+
A PERSONAL MESSAGE FROM UPWORTHY
We are a small, independent media company on a mission to share the best of humanity with the world.
If you think the work we do matters, pre-ordering a copy of our first book would make a huge difference in helping us succeed.
GOOD PEOPLE Book
upworthy

abuse

Megan Montgomery and Jason McIntosh on their wedding day

If you were to look at Megan Montgomery's Instagram account, you'd see a beautiful, smiling woman in the prime of her life, her youth and fitness the envy of women the world over. You'd even see some photos of her with her husband (#datenight), with comments saying things like "Aww, gorgeous couple!"

But beneath her picture-perfect feed was the story of a woman in an abusive relationship with her husband—one that would start with his arrest shortly after they got married, and end 10 months later with him shooting her to death in a parking lot.

In a Facebook post, one of the people who was out with Megan the night of her murder detailed how her estranged husband had come to their table, put his hand on her neck and shoulder, and escorted her out of the building.


She went with him willingly, but anyone familiar with abusive relationships knows that "willingly" is a subjective term. He had reportedly threatened mass violence before. Perhaps she was trying to protect the people she was with. Perhaps staying felt more dangerous to her than going with him.

The couple reportedly had a volatile relationship from the start, and at one point both had restraining orders against the other. Regardless, she was killed by the man who had claimed to love her, an ex-cop who had been arrested for domestic violence and had been bailed out multiple times prior to that evening.

Feminist News wrote the gist of Megan's story on Facebook, sharing photos from the couple's wedding to illustrate how invisible domestic violence can be to those outside of it. "THIS is the face of domestic violence," they wrote.

But what was perhaps most striking about the post was the deluge of comments from women describing their own experiences with domestic violence. Comment after comment explaining how a partner always made them think the abuse was their fault, how restraining orders were repeatedly violated, how they were charmed and loved into questioning whether the verbal abuse or physical violence was really that bad. Story after story of how they didn't see it coming, how slowly and insidiously it escalated, how terrifying it was to try to leave.

Those of us who have not been in abusive relationships don't always understand why people don't leave them. But the dynamics of abuse—the emotional manipulation, the gaslighting, the self-esteem destruction, the fear and shame—are well documented.

Unfortunately, those dynamics can prove deadly. Domestic violence murders have been on the rise in recent years, going up 19% between 2014 and 2017. And sadly, our justice system does not protect domestic violence survivors as well as it should.

Part of the challenge of prosecuting in domestic violence cases is that victims are not always willing to cooperate, either out of fear or shame or embarrassment, or unhealthy loyalty. According to some estimates, domestic violence victims recant their testimony up to 70% of the time. That's why some are pushing for evidence-based prosecution without requiring victim testimony, much like we try murder cases.

But some, like University of Maryland law professor Leah Goodmark, argue that pushing for more law enforcement hasn't proven to reduce domestic violence rates. Addressing issues of poverty, childhood trauma, attitudes toward gender equality, and other risk factors for domestic violence may be more effective by stopping violence before it starts.

While abuse happens to both men and women, women are more likely to be victims and much more likely to be murdered by a partner. Thankfully, there are many resources for domestic violence survivors to seek help, whether you're trying to determine if your relationship is abusive or trying to figure out if, when, and how to leave. The National Domestic Violence Hotline (www.thehotline.org or call 1−800−799−7233) has a wealth of information on domestic violence and what to do about it. The website even has a live chat where you can get your questions answered and receive assistance making a safety plan for you and your family.

If you are afraid of your partner or other loved one, there's something wrong. No one should live in fear of the people who are supposed to love them the most.


This article originally appeared on 12.16.19

This article originally appeared on 06.14.17


Many of us are familiar with the signs of an abusive relationship. Physical violence is only one of many. Extreme jealousy, verbal insults, controlling behavior, and victim blaming are all hallmark signs that someone is an abusive partner, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

What we rarely talk about, though, is that for as often as men are the perpetrators of abuse, they can just as easily be victims.


Hundreds of men recently took to Reddit to share their own harrowing stories of abusive relationships.

As many as 1 in 4 men have been victims of some form of physical abuse by a partner. For women, it's as many as 1 in 3.

That's a staggering percentage of people.

The grim and heartbreaking thread helped shed some light on an under-recognized reality: Abuse is abuse, and it has no gender.

Here are some of the main takeaways from the powerful thread, which is worth a full-read.

Note: Last names have been left out to protect victims of abuse.

1. The support system for men who are victims of abuse is extremely poor.

Robert, who shared his story of an abusive relationship in the thread, wrote that his ex would threaten him and lash out physically, but no one would ever take his complaints seriously.

"She would throw knives at stuff and wreck the house," he wrote. "I went through 16 police calls before one of them finally gave her a charge for assault."

When the two were finally separated (he writes that she was arrested on a separate charge), he had to turn to information meant for battered women for help putting his life back together. The sad truth is that the shelters and groups out there dedicated to helping men in abusive relationships are depressingly scarce.

2. Men can be victims of physical abuse too. Often at the detriment of their "manhood."

It's hard enough for many men being abused to find people who'll believe them. It's made even tougher that they might be made out to look like less of a man if they come clean.

"It's like I was supposed to just take it because I was a man," Robert wrote.

Tom, another man who shared his story, wrote that he was "embarrassed" when his ex would hit him during arguments, in public, but that he never even considered it abuse until long after they broke up.

Research supports the idea that men might be even less likely than women to report physical abuse. And we wonder why phrases like, "Man up!" are so harmful.

3. The patterns of abusive behavior are consistent whether abusers are men or women.

Another Reddit user, William, said he wasn't allowed to hang out with certain people his partner didn't like,and the controlling and manipulative behavior took a heavy toll on him. "I knew deep down no matter what I did to try and make her happy it was never good enough. I never felt so useless," he wrote.

Many men in the thread, like Richie, wrote that the psychological trauma from their abusive relationship was the most difficult thing to reconcile and recover from. Mood swings, illogical fights, and suicidal threats from Richie's partner pushed him to a breaking point.

"It wore me down to the bone," he wrote. "I was a shell of myself at one point."

The original thread on Reddit makes one thing abundantly clear: The problem of partner violence and abuse is likely much bigger than many people realize.

Over 10 million men and women in the United States are victims of physical domestic abuse every year; a number that doesn't include behaviors like lying, threats, and manipulation.

Toxic concepts of masculinity can sometimes lead to men becoming abusers, but as this thread shows, they can also paralyze men who need help. Fixing our culture's broken idea of what makes a man could be a crucial step toward ending domestic violence and abuse for both men and women.

In the meantime, we can listen to the victims' stories. Everyone, man or woman, deserves to be heard.

If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship and wants to seek help, start by contacting the National Domestic Violence Hotline, which offers support for men, women, and children.

This post was updated 6/14/2017.

One of the scariest things about being trapped in a situation with a dangerous person is how many people don't notice. Abusers, kidnappers, traffickers, and the like often monitor and control a person so tightly that asking for help seems impossible.

There are countless stories of people managing to slip someone a note saying they need help or signaling in some other way that they're in an unsafe situation. Wouldn't it be great if there was a way that they could quickly, yet discreetly, alert people that they were in trouble without flagging the person putting them in danger?

There is. It's the international signal for help, and it's going viral for all the right reasons.


A video shared by Indian restauranter Harjinder Singh Kukreja shows several scenarios in which a person needs help and signals with a simple hand gesture we all need to learn to recognize—or if necessary, use ourselves.

In the video, a woman on a balcony, a man at the door during a delivery, and a girl walking down a hallway with a man all give the signal without their abuser knowing.

The Signal for Help campaign was launchedby the Canadian Women's Foundation last April, and has gained traction around the world thanks to the reach of partners such as the Women's Funding Network, the world's largest philanthropic network for girls and women. With the coronavirus pandemic getting into full swing, it was clear that people were going to be spending a lot more time on video calls and people in abusive situations were going to be spending a lot more time with their abusers. The Signal for Help initiative was a way to discreetly communicate via video call that you were in a dangerous situation without having to say a word.

As we saw in the first video, the signal is useful for more than just Zoom calls. The only issue is that this signal only works if people recognize it and know what it means. That's why people are sharing the video and encouraging others to do the same.

What's great about the signal is that it can be done discreetly. Since it only requires one hand, it's more convenient than the American Sign Language sign for "help," which requires two hands. It's simple, subtle, and swift enough to be easy to use in lots of different circumstances (as we see in the videos) but also distinct enough that those who know it will recognize it instantly. It's even something we can teach young children.

We know that domestic violence is a going concern, especially during the pandemic when people are trapped at home with their abusers. We also know that human trafficking is a billion-dollar global industry and that victims are sometimes being transported in broad daylight. The more tools we have for getting people help the better, but first we need to know when someone actually needs help.

Learning and sharing this hand sign far and wide will help spread awareness, enable more victims of violence to ask for help in a safe way, and hopefully even save lives.

Few celebrity interviews have drawn as much worldwide attention as Oprah's recent sit-down with Harry and Meghan, which should come as no surprise. These people have a level of worldwide recognition and fame that far surpasses most world leaders and even most entertainers.

With fame comes critics, with criticism comes controversy, and with controversy comes conversations among the masses. And in those conversations, people often feel free to say things to or about famous people that they wouldn't say to or about someone they know in real life. It's easy to dehumanize celebrities who seem so different from the average person, and since they're never going to see what we say, it doesn't really matter anyway, right?

The problem is that others—people we actually care about—do see what we say. And it does matter to them.


Social media is currently filled with reactions to Meghan Markle sharing how the abusive British tabloids and lack of support she had from the palace led to her having suicidal thoughts. While some celebrate her courage in speaking out, some have called her a "drama queen." Some say she's an attention-seeking narcissist. Some scoff at her claims, questioning how she could be suffering so much when she literally lived in a palace with a handsome prince, wanting for nothing.

Meghan will never see the vast majority of those comments. But other people who struggle with suicidal thoughts will. People who live economically privileged lives and those who don't. People who have good marriages and those who don't. If we call Meghan Markle a drama queen for sharing that she felt suicidal, what people who also struggle with those thoughts will see is that we can't be counted on for support. They'll see that we might judge and dismiss their feelings as undeserved at best or manufactured at worse. They'll see that we can't be trusted.

That doesn't just apply to Meghan Markle and suicidal thoughts. People play fast and loose with celebrity commentary all the time, and when our comments involve things like mental health or other struggles that are common to the general population, what we say matters because it can impact people we truly care about.

Here are three questions we need to ask ourselves before we comment critically about a famous person.

1) Am I criticizing them for something they did/said, or something they're going through?

There's a big difference between calling out a problematic behavior or a harmful statement someone has made and criticizing someone for sharing a personal experience. When we have a dislike for someone famous, that line can get blurred, but it's an important distinction.

When we criticize a famous person for something they're going through—a mental health crisis, struggles with addiction, abuse, or loss—we're making a judgment about something we aren't in a position to judge. And our judgment has the potential to hurt everyone who's going through something similar.

2) Is the thing they're talking about a common struggle?

People often dismiss celebrity struggles because they seem to "have it all" and live above everything. But they don't.

Famous people are people. Their life may look different than ours in many ways, but they are human beings first, prone to the same mental and emotional experiences as everyone else.

Mental health issues, addiction, racism, sexism, loss, grief, and other struggles don't discriminate by class. Fame and privilege of wealth or status don't shield people from any of those issues, and sometimes the reality of celebrity can make some of those issues worse.

Look at Anthony Bourdain, for example. He had plenty of money and the coolest job in the world, traveling the globe and exploring delicious food everywhere he went. But he died by suicide. And he's certainly not alone.

If there's one thing that connects us all, it's these common human experiences that anyone—rich or poor, famous or not—can find themselves in.

3) If I have a loved one who has experienced the same or a similar struggle, how would they feel if I directed this comment to them?

When a loved one who struggles with suicidal thoughts sees us criticizing someone else's struggles with suicidal thoughts, what does that say to them? Will they think of us as a safe, supportive person they can go to? Or will they be afraid we will dismiss their feelings as being "overly dramatic"?

When a loved one who has experienced racism sees us rolling our eyes at a famous person's experiences with racism, what does it say to them? Will they see us as someone who has their back?

When a loved one who has found themselves in an abusive situation sees us tell a famous person, "What did you expect? You knew what you were getting into," will they see us as a safe person to talk to?

Most of those struggles are endured silently, but they are definitely there and far more common than people think. Our loved ones are listening to our words, whether we're talking directly to them or commenting on a public social media page. Rethinking the way we talk about these things can save a lot of hurt feelings and avoid damaging our own relationships. If it's not something we'd say to or about someone we love, we're probably better off not saying it at all.