With Valentine’s Day on our doorstep and with romance at the forefront of everyone’s mind, we sometimes forget that there can be another darker side of the coin. The kind that is rarely talked about and that often happens out of sight.

This month, we are joined by Charlene Eden of United Way Funded Partner Agency, Kamloops Sexual Assault Centre, who delves into what love means and the supports available to those who feel a relationship may have crossed the line into something dangerous.

1. When people hear the word love, they often think of romance. How would you define love?
When we look up the word love in the dictionary, it is usually defined as “an intense feeling of deep affection.” And certainly Western culture tends to portray love and in particular romantic love in this way. However, defining love in this way really only answers part of the question about what love really is. I believe that to actually love another person is to intensely feel AND act lovingly toward that person. Acting lovingly can take many forms including being respectful; ensuring the other person is and feels safe; being trustworthy; and showing patience, kindness, warmth, and commitment. It is also about believing in the other person and demonstrating this belief. And it is action without obligation; action that is deeply embedded in one’s feelings of love for the other person, not because there is an expectation. True feelings of love cannot exist without behaviour that supports them. And one thing is clear: love is never hurtful, painful or scary and never puts someone’s safety at risk.
2. In your line of work, we imagine you have seen love turn sour, and even dangerous. Are there any red flags you can share to help identify when things may have crossed the line?
There are numerous red flags that can help people identify when a relationship is becoming unhealthy, abusive or violent. Warning signs may include behaviours that attempt to lower someone’s self-worth such as verbal put downs; criticizing; name calling; and humiliating, blaming or shaming behaviour. Controlling behaviour is also a red flag and comes in many forms including attempting to control one’s cell phone; social media accounts; and finances such as bank accounts, debit and credit cards. Abusive individuals also typically for passwords to accounts. Another sign of an unhealthy relationship is attempts to isolate the partner from family and friends. This may be done by trying to spend every possible minute with the partner; through ultimatums; and through threats of harm to the partner’s children, family members or pets. There may also be signs that the abusive individual is attempting to sabotage the partner’s job or career to further the isolation. There is often a great deal of jealousy, explosive anger and a disrespect for personal boundaries and space within the relationship. Destruction of property is another red flag, as is withholding basis necessities such as food, clothing, medication or shelter. And any physical violence is a red flag that should not be ignored.

3. What supports are available in the Thompson Nicola Cariboo region for someone feeling unsafe in their relationship?

There are numerous supports available in the region if someone feels unsafe. Any of these supports can be phoned and will be more than happy to answers questions and provide support in ensuring people access the supports they need. This list is certainly not exhaustive.
Kamloops Sexual Assault Counselling Centre: 250-372-0179
Y Women’s Shelter/Violence Against Women Intervention and Support Services: 250-374-6162
Interior Community Services: 250-554-3134
Family Tree Family Centre: 250-377-6890
100 Mile House Women’s Centre Society: 250-395-4093
Lillooet Friendship Society: 250-256-4116
Women’s Contact Society : 250-392-4116
4. Do you have anything to add?

It is important that people trust their inner voice or intuition. If something doesn’t feel right, it isn’t right! Have a safe person in your life you can talk to about things that are bothering you and even if your relationship is or seems healthy, have a safety plan. In other words, always have a safe place to go and a safe person to call.

If you suspect that someone you know or love is in an unhealthy relationship, lend an ear to that person. But please remember that although it may seem easy to leave an unhealthy relationship, that isn’t always the case. In fact, women and their children are often at greater risk of physical harm and even death once they leave an abusive relationship. Let that person know that you are there, should they need help leaving. But remember that they may choose to stay for a variety of reasons including safety.

If someone discloses to you that they are in an unhealthy relationship or that they have been abused or sexually assaulted, please believe them! Listen with a kind heart and let them know you believe them. Do not minimize the sexual violence or place responsibility back on the survivor for the actions of another. We know that how someone reacts to a disclosure has a major impact on whether the survivor gets help from that point on.

Always remember that there is help out there! Never hesitate to reach out to the resources around you for information or support. That is what we are here for.

United Way is helping to support and meet the basic needs of communities throughout the Thompson Nicola Cariboo Region, giving every Canadian the opportunity to realize a better future.

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