Many months ago, I was contacted by an individual who was in a domestic violence situation. The situation was complicated by the fact that the abusive relationship was within the context of a polyamorous dynamic. This case was a very important reminder to me that being involved in polyamory or any form of consensual non-monogamy does not necessarily guarantee an abuse free relationship. Even in that context, one partner can be abusive by undermining other relationships, controlling other aspects of a partner’s life, and finding other mechanisms of physical, sexual, and/or psychological abuse. I gave a fairly lengthy response to that email, and realized that my suggestions apply to just about anyone in a similar situation.
When you find yourself in any abusive situation, here are some things to consider (keep in mind that a partner does not necessarily need to lay a hand on you for the relationship to be abusive. Psychological abuse can be as, if not more damaging.):
In terms of your immediate safety, do you have a safety plan? At the very least, you might want to consider having a bag packed with basic necessities, important documents, emergency contacts, and whatever else you’d need should you have to leave in a hurry. If you have kids, are they in any physical danger and can you take them with you without putting them at greater risk?
We are very lucky in Boston to have The Network/La Red, the only DV organization I know of that caters explicitly to kinky, poly, and LGBTQ identified individuals.
They have a hotline and some very good resources on their site, which I
recommend checking out, assuming you have a computer where having a DV website in your browsing history will not put you at risk.
Here are some factors to consider when an abusive dynamic exists within a poly context:
The most unpredictable and dangerous time in any abusive cycle is when
the abused partner chooses to leave. This is where poly can be a potentially beneficial and complicating factor. On the one hand, you have more potential sources for support. On the other, there are more people and safety issues to take into account.
If you have any current partners or paramours, what level of risk, if any, does the perpetrator pose to them and their relationships, families, etc? To what extent are they aware of what’s going on in your home? Are there any partners, past or present, who are willing and able to be part of your safety plan?
I’m sure there are plenty of other things to take into account, but these are the most vital issues in terms of staying safe. I plan to discuss other considerations in regards to abuse and ployamory in the not too distant future.