Artist: Edison Chen, Sydney

Do You Hurt The People You Care About?

All relationships have ups and downs. Many people in relationships will experience frustration, disappointment or anger. However, there is a big difference between a healthy level of disagreement and using violence, abuse and control.

Violence and abuse is a choice. If you are hurting your partner or family member, it is your responsibility to change – whether it be for your loved ones or for yourself.

How Do I Know If I am Hurting Someone?

Sometimes it may not be obvious to the people in the relationship that there is violence or abuse. Sometimes our judgement can be clouded by love, hope, fear, denial, anxiety or gaslighting.

Violence is not just physical. It can also be emotional, psychological or controlling.

Here are questions you can ask yourself to gain insight into whether you are using violence.

  • Do you think your partner or family member is ever scared of your behaviour?
  • Have you shouted at, screamed at or put down your partner or family member?
  • Have you slapped, hit, pushed or shoved a partner or family member? Have you threatened to?
  • Have you insisted on having sex even after a partner has initially said no?
  • Have you ever stopped or not allowed your partner to do something they wanted, such as visiting friends or family?
  • Do you find yourself making most of the decisions in your relationship?
  • Have you ever prevented your partner from using their own money or do you control all of your collective finances?
  • Do you find yourself regularly asking for forgiveness for something you have done?
  • Have you deliberately hurt or kept food or water from your loved one’s pet?
  • Do you ever feel ashamed of who you are in your relationship?

If you have answered yes to any of these questions, you should seek support to take responsibility and change your behaviour. Note that when searching for supports they are usually called ‘behaviour change programs’.

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Addressing The Cause

Many people who use violence attempt to create reasons to justify their abusive behaviours.

For example, the use of their past trauma, previous experiences with violence and societal attitudes (including repressive masculine behaviour, sexism, homophobia, biphobia and transphobia) which can be prominent amongst  LGBTQ+ individuals and communities and are also ways an individual may attempt to justify their own abusive behaviours.

Although you may consider these to be reasons for your behaviour, it is not an excuse for violence (physical or otherwise). It is your responsibility to change your behaviour.

Talking to a professional about some of these contributing factors can be a useful way to begin addressing your behaviours and finding methods to stop you from hurting others.

Taking Their Lead

It is very important that you do not force conversations with the people you have hurt if they do not want to speak with you. This is giving them some of their power back and allowing them to feel safer.

It is also important to not expect forgiveness. You should not expect things to go back to normal. This can be a difficult process for all people involved, but seeking professional help will lead to everyone being better off in the long run.

People who have experienced control or abuse have the right to refuse to speak with the people who have hurt them. Ending communication may be done to protect themselves, even if the person who has hurt them has changed. Contact can trigger their trauma and be detrimental to their mental and physical health.

If you are still in contact with the person you have hurt, it is important that your conversations are respectful and they are able to lead the conversation. Do not get defensive, make excuses, or downplay your actions. You should listen carefully and consider what they are saying.

Ask them questions like:

  • How much contact, if any, do you want with me?
  • What would you like me to do if we are in a social situation together?
  • Do you need anything right now?
  • Is there anything you want to say about me and my behaviour?

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Support to Change 

It takes courage to take responsibility for your actions. Professional help can enable you to understand the root causes of your behaviour and teach you ways to manage your emotions and change your behaviour.

Whether you engage in one-on-one counselling or a specialised program, it is important to get help from people who remain objective – not friends or family, but someone independent and qualified. To find support go to our services page.

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