Talking About Domestic Abuse and Healthy Relationships

The Beehive sat down with Joanna V Hunter, author, speaker and blogger on domestic abuse issues, to talk about domestic violence and relationships. Since 2001, through her area shelter, she has been a speaker and educator on domestic violence (DV) in communities and schools, speaking to teens and training medical personnel on how to screen patients for DV and help victims.

The first steps in ending domestic violence are awareness and prevention. Through her work she is making these steps a reality. We’re sharing her story and some of the work she’s doing in order to help you recognize the warning signs, talk to your children and provide the information you need to protect yourself and live well.
Beehive: How do you define domestic abuse?
Joanna: Domestic Abuse is the systematic suffocation of another person’s spirit. It’s about power and control. One person holds the power by using physical, emotional, spiritual, financial and sexual abuse to force the victim into submission. Abusers can be male or female.
Beehive: What are some of the things you discuss when you speak to young people about relationships?
Joanna: What I most want teens to understand is that each of us deserves to be loved, respected and heard. Someone who truly cares about us will listen to us and respect our opinion, even if they don’t agree.  For important decisions, both partners provide input and negotiate a solution. One person should not always have to give in to the other to keep peace. Partners respect each other’s “no’s” and boundaries.
Partner’s encourage and support each other as they discover their individual passions in life. In healthy relationships, there is time together, time alone, time with friends/family and time with each other’s friends/family. Jealousy has no place in the relationship – trust is an absolute. Physical or emotional abuse ends the relationship, immediately. Sometimes we have to close our hearts to someone we love.
Beehive: What can parents, educators and communities do to teach young people about domestic violence, create awareness and help end it?
Joanna: Don’t wait until it happens to your child, talk about teen dating violence (there’s lots of good information on the internet.) Teach young people how to treat one another and the components of healthy relationships – trust, respect, and communication. Model good relationships in your personal lives. Kids see how Mom and Dad treat each other.
We know that fathers are especially important in their daughter’s lives. How Dad treats his daughter is her first experience with the opposite sex. Girls who have a solid, respectful relationship with their fathers are less likely to put up with disrespectful guys.
If your child is in a controlling relationship, don’t force a breakup. Abusers love to drive a wedge between parents and victims. Instead, keep the lines of communication open. Talk about what she (he) is experiencing, calmly. Call the police if you witness any violence.
Beehive: What are some signs women (and men) should pay attention to that may be red flags?
Joanna: Some of the first red flags are:
  • Your partner doesn’t take “no” for an answer.
  • He/she rushes you into the relationship and starts planning the future or pushing a sexual relationship before you are ready.
  • He/she monopolizes all your time and  becomes jealous when you spend time with others.
  • He/she has a sense of entitlement- believes in set gender roles in society.
  • He/she is passionate and closed minded about specific topics or how things should be.
Beehive: What advice would you give someone thinking about leaving his or her abuser? What steps should they take?
Joanna: If you are in a controlling relationship:
  • Tell a trusted adult.
  • Keep a record of abuse (i.e. note occurrences on calendar, save text messages.)
  • Tell your partner it’s over in the safest way for you. That may be over the phone or a text message.
  • Develop a safety plan: Have friends walk you to classes and see you home safely, tell someone where you are going and when you expect to return-so if you don’t return she can alert the police.
  • Don’t engage in any further conversations with your ex (who will only pressure you to stay.) It’s better for your partner and you in the long run. Any contact will make your ex think there is still a chance you’ll return.
  • Contact the police if you are stalked or harassed.
Beehive: How have you personally been affected by domestic violence?
Joanna: My experience with domestic abuse started when I was 19. I met a guy who seemed to be everything I had hoped for. He wasn’t. Over time his true personality began to show. He isolated me from my family and friends. He set himself up as the center of my world by creating chaos in my life so that my attention was constantly on meeting his needs and wants. Over time, I lost myself.
Early in our marriage, he hit me so hard on the side of my head that he popped my eardrum. I told him I would leave if his continued to hit me. From then on, I experienced mostly emotional abuse, but lived in fear that he would batter me again. He’d pin me against the wall and scream at me that I was a stupid, worthless woman, tearing down my self-esteem. He’d been so wonderful when we first met that it was hard to believe that what was happening was real. He would tell me the problems were my fault; if I’d just done such-and-such every thing would have been okay. For almost 20 years, I tried to make things better. Finally, more afraid of him than how my children and I would survive on our own, I left with the help of friends.
To read her book or blog, find resources and learn more, visit:
  • Joanna’s book: “But He’ll Change: End the thinking that Keeps You in an Abusive Relationship.”
  • Blog: Moving up on the “People Who Deserve Happiness” list – a blog that focuses on healing after abuse.
  • Facebook page: Joanna V Hunter, where women can find information and support from other survivors in private groups.
  • Twitter: hunterjv
Other resources Joanna recommends:
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