a toll-free, confidential, multilingual telephone service available across BC and Yukon 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-800-563-0808. It provides information and referral services to all victims of crime and immediate crisis support to victims of family and sexual violence, including victims of human trafficking exploited for labour or sexual services.
What Excel Martial Arts is Doing
As part of our commitment to helping the members of our Port Coquitlam community feel safe and grow strong, Excel Martial Arts Port Coquitlam has thrown our support behind the cause of Domestic Violence awareness and elimination via a few different channels.
Adult Martial Arts
Studying martial arts is something that anybody – at any age or fitness level – can do. Martial arts classes are fun, empowering, and provide a great workout for adults. In addition to the health benefits of training, the physical self defence lessons can provide valuable abilities to the those living with physical abuse.
Additionally, Excel Martial Arts fosters a positive and empowering environment. Being surrounded by a tribe of caring adults can provide the mental clarity, emotional stability, and mindset of confidence necessary to make meaningful changes in one’s life.
With each empowered warrior who passes through our adult martial arts classes, our community grows less tolerant of toxic abuse. With each survivor who takes the steps toward a new life, the power of the abuser is lessened.
As a child development center, we at Excel Martial Arts also care deeply about the well-being of the kids in the Port Coquitlam community. We understand that kids are affected by domestic violence both directly and indirectly. We serve as a part of the extended support network for these children.
We understand that kids bear a double burden. They have to cope with the direct effects of living in an abusive household. This is compounded by the fact that a parent who is living with abuse is often not able to provide the best possible relationship with their child.
Our kids’ martial arts classes help children learn their value as they work on their physical, intellectual, emotional, and social development. And for some, we are a place of respite and safety where they can lean on the relationships they have with peers and instructors to help process what is happening in their lives.
But, we can’t do it alone! Through dedication and partnership, we can all work together to support the families and children in need.
How to Support Our Efforts
In addition to our regular classes, we have doubled our efforts to have an impact in the fight against domestic violence.
Ladies Self Defense Workshop
On Saturday, November 27th, 2021, our team of professional martial arts experts will host a ladies-only workshop covering self defense concepts both mental and physical.
The price of this event is just $25, and in addition to learning powerful techniques and ideas to keep yourself safe, every dollar collected from the event will go directly to Tri-City Transitions.
WHAT TO EXPECT
The highly trained team at Excel Martial Arts will lead ladies between the ages of 13 and adult through 2 hours of empowering training, including:
- Situation Awareness
- Basic Self Defense Techniques
- Practice on our professional “Bad Guy”
- Mindset Training & Mental Preparation
- What you should consider AFTER an attack
- Where to find help when you need it
For those who want to support the cause, but who can’t attend the event, we ask that you consider donating! 100% of your donations will go to supporting the efforts of Tri-City Transitions.
Tri-City Transitions is a respected and established registered charity providing emergency shelter and social support for women and children fleeing family violence and abuse in the Tri-City communities of Port Moody, Port Coquitlam and Coquitlam, Anmore and Belcarra.
Founded in 1975, our philosophy is based on the principle that giving people the tools to build a bright future is an essential ingredient in the development of individuals, families and the community.
Our programs and services are free of charge for women, children, and men in need. Each year we serve over 1500 women, children and men.
The Tri-City Transitions relies on charitable donations from the community to continue our critical work.
Of course, we also appreciate your voice! If this cause calls to you, we ask that you share this article and the event across your social media accounts. When it comes to domestic violence, it is said that “Everyone knows someone.”
It might be your share that saves someone.