Franklin Countys First News

Threats of Self-Harm: A form of power and control

By Maggy Ackerman

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Signs of suicidality and threats of suicide should be taken seriously and if you believe that someone is at risk of harming themselves or others please take the proper precautions: call the Maine Crisis Hotline 1-888-568-1112, National Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-800-273-8255, or 9-1-1.

“I love you so much and I can’t live with you, if you leave me I’ll kill myself.”

All too often these words can convince someone who is experiencing domestic violence to feel overwhelmed by guilt and confusion, and ultimately, stay in an abusive and potentially lethal relationship. The concept that someone cares so deeply for you that they can’t continue living without you may seem flattering, but the reality is that in an abusive relationship, threats of suicide by an abuser are an intimidation tactic intended to terrorize their partner into staying in the situation.

Abusive partners use intimidation, emotional abuse, isolation, and physical abuse to assert their power over their partner and in many cases, view their partner as their possessions to control. Consequently, when an abuser is exhibiting signs of suicidality and has made threats of suicide, the victim is faced with a greater risk of lethality and an increased potential of a murder-suicide crisis. In fact, the Maine Domestic Violence Homicide Review for 2014-2015 found that 56 percent of perpetrators threatened suicide either prior to or after committing homicide and 37 percent actually committed suicide after committing homicide. These alarming statistics have established an increased awareness around suicidality and threats in intimate partner relationships in Maine and nationally.

Continually hearing threats of self-harm from a partner may seem overwhelming, and it may feel as though there are no other options other than to stay in the relationship, but it is important to know that this behavior is abusive and unhealthy. Even if there has been no physical abuse in a relationship, there are options available for someone to safely leave an abusive partner who is making verbal threats of suicide or self-harm.

If you are someone you know is experiencing threats of suicide or harm from their partner they can call local law enforcement, file a Protection From Abuse order, and reach out to Safe Voices, the local Domestic Violence Resource Center that serves Androscoggin, Franklin and Oxford counties. Advocates from Safe Voices can assist someone in obtaining a protection order, creating an extensive safety plan, and finding safe emergency housing.

To learn more about domestic violence resources or to speak with an advocate please call:

Farmington: 778-6107
Lewiston: 795-6744
Norway: 743-5806
Rumford: 369-0750

Or call our 24/7 confidential help line: 1-800-559-2927.

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