Domestic Violence: It is not in your head

We have often heard stories of domestic violence all over the news, whether it is famous celebrities being charged with domestic violence, or disheartening news about occurences of domestic violence across the globe, and often wonder what it would be like to have a partner that is an abuser. It is one of the most difficult situations to be in, as there is a sense of danger, fear, and helplessness, where there seems to be no way out. 

We often wonder why people put up with acts of domestic violence, but being in the spot is more complicated than one thinks. There is a constant state of emotional manipulation where the abused is made to feel guilty, and made to think that he or she is being abused because it is their fault. Along with this, there is the cycle of domestic abuse, which itself is another manipulative device used by domestic abusers to make you believe that they will change.

This blog covers the many different tangents of domestic violence, and what to do if you are caught in a relationship that is abusive.

What is Domestic Violence?

Domestic Violence is an act of aggression, harm or violence directed from a romantic partner to their significant other. While the first thing that jumps to our head when we think of domestic abuse is physical violence. However domestic violence can also include emotional manipulation, psychological abuse and sexual abuse as well. These relationships always have an element of an imbalance of power, where one dominates and controls the others. This power imbalance is maintained through degradation, insults and physical intimidation. 

See the Signs

Some people may find it difficult to identify domestic abuse or see the pertinent signs that domestic abuse may happen to them, and this is understandable, as no one would usually expect their partner to harm them in any way. The abuse starts gradually and only grows more with time, which may make it seem even more confusing. Here are some acts that may show that you are in an abusive relationship:

  1. Your partner constantly insults you verbally, swears at you, calls you derogatory terms and more.
  2. Consistently tries to control aspects of your life that should be independent such as the food you eat, the money you spend, the clothes you wear and much more.
  3. Does not allow you to go out without his permission and dictates who you can go out with.
  4. Is unhealthily jealous and over possessive, due to the fact that there is a lack of trust.
  5. Has large anger outbursts directed towards you through displacement from other events in the day.
  6. Shows high levels of aggression when drinking alcohol or using substances.
  7. Consistently threatens you with acts of violence, and may involve weapons.
  8. Performs acts of physical violence in many forms, due to frustration.
  9. Blames you for the acts of abuse and attempts to make you feel guilty. 
  10. Sexually abuses you and forces himself upon you without consent.

An important factor to note as well, is that like said above, the abuser will try and make you feel like it is your fault that they are abusive towards you. Now this may be done in many ways, one where they try to make you think that you do not understand them, and that is why they lash out at you. They also may treat you very well in front of other people, which may further plant the idea in your head that the abuse is due to something you do when you both are alone. They may also consistently use emotional blackmail and guilt tripping tactics, to make you believe that having reasonable expectations and boundaries is what is leading to abuse. Finally, there may be some self doubt which arises when you also act out and attack the partner back, and may feel that you are the part of the problem, however you should understand that you are simply acting in self defense. A key point to also consider is the fact that the perpetual cycle of abuse is what makes victims even more doubtful of whether what is actually happening is a domestic abuse issue.

Nothing ever changes: The Abuse Cycle

Domestic Abuse usually goes in a cycle, only where the cycle becomes more and more abusive and hurtful over time, leading to a physical as well as an emotional toll on the victim. The cycle usually goes like this:

  1. Your partner gives you threats of physical violence
  2. Your partner strikes you
  3. Your partner realizes what he has done, attempts to justify it and then apologizes, promising to never do it again, and maybe even gives you gifts as an apology
  4. Your partner goes through this cycle over and over again, while it gets worse every time

This cycle is common to almost all relationships with domestic violence. There are always acts, following promises of improving, and the improvement is either not present or short lived. It is important to remember that the longer you stay in this cycle, the worse the emotional and physical toll will get. It is important to understand the cycle, and not get caught in it, as the illusion of improvement always traps people in abusive relationships, as they are usually blinded by the fact that this is a romantic relationship.

What should I do?
While the situation may seem very dire, or can make you feel scared or paralyzed to act, there are a few things that you could do to potentially break the cycle of abuse, and it involves getting help from external sources, as there is no point in trying to put up with an abusive partner. The first thing that you should do is create a safety plan, where you try to map out what you would do in an event of danger. A safety plan could involve elements such as:

  1. A place to go to if you need to in an emergency situation. This could be a close friend’s house, your family, or even women's shelters that take care of victims of domestic abuse.
  2. An emergency bag that contains important items that you would require for a quick getaway in an emergency situation. This bag could carry clothes, money, important documents, prescription medication and other items that you think are essential.
  3. A good list of all the contacts that you would need in an emergency situation. These contacts could be friends, family, women shelters, domestic abuse hotlines or authorities relevant to domestic abuse.
  4. Prepare a few code words with your friends and family, that you could use to notify them that you are in danger and that you need help.

This type of safety plan may leave you the best prepared to deal with a situation of domestic abuse in the best capacity, but you will still need external help in the form of friends, government figures and other help providers. Consider the following people when attempting to seek help:

  1. Emergency Law Enforcement: Consider phoning the local emergency or local law enforcement of your country. This may not always be possible as the abuser may be watching you make the call, so understand that local emergency hotline helpers are trained to understand code language. An famous example was when a woman called 911, and in an attempt to tell the police hotline helper she was being domestically abused, she appeared to be ordering a pizza, which the hotline dispatcher understood.
  2. Close ones: Calling close friends or family when you are in an emergency or are seeking help from domestic abuse is a good idea, as they are in the best position to give you immediate assistance.
  3. National Domestic Abuse Helplines: Consider calling a helpline designed to help individuals in need of help against domestic abuse.
  4. Mental Health Center: Counseling and support groups for people in abusive relationships are available in most communities.
  5. Domestic Abuse Crisis Centers: Look into local centers that take people with abusive relationships in.
  6. Non-Governmental Organizations: Many NGOs provide assistance to victims of domestic abuse, ranging from safety measures, to lawful procedures.
  7. Local Courts: The judiciary system of any county can help you attain protections through the enactment of laws or restraining orders.

Can I help someone? 

You may know someone that you think or suspect is a victim of domestic abuse, but you may not exactly know how to help or support them. Here are some ways that you can provide emotional support as well as support in the case of emergencies:

  1. Try to be there for them: Be open to having time for whenever the victim of domestic abuse wishes to talk about her problems.
  2. Be aware of the common warning signs: When someone is a victim of domestic abuse, there are usually telltale signs that you should look out for. These signs can be physical (Bruises, Sprains), emotional (constantly fearful, on edge, lower self esteem), and behavioural (becoming withdrawn, change in sleeping and eating patterns, substance abuse).
  3. Have a conversation: Once you realize that there may be signs of domestic abuse, it is important to try and talk to the victim by expressing your concerns. Assure the person that whatever they tell you will remain with you.
  4. Listen to their story with empathy and non-judgement: If the person chooses to speak, listen without passing judgement, or offering solutions. If you attentively listen, the person will most likely tell you exactly what they require. Allow the person to speak for as long as they want.

Domestic Violence may be an extremely difficult event to handle, whether you personally experience it, or a friend does. But always remember, no matter what the circumstances of domestic abuse are, it is not your fault. No one should have to love in the fear of harm. Please seek the help that you need and always remember, it is not in your head!


Posted 2 years ago