Domestic violence or abuse can be more than broken bones and black eyes.
What about the harmful behaviours – psychological and emotional abuse – that aren’t always talked about?
Presently, the technological revolution has opened up new ways for abusers to dominate, intimidate, and control the people in their lives through manipulation, cyber-stalking, and emotional blackmail.
Examples include insults, threats and sexual coercion. Some perpetrators may even use children, pets, or other family members as emotional leverage to get the victim to do what they want.
This, in turn, results in diminished self-worth, anxiety, depression, and a general sense of helplessness that can take time and often professional help to overcome.
However, noticing and acknowledging the signs of an abusive relationship are key steps to ending it. If you are being subjected to domestic violence, there are many organisations that can offer you help.
What Is Domestic Violence
Domestic violence is a pattern of controlling behaviour used to maintain power in a relationship by one partner over the other.
Domestic violence can also be described as a willful intimidation or any form of abuse which include physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, psychological abuse, economic or financial abuse.
Globally, domestic violence is an epidemic affecting individuals in every community regardless of age, economic status, sexual orientation, gender, race, religion, or nationality. And this includes any attempt by one person in an intimate relationship or marriage to dominate and control the other.
In addition, domestic violence includes intimidation of a dependent, interference with personal liberty and willful deprivation of medication, medical care, shelter, food or other assistance of an elderly or disabled person.
Abuse may begin with behaviours that may easily be dismissed or downplayed such as name-calling, threats, possessiveness, or distrust. Abusers may apologise for their actions or try to convince the person they are abusing that they do these things out of love or care.
Types of Domestic Violence/Abuse
- Physical Abuse
- Sexual Abuse
- Emotional Abuse
- Psychological Abuse
- Economic Abuse
- Verbal Abuse
- Cyber Stalking
- Spiritual Abuse
Physical abuse is the most recognizable form of domestic violence. It involves the use of physical force against another, thereby causing injury.
Examples include hitting, shoving, grabbing, biting, restraining, shaking, choking, burning, forcing the use of drug/alcohol, and assault with a weapon.
Physical violence may not result in an injury that requires medical attention. However, physical abuse/violence starts gradually with just a simple slap most times. Although the injury is minimal, the slapping would constitute domestic violence.
Sexual abuse is another common form of domestic violence. It is the violation of an individual’s bodily integrity (sexual assault), including coercing sexual contact, rape and prostitution, as well as any unwelcome sexual behavior (sexual harassment), including treating someone in a sexually demeaning manner or any other conduct of a sexual nature, whether physical, verbal or non-verbal.
Sexual abuse also includes behaviour which limits reproductive rights such as preventing use of contractive methods and forcing abortion.
Emotional abuse involves the destruction of the victim’s self-worth. Example of emotional abuse includes persistent insult, humiliation, name calling, embarrassing, mocking or constant criticism. Emotional abuse can be a difficult type of domestic violence for many people to understand, since, on the surface, it appears to be quite common in unhealthy relationships.
In most states, emotional abuse is not enough on its own to bring a domestic violence action unless the abuse is so persistent and so significant that the relationship can be labeled extremely coercive.
Typically, evidence of emotional abuse is combined with other abuse (physical, financial, sexual, or psychological) to bring a domestic violence action.
Intimidation, threats of harm and isolation. Examples include instilling fear in an intimate partner through threatening behaviour such as damaging property or abusing pets, constant supervision or controlling what the victim does and who they talk to.
Further, spiritual abuse may be included as a type of psychological abuse. It involves the misuse of spiritual or religious beliefs to manipulate or exert power and control over an intimate partner. For example, using scripture to justify abuse or rearing the children in a faith or religious practice the partner has not agreed to.
Making or attempting to make the victim financially dependent on the abuser. Examples of this include preventing or forbidding an intimate partner from working or going to school, controlling the financial resources and withholding access to economic resources.
In most cases, the victim is completely at the abusive partner’s mercy. The abusive partner may withhold money for food, clothing, and more. If children are involved, this can overlap with neglect.
Verbal abuse is a key feature of emotionally abusive relationships. The perpetrator consistently makes statements that negatively label a person. This has a serious impact on the self-esteem and confidence of the person experiencing the verbal abuse.
Verbal abuse includes angry yelling but it also includes cold statements designed to humiliate a person. Verbal abuse includes name-calling, continuous criticism, swearing and humiliation in public or in private, attacks on someone’s intelligence, body or parenting, yelling.
Stalking happens when a person intentionally and persistently pursues someone against their will. The stalker does this to control, intimidate and create fear in the person they are stalking.
The person being stalked may feel like they are in danger. Stalking limits a person’s freedom and makes people feel they have lost control over their lives.
Some people who have been stalked are forced to change their lives, including by moving house and changing jobs. Anyone can be a victim of stalking.
Spiritual domestic violence involves preventing you from having your own opinions about religion, cultural beliefs and values. It may also involve manipulating your thoughts on spirituality in order to make you feel powerless.
Spiritual abuse can happen when a partner misrepresents spiritual or tribal beliefs to get you to do something you don’t want to do. A spiritually abusive relationship restricts a person from honoring their spiritual side or religious beliefs or may force someone to abandon their beliefs entirely.
Signs Of Domestic Violence/Abuse
- They unfairly and regularly accuses them of flirting or being unfaithful
- controls how them spends money
- decides what they wears or eats
- humiliates them in front of other people
- monitors what they are doing, including reading their emails and text messages
- discourages or prevents them from seeing friends and family
- threatens to hurt them, their children or pets
- physically assaults them (hitting, biting, slapping, kicking, pushing)
- yells at them
- threatens to use a weapon against them
- constantly compares them with other people
- constantly criticizes their intelligence, mental health and appearance
- prevents them from practicing their religion.
- Makes them feel like they can’t make decisions
- Sexually mistreats them, or pushes them into sexual acts they are not comfortable with
Family and friends can also help identify abuse by addressing changes in a loved one’s behaviour such as:
Inconsistent explanations: Victims may provide different excuses for the causes of their injuries due to fear of alerting others to the severity of their situation.
Alcohol abuse: Victims may use alcohol or other substances as a means to escape from their everyday reality of abuse.
Visible injuries: Bruises are the most common form of injury and turn purple to green to yellow as they heal.
Causes Of Domestic Violence
Domestic Violence or abuse may start when one partner feels the need to control and dominate their partner because of low self-esteem, extreme jealousy, difficulties in regulating anger and other strong emotions, or when they feel inferior to the other partner in education and socioeconomic background.
Some people with very traditional beliefs may think they have the right to control their partner, and that women aren’t equal to men. Others may have an undiagnosed personality disorder or psychological disorder. Still others may have learned this behavior from growing up in a household where domestic violence was accepted as a normal part of being raised in their family.
A partner’s domination may take the form of emotional, physical or sexual abuse. Studies suggest that violent behavior often is caused by an interaction of situational and individual factors. That means that abusers learn violent behavior from their family, people in their community and other cultural influences as they grow up. They may have seen violence often or they may have been victims themselves.
Also, alcohol and drugs may contribute to violent behaviour. A drunk or high person will be less likely to control his or her violent impulses toward a partner.
No cause of domestic violence, however, justifies the actions of the abuser, nor should it be used as a rationale for their behaviour.
These possible causes are only to better understand why an abuser believes it is acceptable to abuse a partner physically, sexually, psychologically or emotionally.
Ultimately, abusers need to get help for their unhealthy and destructive behaviour, or find themselves living a solitary and lonely life.
The Cycle Of Violence In Domestic Abuse
Abuse: Your abusive partner lashes out with aggressive, belittling, or violent behaviour. This treatment is a power play designed to show you “who is boss.”
Guilt: Your partner feels guilt after abusing you, but not because of their actions. They are more worried about the possibility of being caught and facing consequences for their abusive behavior.
Excuses: Your abuser rationalizes what they have done. The person may come up with a string of excuses or blame you for provoking them anything to avoid taking responsibility.
Normal behavior: Your partner does everything in their power to regain control and ensure that you will stay in the relationship. A perpetrator may act as if nothing has happened, or they might “turn on the charm.” This peaceful honeymoon phase may give you hope that the abuser has really changed this time.
Fantasy and planning: Your abuser begins to fantasize about repeating the abuse. They spend a lot of time thinking about what you’ve done wrong and how they will make you pay for it. Then they form a plan for turning the fantasy of abuse into reality.
Set-up: Your abuser sets you up and puts their plan in motion, creating a situation where they can justify abusing you.
Your abuser’s apologies and loving gestures in between the episodes of abuse can make it difficult to leave. They may cause you to believe that you are the only person who can help them, that they will change their behavior, and that they truly love you. However, the dangers of staying are very real.
How To Prevent Domestic Violence
1. Know The Signs
Domestic violence can happen to anyone white, black, young, old, rich, poor, educated, not educated. Sometimes violence begins early on in a relationship and other times it takes months or even years to appear. But there are generally some warning signs. Be wary of the following red flags listed above an abuser may exhibit at any point in a relationship.
2. Be Alert
Signs that show your partner can resort to Domestic Violence. These include mood swings that are unpredictable, Jealousy, a controlling behaviour or explosive behaviour and lastly when he is making threats such as, I will kill you or beat you up. You can pick up these signs even before marriage. I have seen it even among teenage relationships. They are often short tempered, lack of respect and even alcohol abuse. You should not feel like you need to stay in a abusive relationship. You need to cut ties as soon as possible.
3. Maintain Healthy Relationship With Your Partner
If you have any concerns or problems on domestic violence, you need to help yourselves through counselling or to ask help from friends or family members. Not dealing with these issues will only make it more difficult down the road. You need to be able to address your issues together and in a civilized manner. But this is only when there is a disagreement not after he has abused you.
4. Won’t Take No For An Answer
Anyone who won’t accept no for an answer wants to control the other person which will definitely resolve to domestic violence. Way too often, once a man says no, the discussion is over. So before you say i do while walking down the aisle ensure you are so sure of your partner attitude and behaviour, so as not to be abused later in the marriage.
5. Symbolic Violence
This involves destroying items of value to the other person in the relationship or that are symbolic of the relationship itself. The intent here is to intimidate the other person and cause emotional distress. Tearing up wedding pictures, destroying personal belonging, or even abusing a beloved pet are all red flags.
How To Get Safe From Been Abuse
- Tell someone you trust about the abuse. Choose individuals who will respect your decisions and who can listen without telling you what to do. You might want to ask them to just listen so that they don’t feel pressure to solve the problem for you.
2. You may need to plan some next steps. Those steps should be realistic. You are the expert in your own life and the best person to decide what you can do to set limits and to increase your safety.
3. If you are afraid the situation will get worse, make a safety plan that includes where you can go in an emergency and what you will take with you. Think about where you will stay and how you will get there.
4. Consult a lawyer or legal service about your rights and options (your local seniors’ organization can help you find a lawyer or service).
Keep track of your financial statements and other legal documents. Talk to your bank about how to protect your assets.
5. Visit your local library, health or community centre to find out information about other services that are available to support you. If you live with the abusive person and want to look for services on your home computer, be sure to cover your tracks by erasing the history.