Today’s article is devoted to a serious and long-standing issue, domestic violence. With more and more abused partners seeking refuge within shelters and therapy offices one would imagine that there would exist a cultural and personal awareness of abuse before reaching for extremes. However, the lines that exist when violence and abuse pervade the sanctum of a relationship are often fuzzy. This is made even more complex by the fact that we as a society and as individuals are so quick to blame the victim. You have heard it said before, “why doesn’t he/she just leave?” Some examples include, because they are receiving strong messages from their abusers that they are to blame for what is happening! For example after a violent attack, the attacker may deny that anything even happened, saying things like “I didn’t touch you!” “Why are you upset? You’re being dramatic!” Other times the victim may fight back against the perpetrators grabbing, pulling, shoving, barricading, slapping, choking, and then the fault lines become even more hazy, as the victim feels guilty for having struck another and begins to truly internalize the fact that this is all his or her fault.
The hopeful message of this humble essay is that as a psychological and humanitarian community we provide opportunity for intervention before the violence has a chance to escalate to the newspaper headlines or obituaries. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, in 2000 1297 women were killed by a romantic partner and 440 men by a partner. How do these men and women slip through the cracks, stay away from the suspicious glances of co-workers, friends or family? Well, often individuals in violent situations are alienated with limited social supports. Simultaneously, the abuser may be clever in where he or she places the marks so that the attacks are not as immediately visible. Also, the victim will be an expert at covering up any hints of bruises or contusions because they love the person who is abusing them and don’t want to see their partner end up in trouble nor do they want to burden anyone with the knowledge that something is amiss in what may appear to be their picture perfect life.
Statistically, there is a relationship between domestic violence and the suffering from other mental health diagnoses such as a depressive disorder, self-esteem issues, and these can sometimes be further complicated by the presence of drug or alcohol abuse. Whether the violence causes such problems or people with these dispositions are more likely to enter abusive relationships is an entirely different topic, this writer simply notes that there is a relationship. How then, can we as a society prevent death and destruction from occurring?
1) Educate our young and old on the signs and symptoms of abusive relationships. The earlier that people learn to see a relationship for what it is the more likely that they will leave.
2)Remain vigilant of anyone that you think may exhibit signs of violent or abusive behavior.
3) Keep the lines of communication open for those you fear have entered an abusive relationships, keep in mind that the friend may have not been in touch in a while because of their abuser.
4) If someone you know is in an abusive relationship do not push them to leave, this may only alienate them further. Do your best to express to that person that you are there for them as a friend and that you respect their will and choices.
Some of the signs of abuse
~An uncontrollable temper
~Tells you how to dress
~Tells you that you are worthless, that you will never find another mate again
~Easily becomes jealous, possessive
~Destroys your belongings such as clothes, electronics, automobile
~Threatens suicide if you try to leave
~Touches you in a violent way
~Diminishes your will to make important choices
~Restricts your ability to leave him or her
~Shows up at your home, work, school, families house/ etc against your wishes
~Constantly checks up on you
~Insists on controlling the money, car, or other resources *Financial abuse is a separate kind of abuse which often co-occurs with physical and emotional violence. I.e.
~Stealing from you/ taking your money
~Restricting you to an allowance
~Sabotaging your job
~Withholding money or credit cards
Remember it is still abuse even if you think that the assault is not as injurious as some of the stories of abuse that you may have heard about on the news. Often abusive relationships have periods of time where everything seems perfectly fine, but if a person has touched you in a violent way once they are quite likely to do it again. Violence is by definition when someone restricts your ability to move about freely and independently as a human by chocking, pushing, grabbing, pulling, smacking, slapping, punching, hair pulling, it is violent for anyone to touch you when you have asked them not to! Often an abuser will physically assault you until you become passive, the right to walk, roam, and be is your legal and physical right. Often abusers are masters at making excuses for unthinkable acts. They will stop at nothing to blame you for their violence that they were only trying to help you, even trying to convince you that it didn’t happen. They will classically promise you that it will never happen again. The abuser will be his or her most charming after an attack, this makes it very difficult to leave the abuser because the abused person usually wants to believe that this painful behavior is finally over and when the abuser is doing and saying all of the “right things” it is very hard to leave.
The cycle of violence in domestic abuse
- Abuse – Your abusive partner lashes out with aggressive, belittling, or violent behavior. The abuse is a power play designed to show you “who is boss.”
- Guilt – After abusing you, your partner feels guilt, but not over what he’s or she’s done. He’s or she is more worried about the possibility of being caught and facing consequences for his abusive behavior.
- Excuses – Your abuser rationalizes what he or she has done. The person may come up with a string of excuses or blame you for the abusive behavior—anything to avoid taking responsibility.
- “Normal” behavior – The abuser does everything he or she can to regain control and keep the victim in the relationship. She or He may act as if nothing has happened, or may turn on the charm. This peaceful honeymoon phase may give the victim hope that the abuser has really changed this time.
- Fantasy and planning – Your abuser begins to fantasize about abusing you again. They spends a lot of time thinking about what you’ve done wrong and how he’ll make you pay. Then he makes a plan for turning the fantasy of abuse into reality.
- Set-up – Your abuser sets you up and puts his plan in motion, creating a situation where he can justify abusing you.
Some relationships are not as they seem! Awareness is the first step towards a healthier you, a more empowered family and society, if you or someone you know is suffering from the abuse it’s never too late or too early to make a change. For other resources please visit:
Or for 24 Hour emergency service
The Womens Shelter Hotline
(877) 338-8255 (toll free number)
In health and Wellness,
Stephanie McCracken MSPC
Offering Psychotherapy and Marriage Counseling
REVIVING MINDS THERAPY
1010 Western Avenue Suite 100
Pittsburgh Pa 15233