When we think of domestic violence the image we see more often associated is one of a husband beating his wife and we often ask the question “why does she stay”? Why does she not leave”?
Domestic violence can be against children, parents, the elderly and pets; in different forms such as physical, emotional, verbal, financial, religious, reproduction and sexual abuse and violence against an intimate partner or spouse.
Woman can be perpetrators as well as men, and men can be victims as well as woman.
What is Domestic Violence?
Also known as domestic abuse or family violence is defined by Women’s Aid:
“as an incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening, degrading and violent behaviour, including sexual violence, in the majority of cases by a partner or ex-partner, but also by a family member or carer. It is very common. In the vast majority of cases it is experienced by women and is perpetrated by men”.
However, men are victims of domestic abuse also!
This type of violence known as 'controlling or cohesive behaviour' is now a criminal offence' (please see this BBC article) which can carry unto 5 years imprisonment. This type of abuse can be physical or psychological or both and has far reaching implications for the victim/s, it can be threats, humiliation, intimidation and/or physical attacks. This type of controlling and coercive behaviours limits the rights of the victim for example if your access to money is restricted, destroying or throwing out your things, making you do things you don't want to do, shouting you down, punching walls or making angry gestures or threatening to harm or kill you to frighten you. This can and does escalate very quickly, especially if this unhealthy behaviour is being used within misuse of alcohol or drugs since misuse lowers a persons inhibitions and they can quickly lose control of their self which in turn affects how they will relate to others.
This type of behaviour is seen in patterns and cycles the person who utilises such behaviour is targeting the victim's equilibrium, self-esteem and self-confidence to keep control, create dependency and co-dependency. This is a very isolating experience for victim/s and many dynamics are being played out in its complexities, the victim may blame their self after being worn down, however the "brain can work against victim/s" please see more on this here. The victim is not blameworthy for staying, there are many blocks in place which stops the victim/s taking control and having the energy and means to leave.
Domestic violence does not discriminate across society anyone can become a victim of domestic abuse.
Being none judgemental and listening to victim's can help the victim clarify their personal position and clarify if, what, how, when of what they want to do about the situation if anything. It is imperative the victim/s is empowered to take back control in their own time unless in danger, otherwise they still don't get to chose and it may seem like swopping one controller for another, however well intention the helper is.
The clients empowerment, autonomy and choice is vital for lasting recovery and healing.
However if victim/s or children are in danger from physical and/or violent attacks in the immediacy of any situation or you yourself are in immediate danger of being attacked then call the police on 999
Abuse can be found in same-sex partners or heterosexual relationships, intimate relationships such as those being cared for by others such as carers and children and family pets may also become involved as the one controlling uses them to emotionally blackmail and control the victim/s.
Why does it happen?
Domestic violence happens when one person believes they are entitled to abuse another, that it is acceptable, justified or unlikely to be reported by the victims. Children who grow up in families who sees violence against another family member may come to believe this is the norm and this produces intergenerational cycles of abuse and violence.
This is a very complex state to find ones self in; because it takes place in families or familiar relationships people may not recognise they are either victim/s of abuse or perpetrator/s of abuse, (intergenerational cycles). Thoughts which might be consider go a bit like this "its just our family's normal", “it’s just a family conflict got out of hand” or excused as ”a bad temper” "flare up", its just the way our mam, dad, brother or sister is" or even “I deserved it because I have a smart mouth” or said "something the abuser didn’t like", "if I didn't act like that I wouldn't have got a slapping".
This is how victims minimise, excuse and blame their self for the unhealthy behaviours of another, perpetrators will more than likely say the same or similar things to victim/s in order to blame the victim/s and exonerate their self of the unhealthy behaviours. However, it is not 'normal' or healthy behaviour to be used, emotionally blackmailed, physically hit by someone who says they love and care for you, its not the 'norm' and it's not love, tough or otherwise!
In family’s, patterns of behaviours build very quickly and they will be fetched with the abusive partner into the marriage or partnership and may have been there all along. Both the victim/s and the perpetrator can be supported to change their patterns of behaviours once it is recognised and once safety has returned for all concerned.
Is a child to blame for being raised in a family which utilises unhealthy coping mechanisms and unhealthy behaviours, then grows into an adult who follows the family of origins norms?
Cycle of abuse:
Phase 1 - Tension builds – the abusive partner become irritated and increasingly angry from the pressures of daily life or other conflicts say at work so when the abuser comes home the partner may only have to look at them in a way the perpetrator doesn’t like, and wham bang take that marm! The stress could even be from the drive home that didn’t go so well or even if the abuser has had one to many. Communication between the pair breakdown the abusers tension affecting the way they think and the victim knowing what’s coming next; walks on eggshells and in an attempt to reduce the tension and thus avoid any further escalation comply to the abuser in order to avoid conflict. The victim may also blame themselves and excuse and minimise what is happening.
Phase 2 - Abusive event/acting out – If the victim hasn’t been able to placate the abuser then violence will ensue this might be in minor form of verbal abuse, name calling, derogatory remarks to blaming the victims for their personal feelings or actions, emotional abuse such as “you’re useless’ to ‘what good are you, you’re a waste of space’. Until the battering commences in anger, intimidation, threats of leaving, taking the children, hurting the pets or ‘I’ll hit you in a minute, if you don’t shut up’ to hair pulling, punching, burning, slashing with a knife, rape or sexual abuse and in some cases killing a partner or child in a fit of rage. This phase can last a few hours to days or even weeks and the victim will do whatever it takes to survive including seeking help from family, friends or police!
Honeymoon Phase 2 – This phase is when the abuser is sorry for what they have done and tries to make up for the incident, asks and begs for forgivingness, might even get down on their knees crying, screaming, wailing how sorry they are. They look like they really are sorry too they can be very convincing in this phase. They will go out of their way for the victim to make up for their behaviour or offer more emotional abuse with self-harming or threats of suicide because of their bad behaviour, victimising themselves. This is so the victim doesn’t tell or leave. The victim will be showered with gifts, love and affection, promises of ‘I’ll never did it again’ or ‘I’ll change I promise’ But the promises are false just to placate the victim in that here and now. All this does to the real victims is confuse them and offers false hope that the relationship will improve so they stay waiting for the time when the relationship matches the picture they have of co-habiting, marriage or enjoying a mutually loving relationship.
Phase 4 Calm – this phase will see the chaotic relationship dynamics resting, abuse will have slowed or stopped, and the abuser may carry on asking for forgiveness and making positive gestures that might even look like they are changing or even promise to go get help. This is usually the longest phase although gets gradually shorter over time along with the gestures which quickly reduce in genuineness and we will see them fade out all together as tension builds and the whole cycle is acted out again and again and again. Often increasing in frequency and severity over time if nothing is done to stop it.
Effects of Domestic Violence
Red or purple marks on their necks
Burns on forearms or neck and face
Sprained or broken bones
Shortness of breath
Patches missing from hair
Pregnancy after pregnancy
Unkempt or well groomed
Thick make up to cover bruising
Wearing inappropriate cloths for weather or occasion
Pensive facial expression
Or scared facial expression
Shame and ashamed
Inability to trust
Jealousy of others seeming having a ‘normal’ life.
Comfort eating/gaining or loosing weight
Random panic attacks
Mental Health issues
People who live in domestic violent relationships, who are created victims, may need to recognise the trauma they are/have experienced and the great courage, strength and resourcefulness they have inside to stay or leave such a situation. To utilise coping strategies to survive each and every day they stay.
It’s not just a matter of leaving there are many blocks to leaving which can put victims in danger when they leave from the abusive partner, especially if they have threatened to kill themselves or the victim/s.
The victim is dammed if you do and dammed if you don’t
If you are a victim of domestic violence and/or abuse and wish to explore your coping skills and gain support in a safe, non-judgemental space please contact me and together we will find your empowered path forward.