Quick question. What comes to mind when you hear of gender-based violence (GBV)? More often than not, one tends to think of men as perpetrators and women as victims. But as I’m sure you’ll agree, GBV is a two-way street.
Before we delve further into our discussion of the day, I feel that intimate partner violence (IPV) would be the more appropriate term to use, given the social landscape in our current world. It transcends gender, includes all types of relationships, and, yes, it’s politically correct.
Don’t you agree that relationships are, at times, far more complicated than we want them to be? Be that as it may, however, laying hands on your partner will never be the solution. So, if you’ve found yourself thinking, “Is it normal for my girlfriend to hit me,” the answer is no, it is not.
What Does the NCADV Say?
As you are well aware, arguments and heated disagreements are commonplace, even in the most perfect of relationships. There is, however, a line that your girlfriend should never cross: that of hitting you. According to the NCADV (National Coalition Against Domestic Violence):
- 1 in 9 men and 1 in 4 women experience severe intimate partner violence, leaving them injured and suffering from sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and post-traumatic stress disorder, among other negative physical and mental health consequences.
- 1 in 4 men and 1 in 3 women experience some form of physical violence by an intimate partner.
- 1 in 25 men and 1 in 7 women have been victims of a serious injury at the hands of an intimate partner.
As you can see from these statistics, intimate partner violence cuts across gender demographics.
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Understanding There’s a Problematic Relationship
Is it ok for my girlfriend to hit me? Absolutely not! Without a doubt, you must love your girlfriend very much. But if you’ve sat alone in a corner and thought, “My girlfriend is hitting me,” in the sense that it has become a noticeable pattern, then something must be terribly wrong. You are a victim of physical violence and should not suffer in silence.
I know of a former couple who, from the outside looking in, everything seemed all bliss. It was not until you were privy to the inner workings of their relationship that alarm bells started ringing. My friend’s ex-girlfriend, Anna (not her real name), was drop-dead gorgeous (she still is, if we’re being honest, but I hate to say it). You know, the kind of girl who attracts everyone regardless of their gender? Exactly.
And for the longest time, Anna and Paige (my friend, also not her real name) were having the time of their lives. Or so I thought. As it turned out, Anna frequently got really physical with Paige. It started all cute and playful until one day, Paige showed up for brunch in dark shades to cover up a bruised eye. She broke down and came clean about what she had been living through, and I applaud her to this day for taking that bold step and trusting me.
Not to worry, Paige is okay now and getting all the help and support she needs. The point I’m driving home, though, is that whether playful or not, there’s no instance where your girlfriend hitting you is a good thing. If anything, that playful start sets the foundation for the ugly situation that will most likely follow later.
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Is It OK for My Girlfriend to Hit Me?
What Should I Do if My Girlfriend Hits Me?
The first time it happens, it is normal for overwhelming feelings of confusion to take charge. You may also feel scared and alone, but I’m here to tell you that you are not alone. There are tons of survivor stories, and guess what? Yours could be one, too!
To get there, though, here are some steps to take if your girlfriend gets physical with you:
- Talk to Someone: Understandably, talking to someone about this kind of thing is easier said than done. How to go about it is to get someone you trust who won’t judge or victimize you. It could be a sibling, friend, or therapist, as long as they are willing and able to lend you a listening, helpful ear.
- Join a Support Group: Remember how we said you are not alone in this journey? Nothing helps this more than support groups for people currently in abusive relationships or those who’ve been in them and successfully came out the other side. By joining such a group, you connect emotionally with those who truly understand your situation. The best part is that you don’t have to exit the group even after you are over your ordeal. Your success story could later become what breathes life into the continuity of the support group.
- Seek the Help of a Professional: In truth, support groups have their magic in them. They are tried and tested, but sometimes, you require professional help to complement the support you receive from your group. Therapy and counseling work best when you have a health care or mental health professional who can aid you through the healing process.
- Leave: Again, it’s easier said than done, but leaving your abusive partner is also an option. After years of emotional manipulation, the first time Stephen’s girlfriend (Stephen was my roommate as we were starting out our careers) hit him was when he decided that he had to leave her. On that fateful night, she had been out drinking, came home screaming, and an argument broke out. By morning, Stephen’s face looked like he’d spent the night pissing off a cat, with scratch marks and bruises all over. Even then, it took him almost a year to finally call it quits, but as you can see, it really is doable.
- Involve the Authorities: Given that you care so much about her, some of you may feel guilty about calling the cops on your girlfriend. But think about this: Why doesn’t she feel the same before laying her hands on you? In the face of immediate danger to your safety, calling the police may just be your best bet. Moreover, involving the authorities ensures they hold your partner accountable for her actions.
- Get Yourself a Restraining Order: If you have called it quits and your former lover, her history of violence and all, still won’t leave you alone, go ahead and file for a restraining order. The law will legally force her to keep her distance from you, and with this, you can rest easy and heal with all the peace of mind you deserve.
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Reasons Why Women Hit Their Partners
You and I agree that no one deserves a physically abusive partner. Anyone who knows me understands that I advocate for leaving at the first sight of a red flag instead of staying and hoping for the best. Because, if we are being honest with ourselves, isn’t there always that nagging feeling in our gut that something is amiss?
If we are to look at it critically, however, the truth is that even abusers need help. That said, this is in no way meant to justify their actions but rather to act as a window into how their minds work. As such, the following are some of the most common reasons why women hit their partners.
1. Expressing Negative Emotions
According to this study, 39% of women arrested for IPV admit to having done so to express their anger. Other similar studies concluded with a more detailed adjective, “uncontrollable anger,” to be specific. As we all know, anger is a complex emotion. At the same time, however, no one should use this emotion to justify violence in a relationship. Violence is neither productive nor an acceptable way to express oneself.
Jealousy is also another negative emotion that fuels intimate partner violence, as detailed in this 2022 publication. Women who continuously suspect their partners of infidelity may resort to controlling behavior, initiating spontaneous conflict, and ultimately, laying hands on their significant other.
2. Manipulation and Control
The one thing we can all agree about abusers, female or otherwise, is that they are manipulative and controlling. To try and achieve this, they may become violent and use the threat of violence to get their partner to “toe the line.” For female abusers, feeling in control boosts their ego and becomes intoxicating as time goes by.
In the spirit of trying to decode why abusers are as they are, manipulation and control often result from being a victim of abuse, especially during one’s formative years. If one grows up feeling powerless, one may resort to using violence to assert dominance in intimate relationships. As you can see, abusers also need therapy and counseling. In this instance, their abuse stems from a lack of control over their own person and complex internal conflict.
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Across multiple studies, there has been consensus that women mostly become violent towards their partners (especially male partners) as a form of self-defense. In one particular study, 20% of female participants cited self-defense as their sole reason for engaging in IPV, while 0% of male participants brought it up. In general, statistics say that 75% of women involved as IPV perpetrators do so to defend themselves. What about the remaining 25%?
As I have already mentioned, they fall into the categories of expressing anger or jealousy and could also be controlling and manipulative. A breakdown in communication within the relationship could also be a contributing factor.
If you agree with me, there’s a very thin line between self-defense and retaliation, right? I, nevertheless, believe that the latter deserves its own entry. As several studies suggest, women could violently retaliate over emotional hurt, to “teach their partners a lesson,” or to respond to a verbal or physical threat. Retaliation is akin to revenge, and although they say it is best served cold, that’s no way to run a relationship.
How Can I Get My Girlfriend to Stop Hitting Me?
Having come this far, you must be fighting an internal battle if our topic of the day hits too close to home. But, as it should be evident, there is no shame in admitting that you are in a bit of a bind and need help. As I have repeated several times here, many of these things are easy in theory but a mountain to climb in practice. You could be asking yourself whether a shove or a push should warrant throwing away an otherwise near-perfect relationship, right?
And although this differs from individual to individual, there are instances where working things through could be for the greater good. Therefore, here’s how you can get your girlfriend to stop hitting you in such cases.
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1. Talk to Her About It
In unhealthy intimate relationships, there’s almost always the fear of being labeled “the instigator.” As such, it could be daunting to talk to your girlfriend about things that make you uncomfortable and, most certainly, things you suspect won’t sit right with her. Even if she does it unconsciously or without meaning, if your girlfriend regularly hits you, you need to stand up to her.
Talk to her about it and inform her that her behavior is unacceptable and that you won’t tolerate it. Her response will speak volumes but don’t just listen to empty words. Ensure that she follows through with appropriate action. If she does, you’ll return to your heydays before you know it. Isn’t that the best possible outcome?
2. Seek Couple’s Therapy
In the event of an isolated incident that she’s remorseful about, you and your girlfriend could seek couples counseling. What this does is provide a neural environment where you can reconcile amicably, in addition to further understanding what was behind the incident. More often than not, you’ll find that it had nothing to do with you.
At the same time, therapy may help her control her emotions better. The professional you speak to will also take her through how best to express herself, but this only works if she’s willing to put in the work.
3. Consider Ending the Relationship
I know we were all positive about saving the union, but there comes a time when we have to call a spade a spade. If therapy and continuous dialogue on how to remedy the situation fail, ending the relationship is what’s best for you.
A light slap, a push, a punch, you name it. None of this is justifiable in any relationship. You should not stomach your girlfriend hitting you on account of being “the bigger person.” Instances of IPV call for maturity in solving the situation, but not at the expense of your physical, mental, and emotional well-being. If reaching a suitable outcome is impossible, please eject yourself from that undesirable situation and seek the help you need.