Gay & Lesbian Services of Western New York

Physically Abusive Relationships

In the prior Info Page I responded to a question about abusive relationships. In this article I will focus on physically abusive relationships.

On this important topic I want to summarize first and discuss later, just in case you don’t feel like readying the whole piece I do not want you to miss the basic points.

1. Physical abuse is never your fault, although this is what the abuser will tell you.

2. Abusers are always sorry, always promise to never do it again, and always to it again.

3. Statistically, victims of abuse leave and come back eight times before finally leaving for good. Don’t be a statistic!

4. Abuse is progressive, going from emotional and verbal to physical. Once the boundary is broken and the first push, shove, slap, punch or hit occurs the boundary is rarely repaired and the level of abuse increases over time, sometimes leading to death.

5. Statistically, heterosexual men are more prone to be abusive, but abuse can occur in lesbian relationships as well as gay male relationships.

6. Drug or alcohol use/abuse can set the stage physical abuse but it is neither a cause nor an excuse.

Would you recognize abuse if it was part of your relationship? Would you see the signs and symptoms that things are not as they should be? When a person is in such a relationship they (you) often can’t or don’t want to see the abuse for what it is. Sometimes people grow up in abusive families and so it seems “normal” or you live in denial and then hope that it won’t happen again.

Generally speaking, abusers tend to be insecure and immature individuals who try to control others through verbal and physical intimidation. They are often jealous and possessive, and at first these behaviors may seem flattering. However, as time goes on, these behaviors increase as the abuser tightens his or her control on his or her partner and the relationship.

Abusers often use verbal put downs to make you feel inadequate so you won’t leave them. He or she will progressively erode your self- esteem, trying to make you feel lucky to have them. They will make you feel that you “deserve” the abuse. His or her being “sorry” after an episode is not truly a mature recognition of the hurt they inflicted. Instead, it represents the abuser’s fear of loss as a result of the behavior, hence the promises never to do it again.

Abusers are literally unable to live up to that promise never to do it again” because they usually do not have the skills to manage their anxiety, frustration, anger and rage. Only with long term intensive psychological work can an abuser learn to manage their emotions and behavior, but they rarely seek counseling on their own. Instead they may get therapy by court order or to appease a partner but this motivation usually does not have a successful outcome.

If you are in a relationship with an abuser you need to get help and support for yourself. You need to find a way to SAFELY exit the relationship. Engage a counselor to help, perhaps the school guidance counselor or social worker. Get support from friends and family if you can, or a trusted teacher. Get information about how to free and protect yourself. Utilize Crisis Services at 834-3131; call the statewide Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-942-6906 or use the Internet at such sites as, or


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