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Mutual Abuse Is A Fallacy

At StrongHearts Native Helpline, we understand the term mutual abuse to be a fallacy. Domestic violence is a pattern of coercive or violent behaviors by one partner to gain and maintain power and control over the other partner.

Taking responsibility for your behavior is the first step.

A healthy relationship requires communication, honesty, trust, and respect from all partners. Equality and balance go hand-in-hand in a healthy relationship, in which each a dating partner recognizes and supports the other’s choices, individuality and beliefs.

In a healthy relationship, all partners take responsibility for their happiness, never expecting their partner to make them happy.

So, how do you know if your relationship is healthy? All relationships exist on what we call the Relationship Spectrum. Behaviors range from healthy to abusive with unhealthy falling in between them on this spectrum.

Assessment Tool: Are you hurting your partner?

If you are in an unhealthy relationship and questioning your own behavior, use this tool to help you understand your behaviors.

You have checked boxes.

If you checked 0 boxes, it seems like you have a healthy relationship. Your relationship behaviors honor your relatives. Your ancestors would be proud.

If you checked 1-2 boxes, there might be some things in your relationship that are unhealthy or that make your partner feel uncomfortable or unsafe. That doesn't necessarily mean these are warning signs of abuse. Keep an eye on these things and talk with your partner to make sure you are communicating with your partner so these behaviors don't become a pattern. Open and honest communication is an important gift to each other and we can honor our ancestors by practicing it.

If you checked 3-4 boxes, you are likely exhibiting some red flags of an abusive relationship and they may become a recurring pattern. This can be difficult to recognize and it is important that you do not ignore these signs and rather see them as an opportunity to grow. All relationships take work, but healthy relationships don't include abuse.

If you checked 5+ boxes, you may be in an abusive relationship. Domestic violence and dating violence happen when an intimate partner uses a repetitive pattern of abuse to maintain power and control over their partner. The abuse can physically harm, invoke fear, prevent a person from acting freely, or force them to behave in ways they do not want. This can be a difficult realization to make especially if you care deeply for those affected by your behavior, it is important to first acknowledge that your behaviors might be questionable and begin to take personal responsibility for the harm you may have caused. Only you can begin to take actions and steps to correct your behavior if they are hurting your loved ones.

Quiz adapted from Love is Respect.

Is Change Possible?

Change is possible, however, requires a deep commitment which many find challenging. Recognizing and overcoming abusive behavior is an ongoing process that may take a lifetime of self-work, self-awareness, and ongoing changes to one’s behavior. Being accountable for your behaviors is a good first step to beginning the process of change and requires a personal commitment to the long-term process of unlearning abusive behavior.

Taking the first step may be reaching out to StrongHearts Native Helpline to talk more about how to safely plan around your abusive behaviors and also taking steps to willingly participate in a certified abusive partner intervention and prevention program. Many of these programs are a long-term commitment that can range from six months to a year of intensive focus on behavior, reflection and accountability.


According to author Lundy Bancroft, author of Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men, here are some behaviors that may indicate progress in your recovery:

  • Admitting full to what you have done
  • Stop making excuses and blaming
  • Making amends
  • Accepting responsibility and recognizing that abuse is a choice
  • Identifying patterns of controlling behavior used
  • Identifying the attitudes that drive abuse


  • Recognize moments when you are feeling set off and learn to step away and reflect.
  • Reach out to a trusted provider when you need support in being a better partner.
  • Realize that abuse is not a traditional value in our Native communities and that all deserve the right to be safe.

How to Get Help

StrongHearts Native Helpline does not recommend couples counseling or anger management programs to learn about and deal with their abusive behavior. Many times, these alone are temporary treatments that do not promote long-term personal change.

StrongHearts Native Helpline can help. Our advocates interact with people who identify as abusive partners. Our advocates can help you find Native-centered resources in your community including certified abusive partner intervention programs.

Advocates handle every call, text or chat with empathy and respect. Our advocates will never judge you. We are committed to supporting anyone who wants to change abusive ways. We envision a return to our traditional lifeways where our relatives are safe, violence is eradicated and sacredness is restored.

Anonymous and confidential help is just a phone call away.

Adapted from The National Domestic Violence Hotline.

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