By Andrea Ortiz, LGSW, MSW, JCADA Clinician
“If my partner ever hit me, I would leave.”
“If my partner ever treated me in such an undignified way, I wouldn’t stand for it - I just wouldn’t.”
“If my partner ever called me such horrible names like that in public, I would have to go.”
These are some of the comments we hear from our friends and family when discussing women trapped in abusive marriages or celebrities who are outed for being abusive with their girlfriends. We all wish it were as simple as these phrases make it seem, but at JCADA we know that intimate partner violence is much more complicated than it often appears. By the time an incident of violence occurs, whether physical, emotional, or sexual, the pattern of power and control used by the abuser on a victim makes leaving feel impossible. One of the tools that an abuser uses to achieve control over their partner is social isolation.
Social isolation is something experienced by nearly all of JCADA’s clients. Isolation is used by an abuser to limiting or completely cut off a victim’s time with friends, family, and community members. This gives the abuser more power because the victim’s potential supports and resources are limited or removed. An abuser can do this in many ways, including:
- Telling their partner that certain family and friends aren’t good for them - especially people they know are supportive and empowering to their partner;
- Calling their partner names and saying negative things to their partner - steadily cutting away at their partner’s self-esteem and self-worth;
- Controlling finances so that the partner is unable to go anywhere or do anything without their abuser’s permission;
- Being rude or dismissive to their partner’s friends, so that friends don’t want to engage with the victim or so that the victim is too embarrassed to engage with their friends;
- Demanding that their partner be “on call” at all times, and demanding to know where they are all the time, who they are with, and where they are going.
Isolation does long-lasting damage to relationships with friends and family and, as a result, rebuilding those relationships may take a long time and a lot of work. At JCADA, we help our clients rebuild these relationships and social structures through individual counseling and group support. JCADA also has a volunteer financial planner who assists clients in becoming more financially independent, allowing them to grow and become empowered. Our ultimate goal is to encourage our clients to build a support network they can use to break the isolation and reclaim their lives.
If you think someone is experiencing abuse, keep reaching out to them in whatever safe way you can. Maintaining or rebuilding a damaged relationship can be difficult, but letting the person know you are there for them and that you care is important.
As always, if you or someone you know is experience domestic abuse, please contact one of our licensed clinicians on our free and confidential hotline at 1-877-88-JCADA (52232).