Are you suffering because of the way you are being treated by the person you are involved with? Are you seeing someone who crosses your boundaries and takes advantage of you or exposes you to violence? Is your partner jealous in a way that affects you? It is never okay for someone to expose you to violence or do something that makes you feel bad, no matter who the person is and what your relationship is like. It is never your fault and you are always entitled to support and help.
There are different kinds of violence, such as:
Physical violence can be restraining someone, pushing, hitting, kicking, or choking. Physical violence often comes to mind when talking about violence.
Psychological violence can be offensive or mean comments, threats, or constantly demanding to know where someone is and with whom. It may also mean threatening to hurt someone by being controlling, accusatory, or aggressive.
Sexual violence is doing something sexual against someone’s will, for example touching their body in a way they do not want to be touched or badger someone into having sex. Sex must always be voluntary. If not, it is assault and a crime. Sexual harassment, sexual assault, and rape are examples of sexual violence.
Digital violence can be constantly texting or calling to keep track of where a partner is and who the partner is spending time with, setting limits on who the partner can be friends with on social media or otherwise using the internet to abuse or threaten.
It may be difficult to identify yourself as a ‘victim’ or defining something as ‘violence’. Violence often progresses. It may take time before you realise you are being controlled by your partner or that they are abusing you. You have done nothing wrong, regardless of what the person exposing you to violence says or claims, regardless of how jealous your partner is, regardless of whether it feels like you ‘only have yourself to blame’. It may feel as if the person victimising you is right and that no-one will believe you, but this is not true.
It is never your fault and you are entitled to support and help!
Feeling guilt or shame is a common reaction to violence, but the responsibility always lies with the person exerting violence. Being exposed to violence may impact one’s self-esteem and well-being in different ways. For example, you may feel anxious, stressed, sad, or depressed. This may make it more difficult to seek help, but you are always entitled to it.
Warning signs of a bad relationship
- texts me excessively and makes me feel like I need to respond quickly.
- easily gets jealous.
- has an opinion on how I dress, wear my makeup, talk, or move.
- trash talks my friends and family and wants us to spend a lot of time together, just the two of us.
- sometimes makes me feel sad, scared, ashamed, humiliated, wrong, angry, annoyed, or shocked, for example by making abusive comments or threatening me.
- demands that I do things, for example share passwords and perform different types of sexual acts to show I love them.
- quickly goes from being aggressive/cold to affectionate/caring.
- calls me childish and immature when I do not want to do something or point out that I think their actions are wrong.
- controls and limits what I do and who I hang out with.
Exposed to violence as an LGBTQ person
Even though violence may take the exact same form regardless of gender or sexuality, there may also be certain differences. Homophobia and prejudices may cause an LGBTQ person to be victimised in other ways than in a heterosexual relationship. The person exerting violence may for example threaten to ‘out’ you if you are not out or open about your sexuality or gender identity. You may also be more isolated and at the mercy of your partner from the start because your family has not accepted your relationship or you have relocated from a small community to a bigger city to be able to be open about your sexual orientation. Perhaps you and your partner have many mutual friends, which may make it more difficult to tell them about the violence. However, there are various helplines and organisations that you can contact.
Exposed to violence and having an impairment
Having a physical, mental, or intellectual impairment may mean being dependent on people, aids, or medicine in everyday life. People close to you may be an important source of support. But someone close to you may also have power over you that they can physically, psychologically, sexually, or financially abuse. For example, a partner may hide aids and medicine as a way of exercising violence. It may feel even more difficult to seek help after being exposed to violence and abuse if you worry about facing prejudices, but you are in the right (link to help page) regardless of your circumstances and needs.
Exposed to honour-related violence and oppression
Anyone with a controlling family or relatives with a strong code of honour may lack support from the family in leaving a violent partner, as they may consider divorce and separation shameful. If the partner was not accepted by the family from the start, the victim may be especially isolated and in need of outside support. Maybe the abusive relationship is the reason why you ended all communication with your family. It may also be that the person you are with or have been in a relationship with threatens to expose things about you to your family that they know your family will not accept. It may feel difficult to seek help if you are afraid of facing ignorance and prejudices. You as a victim may also feel fearful of speaking to an adult, risking to ‘expose’ that you are living under strong honour-related restrictions at home, but support and help is available.
Read more on honour-related violence and oppression at www.hedersfortryck.se/english
Read more on honour-related violence and oppression at Swedish gender equality agency
Prioritise your own safety and health
If you are worried about what the person you are with will do to you or others, take your concerns seriously. Think about whether there is someone close to you who you could tell. It may for example be a friend, family member, teacher, school welfare officer, trainer, or someone else you trust. You can also receive support anonymously.
Police report and legal support
If you want to file a police report, you are entitled to counsel by a so-called injured party counsel (Sw. målsägandebiträde). It is important that you have such counsel from the very first interview when you file the police report. The injured party counsel’s job is to protect your interests and support you throughout a preliminary investigation and a potential trial. Injured party counsel is provided free of charge. If you want to learn more about filing a police report, information is available at the Swedish Crime Victim Authority’s (Brottsoffermyndigheten) website www.jagvillveta.se. You can also get legal support via www.ungarelationer.se.