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Students facilitate discussion about abusive relationships

| Monday, November 16, 2015

Students discussed unhealthy relationships and how to recognize emotional relationship abuse at Friday’s installment of the Justice Friday series at Saint Mary’s in a conversation led by sophomores Nicole Caratas and Courtney Weston. (Editor’s Note: Nicole Caratas is a news writer for the Observer.)

Weston said emotional abuse can be an often misunderstood aspect of an unhealthy relationship.

“A lot of times people don’t understand or realize that just because you’re not being physically abused, there still can be abuse happening,” she said. “Emotional abuse is any act including confinement, isolation, verbal assault, humiliation, intimidation, infantilization or any other treatment which may diminish the [person’s] sense of identity, dignity, or self-worth.”

Caratas and Weston went into some examples of an emotionally abusive relationships, including bullying and commenting on appearance, weight and/or intelligence.

“Your partner will twist around controlling behaviors to make it seem like he or she cares about you,” Weston said. “For example, if they say to text them every time you leave the house that can seem controlling but they say it’s because they care so much.”

Caratas and Weston said other signs of an emotionally abusive relationship include putting down a person, manipulating the person, isolation, name calling and pressuring a person into unwanted acts.

Caratas said these behaviors are usually not isolated, and an abusive relationship is all about control.

“A person almost never shows just one of these behaviors; usually abusive behaviors go hand in hand with one another,” she said. “Any time you stop becoming equal and one person has power and control over the other, it is an abusive relationship.”

Weston and Caratas highlighted some of the reasons why people stay in abusive relationships.

“I know that being an outsider, it’s hard to understand, but one of the main reasons someone stays in an abusive relationship is there’s children involved,” Weston said. “A lot of people think it’s better to have that family dynamic than it is to leave an abusive relationship.

“People will stay with an abuser because they believe they can change. In my opinion, if you are an abuser, especially emotionally, I find it hard to believe that you will be able to change without professional help.”

Sophomore Morgan Matthews attended the talk and said victims sometimes don’t recognize they are being abused.

“If you boil a pot of water and put a frog in, the frog will jump out. If you put a frog in a pot of water and slowly raise the temperature, the frog will stay in the water,” Matthews said. “This is a good analogy of what happens in an emotionally abusive relationship because sometimes it is so gradual that the victim doesn’t recognize what is happening.”

Weston and Caratas also gave advice for approaching a friend who is in an abusive relationship.

“You have to be supportive, especially if you bring up to a friend that he or she is in an abusive relationship and he or she tries to deny it, push you away and gets defensive or mad at you for bringing it up,” Caratas said. “Even when it becomes really hard, you still have to be there for that person and you still have to support them because they need someone on the outside who can see what’s going on and, in case something does happen and they need to get out of the relationship, they need an outside source because that can be hard on them emotionally to deal with.”

“If they do end it and then go back to that relationship, you can’t get frustrated at them for going back,” Weston said. “You want to know what’s going on more than you don’t want to be in the know or there to support them.”

“You should reassure them that the abuse is not their fault,” Caratas said. “Remind them that they are loved. Nothing the abuser does after [ending the relationship] is their fault. They need to be reminded that this is not how it is always going to be.”

Caratas said if a student is in an unhealthy relationship, it is important to seek help and support.

The Justice Friday series takes place every Friday from 12-12:50 p.m. in the Student Center.

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