Episode 86: "What does intimidation look like in a relationship?"Support the show
On today’s episode, we’re answering a question from local teens about intimidation, an abusive tactic that some people use in relationships.
This is Jessica Skultety, Community Outreach Associate at Safe+Sound Somerset. We are Somerset County, New Jersey's lead domestic and sexual violence response organization, providing services to survivors at no charge for over 40 years.
Today's question from local teens is: “Dear Ava, what does intimidation look like in a relationship?”
Intimidation is another common way that people use abuse to control their partners. This is basically an action that causes fear. The key is, even if the partner didn’t intend to cause fear, if their partner becomes fearful, that is what matters. Impact is greater than intent.
A lot of times, though, a partner who uses abuse DOES want to frighten their partner. This could look like: a gesture or a specific look, that tells the other person they’d better stop talking or better do something, or else they’ll get hurt. This can include intimidating their partner into doing something sexual that they haven’t 100% consented or agreed to.
Intimidation can look like slamming or throwing things, like punching a wall or slamming a locker in someone’s face – this last one, we’ve heard a lot about in middle schools. When someone throws things or punches an object, the message the other person can get is, “I could be next.” Someone could destroy their partner’s things, too.
Also, showing, playing with, or bragging about weapons can make someone fearful of their partner. Again, even if this person doesn’t intend to cause fear, they might be making their partner nervous. Some people who use abuse on their partners also abuse pets or animals, which can be a way to intimidate someone into doing something.
Blackmail is a really common form of verbal intimidation for teens and adults. Blackmail is a threat to try to get someone to do something, while holding something else over their head. As an example, this could sound like, “If you don’t come with me today, I’ll tell everyone your secret” or “if you leave me, I’ll hurt myself” or another person. This action would make the target feel that they have to stay in the relationship, or then they would be responsible for that person hurting themselves. We want to emphasize that abuse is never the target’s fault. They would not be responsible for that.
Love shouldn’t hurt! You never have to stay in a relationship you don’t want to be in! Intimidation is not okay. Partners in a healthy relationship lift each other up and make each other feel safe. You don’t have to do anything that crosses your own personal boundaries, even if your partner wants you to. No matter what you’ve done in the past, you always deserve to feel safe with your partner.
To speak with an expert about dating violence, call or text the Safe+Sound Somerset 24/7 confidential hotline at 866-685-1122 for supportive listening, information, and safety planning.
Want to “Ask Ava” a question? Visit our website at www.safe-sound.org/ask-ava. Thank you for listening today. Join us next time here on Ask Ava.