More Information on Domestic Violence

 

General Effects of Domestic Violence…

It should be understood that with the physical and obvious results of domestic violence aside, domestic violence chips away at a person’s psyche. Violence is rarely obvious from the get-go in relationships and tends to happen gradually over time. The effects are sometimes subtle and become more and more obvious as times goes on. Women who were once confident and independent can often lose their self-esteem. A woman who once seemed fearless, can become more and more anxious and “jumpy.” Their optimism can fade, their trust may not come as easily as it once did, they may pull away from relationships that were once strong, they may become hopeless or easily angered. They may start seeing themselves as helpless and weak. Their world view can change. They may begin to see the world as dangerous and unpredictable. They may start seeing people as unreliable and untrustworthy. They may lose any trust in love.

 

Many victims of domestic violence share the following:

 

Denial of the Assault

“He just pushed me.” “We were arguing.” “This isn’t domestic violence.” “I am not a battered woman.” “It didn’t really hurt.” “He didn’t mean it.” “He said he was sorry.” “He swore it would never happen again.” “The children have no idea this is going on.” These are all things victims of domestic violence have said and do say to themselves and are things their batterers have said to them as well. They are much easier to believe than the fact their partner is abusive and is a very natural part of the process. It’s part of being human to not want to believe that a loved one is capable of abuse.

 

Blaming Oneself

“If I had only done what I was told to do.” “If I had not said or done that.” “Maybe my partner is right that my other relationships cause problems with us.” “If I just do better, this will never happen again.” “I have to do whatever it takes not to make my partner mad.” “Maybe I am a bad parent.” “The kids were really being rowdy and I did not control them very well.” These are all common comments that victims have heard themselves saying. Remember the abuse is NOT the victim’s fault!!! It is also common for the victim to try new techniques to try and please the abuser in hopes that the violence will not happen again. The victim may try something different every time for a while.

 

The Myth: Victims Provoke Violence

Surveys indicate seven out of ten people believe that some women provoke domestic violence and four out of ten believe abused women enjoy being beaten. It is a myth that victims “provoke,” “ask for it,” “enjoy or like abuse,” or “push the buttons” of the batterer!

 

Does a victim provoke their death when they are killed as a result of an auto accident caused by a drunk driver? Does an abused child scalded by his abusive father provoke this horrific abuse? Do we provoke a mugging simply by driving into a mall parking lot? Does a 2-year-old girl or boy provoke being raped or molested? Absolutely not! Then, how can we blame or say a domestic violence victim provokes, deserves or enjoys abuse?

 

The term provocation with regard to batterers implies some justification of the perpetrator’s behavior; if not justification, at least participation or contribution to the violence by the victim. To say the victim's behavior provokes their partner is to say they control their batterer or at least can prevent violence whenever they choose to. The domestic violence victim is expected to back down and change  behavior every time her choices may not meet the approval of the batterer. This is unfair and it doesn’t work. Many victims have learned to avoid battering by altering their behaviors to appease their partners. They “walk on eggshells, “ “read his moods,” etc. This victim-behavior just enables the victim further, learning self-sacrificing behaviors. The more the victim appeases and alters behavior, the more victim-habits are learned, eventually allowing her partner to control her own life. Furthermore, even the most accommodating victims can receive beatings with incredible severity.

 

Using the term, “provoke” also serves to permit batterers to see themselves as victims. What pain and crime are they enduring? What is wrong is that abusers think they are “always right!” The pattern is typical: abusers justify their violence, anger or unpleasant feelings by blaming the partner.

 

Nothing that anyone says or does justifies violence! One act of abuse never justifies another.

 

Seeking Help

Each individual will have a different approach to seeking help. Some will actively seek it and others may not. Some may actively seek help by going directly to a shelter or will call the police. Most often however, most victims of domestic violence will first seek help from friends, relatives, members of the clergy, etc. When inactively seeking support, the battered woman may be less careful to hide the abuse. She may not try to hide her bruises. She may refer to a “friend” who is being abused. She may simply read something about domestic violence. She may call the hotline. Battered women often try to gauge a person’s reaction to what they are telling them and then choose to seek help based on those responses. If she feels that she can trust that friend, relative, law enforcement agent or counselor, she is likely to reveal more.

 

Ambivalence

As a response to ineffective or inappropriate results from seeking help or because she feels overwhelmed by her situation, the battered woman may become more and more ambivalent to her situation and the thought of getting out. This does not mean that she does not care about the abuse or its effects on her or her children, but means she may simply be feeling powerless and unsure of what to do and how to do it. She is most likely exhausted physically, emotionally and mentally.

 

Use of Counseling to Make the Relationship Work

Those who do not truly understand the dynamics of domestic violence may encourage "couples counseling" or may encourage the women seeking counseling to seek treatment for her “hysteria,” “co-dependency,” or “depression.” Any counselor who recommends or puts these recommendations into practice should not counsel victims of domestic violence or their batterers and any victim seeking treatment from someone who recommends these options should go elsewhere for treatment. However, we should note here that not all counselors do this. Many, many, many counselors are very skilled at counseling victims of domestic violence and can be trusted. Many commonly practice providing separate counseling for the victim and the batterer and can be of great help in providing safety and good alternatives to the victim’s abusive situation. It should also be mentioned that even the best perpetrator intervention programs do not have a high success rate and cannot guarantee that a woman can be safe after her batterer seeks treatment for his abuse. Many women who stay in relationships after her partner seeks treatment may develop a false sense of safety.

 

The Victim Comes and Goes from the Relationship

It is very common for victims to leave and return to their relationships several times for many, many reasons. Nationally, it usually takes an average of 5 to 7 times for a woman to successfully leave her abusive partner. Each time they do leave and return, they learn what it will take to leave for good. They are actually empowering themselves each time they leave and building their confidence as a result. Some women may need to prove that to themselves and get a little bit stronger each and every time. So, going back and forth from her abusive partner should not necessarily be seen as a failure on her part. She has to teach herself again that she is strong and she can take care of herself and her children if she has them and that she does not really need him after all. If she is dubbed a failure because of changing her mind or indecision, she may not have the confidence or resources to do it next time and may not seek further help.

 

Ending the Relationship

This requires a lot of encouragement. A woman must be encouraged and empowered so that she can successfully end it. Remind her that she is strong enough, that there are resources available to her and that she is competent. A woman has a right in this society to live her life free from abuse. Do what you can to support that.

 

Living Without Violence

A woman may successfully leave her abuser for good the first time. There are women who have successfully done so. She may initially seek refuge in a shelter, with a trusted friend, with relatives or even by herself. However, to live free from violence completely usually requires living without the abuser ever and/or not having contact with him. A victim should do everything in her power to ensure her safety from him even when she thinks he will not come around.