Belittling, humiliation, beating, stalking, rape—these are all tragedies that occur with domestic abuse. Isolation, injury, depression, and low self-esteem are the direct results. Domestic abuse, also known as spousal abuse, is a serious problem in the United States. According to the American Institute on Domestic Violence, 5.3 million women are abused each year in the US, every nine seconds a woman is beaten, and every year 1,232 women are killed by an intimate partner.
Domestic abuse occurs when one person in an intimate relationship or marriage tries to dominate over the other in some way. Men and women can both be abusers; however, women are five to eight times more likely to be the abused. Despite what some may think it does not happen due to a lack of control on behalf of the abuser. Domestic abuse is a choice the abuser makes based on his need to exert power and control over his partner. For example, he often considers and even plans out scenarios for the next abusive encounter. He chooses to hurt his partner in areas where others will not see the bruises. He stops abusing to appear completely in control in situations where he might be caught.
Most often, abuse occurs in cycles and being familiar with that cycle may help you or someone you know escape from a bad situation. The cycle always begins with abuse, which can be psychological, physical, sexual, or economic. After the abuse occurs, the abuser feels guilt, but not about what he has done to his partner. His main concern lies with being caught. He rationalizes or makes excuses for what he has done, often accusing his partner of pushing him to do it.
In order to regain control over the relationship and keep his partner from leaving, he then reverts to “normal behavior.” He may pretend that he did nothing at all, or he may treat his partner like gold—causing her to feel that there really is hope for a happy life together. This is often referred to as the honeymoon phase. Once normalcy is reestablished, the abuser begins to fantasize and plan out the next time he will abuse his partner. He creates a plan, a set-up, which his victim will fall into so that he has what he thinks is a legitimate excuse to abuse her again. Then the cycle starts all over again.
There are many signs to look for that indicate whether you or someone you know may be a victim of domestic abuse. There are those based on inner feelings and those based on the abusive partners behaviors.
Signs of abuse based on your own inner feelings:
- Fear of partner
- Fear of angering partner
- Feelings that you deserve to be mistreated
- Feelings of helplessness
- Feeling that you are the crazy one
Signs of abuse based on abusive partners behaviors:
- Partner humiliates and criticizes you frequently
- Ignores you or makes you feel like your input is not valuable
- Blames you for his own abusive behavior
- Threatens to leave you
- Threatens to commit suicide if you leave
- Threatening to take your children away
- Acts overly jealous or possessive
- Controls where you are going and who you are going with
- Limits your access to money, or transportation
- Constantly checks up on you
If you or someone you know is a victim of abuse, the cycle can and must be broken. Nobody deserves to be mistreated, and help is available. The only way to break the cycle is to leave. Many women think that is impossible, but it isn’t. There are a lot of government or privately funded agencies that will help find shelter for women and their children as well as protect them from a dangerous partner. Other sources are 24-hour hotlines, shelters, legal services, and counseling. These services are often free. Always remember that if you are in a dangerous situation you can dial 911.
Domestic abuse is a terrible thing, but it’s important to remember that nobody has to endure it—and nobody ever should. It’s a condition that is growing ever prevalent in the United States and no two cases are exactly the same. It comes in many forms and each is painful, scarring, and immobilizing in its own way. If you are a victim or you suspect you know someone who is, then reach out and break the cycle right away.