Physical, emotional, sexual and economic abuse is not uncommon in many relationships and can occur in gay relationships. Abuse could roughly be defined as an inappropriate manipulation of power by one person over another, usually within a relationship in which there is a disparity in strength or resources, coupled with high levels of dependence. Abuse can take many forms, sometimes being quite obvious in nature and at other times being subtle and insidious.
- Physical abuse by a partner is defined as assault (when abuse is extreme), or attack (in lesser forms of abuse). A slap, a punch or being beaten-up all fall into this category and represent an obvious exertion of physical power, no matter what the reason for the abuse.
- Emotional abuse can be, perhaps, the most insidious and subtle form of abuse. It usually takes the form of devaluing a partner through subtle digs at them – sometimes taking the form of 'it was only a joke' – or through swearing at and insulting a partner. Its impact is to erode the self-esteem of the partner who often comes to feel useless and powerless within the relationship.
- Sexual abuse relates to unwanted sexually-aggressive behaviour that can take the form of sexual assault, recurrent infidelity and exposure to sexual diseases through sexually risky behaviour on the part of one of the partners.
- Economic abuse exists where two partners have disparate financial resources and one of the partners manipulates the other through money and possessions, effectively controlling spending, leaving the other partner dependent in an unhealthy way for survival.
- More often than not, these forms of abuse occur together. They can be one-sided or can be mutual, with both partners being victim and perpetrator within the relationship. Whether a victim or a perpetrator or both, therapy is highly recommended.
So, what should you do if you're a victim?
- Seek psychological help and guidance.
- Seek legal advice, if necessary.
- Have your partner arrested if he assaults you physically.
- Leave the relationship if it does not change.
- Enter therapy with someone who can guide through the process of leaving, if you can't do it on your own.
- Tell people about it, so that you are not alone in your situation.
Abuse perpetuates itself. Promises that it won't happen again are rarely ever true or carried through. Men who abuse will likely continue to do so, if they do not receive proper intervention. Sadly, not all men can be helped. The question then becomes "can you put up with the abuse the rest of your life?"