Domestic abuse is an ongoing cycle. It is crucial for one to be able to recognize the red flags, be knowledgeable of the six types of abuse, as well as the three phases of abuse; by doing so, we can put an end to this vicious cycle. Domestic abuse is a shockingly common occurrence that isn’t discussed within our community as often as it should be. Domestic abuse is a pattern of behavior used to establish power, and control over another individual. It doesn’t happen overnight. It is a gradual process. Domestic violence can happen to anyone, regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or income. Men are victims of nearly 3 million physical assaults in the USA. Statistics show that 1 in 4 women experience domestic violence during her lifetime. Most incidents of domestic violence are never reported.
Recognizing the red flags can literally mean the difference between life, and death. When a person shows you who they really are believe them. While some red flags tend to be more obvious, others can be very subtle. For women, a good indicator is how a man treats his mother. More often than not, he will treat his significant other in the same manner that he treats his mother. Other reliable indicators are having a history of trouble with the law, getting into fights, and always being angry at someone or something. Does your significant other put down other people, including your family and friends, or call them names? Does he or she try to isolate you, and control whom you see, or where you go? Does he or she call you names, belittle you, and the like? Does everything have to be done their way? Does he or she confiscate control over your finances? Does he or she threaten to kill themself if you break up with them? Do they tell you to shut up, or tell you you’re dumb, stupid, or fat? These are all red flags, and shouldn’t be taken lightly.
Examining your relationship is an excellent place to start. Are you in an abusive relationship? How do you feel when you are in the presence of your partner? Do you feel afraid to break up with them? Do you feel tied down, or feel caged? Are you fearful to make decisions or bring up certain subjects just to keep the peace? Do you tell yourself that if you just try a little bit harder, and love your partner enough that things will change? Do you find yourself crying a lot, depressed, or feel as though you can’t do anything right? Are you afraid to disagree? Do you feel as though you are constantly walking on eggshells? If you answered yes to any of these questions you may be in an abusive relationship.
In order to be able to recognize abuse for what it truly is, one must become familiar with the types of abuse. There are a total of six types. These types of abuse are categorized as physical abuse, spiritual abuse, financial abuse, psychological abuse, verbal abuse, and sexual abuse.
Physical abuse is the most obvious type of abuse. Domestic violence is a violent confrontation between family members inflicting physical harm, and or fear of physical harm. Be it family or household members including spouses, former spouses, those currently in or formerly in a dating relationship, individuals related by blood or marriage, and those who have a biological or legal parent-child relationship. It is the intentional act of causing injury or trauma to another individual by the way of bodily contact.
A woman is more likely to be killed by a male partner or former partner than any other person. Around 4,000 women die each year by the hands of their abusers. The long-term effects of domestic violence are far reaching, and often devastating for victims. It goes way beyond the immediate physical injuries they suffer at the hands of their abusers. Frequently, domestic violence survivors suffer from an array of health problems, both physical and psychological. Chronic pain, insomnia, and post-traumatic stress disorder are only a few of the long term effects.
Studies show that 3-4 million children between the ages of 3-17 are at risk of exposure to domestic violence each year. While witnessing can mean seeing actual incidents of physical abuse, it can also mean hearing threats or fighting from another room. Children may also observe the aftermath of the physical abuse such as bloodshed, torn clothing, bruises, and tears. Children who live in households where domestic violence occurs tend to feel isolated, and vulnerable.
Common behavioral responses of children that witness domestic violence include acting out, emotional withdrawal, and anxiety. They may exhibit developmental delays in speech, motor, and cognitive skills. They may also display violent tendencies when expressing themselves to their peers or their mother. Children that live in domestic violent households are at high risk of being abused as well. Girls that witness domestic violence in the home are at high risk of choosing abusive partners when they enter adulthood. Likewise, boys that witness domestic violence are more likely to become abusers themselves, thus, continuing the vicious cycle into the next generation.
Spiritual abuse is classified as the misuse of scripture, and or spiritual authority in order to gain power, and control over another individual. Nothing about spiritual abuse is simple. It is very complex. Those who have experienced it firsthand know it is powerful enough to cause them to question their relationship with God, even the existence of God. It is a deliberate attack on your very soul.
In abusive marriages a spiritually abusive spouse will twist scripture to justify the abuse, claiming that it is God’s will that she submit to his treatment of her. The abuser twists, and warps scripture to suit his needs. It is manipulation at its finest, leaving the victim with a sense of unworthiness, shame, and hopelessness. It is a poison that slowly devours you on the inside, leaving you feeling spiritually dead. One of the many reasons why women stay with their abusers is, because they are made to believe that they would be sinning if they were to leave. It is ultimately a devastating form of bondage.
Financial abuse is a popular tactic that abusers tend to use in order to gain leverage, power, and control in their relationships. The forms of financial abuse may appear to be overt or subtle, but the tactic’s main goal is to limit their partner’s access to assets, withhold information, and to deny accessibility to the family’s finances. The abuser insists on taking control of their partner’s income, saying that it is necessary for whatever reason. For example, he or she may claim that it is more convenient for them to budget the family’s finances if they control all of the family’s income. Suddenly the victim finds she or he has lost all accessibility to their own money. Abusers also use this tactic to keep their partner from leaving. After all, without any access to money, and resources where would they go?
Psychological abuse, which is also called mental abuse or emotional abuse, is characterized by an individual subjecting another person to behavior that has a likelihood of causing emotional trauma, such as through the usage of insults, embarrassment, humiliation, threats, mind games, manipulation, lying, and disrespect. In many aspects, psychological abuse is more detrimental than physical abuse. While physical injuries can heal fairly quickly, the scars left behind from emotional abuse can potentially last a lifetime. Repetitive emotional abuse erodes one’s self esteem and self-worth over the course of time. Words are powerful. They can be healing, or they can be poison. If you are repetitively told you are stupid, worthless, ugly, unneeded, unwanted, and the like, you will eventually start to believe it. You then begin to lose sight of your true self, and self-worth. This now opens doors for you to experience other forms of abuse, because you lack self-love.
Verbal abuse is the deliberate use of language to undermine another individual’s self-esteem, self-dignity, and self-worth. It can be frightening, and overtly cruel; it can also be exceedingly subtle, yet just as devastating. Verbal abuse often involves yelling, bullying, name calling, cursing, and even threats of future domestic violence. This verbal aggressiveness is usually a precursor to physical abuse, so pay attention. When in doubt, ask yourself: Is he or she constantly judging, and or criticizing me? Does said person make subtle, unkind jokes at your expense, then says that they are only joking? Does he or she constantly undermine you? Does this person make you feel small, and insignificant? These are good examples of verbal abuse. Remember, where there is verbal abuse, physical abuse will soon follow. A good defense is to work on building a healthy, positive self-image based on self-respect, and self-love.
Sexual abuse is classified as the act of forcing or pressuring another individual into an undesired sexual activity. Know your rights. Arm yourself with this knowledge. Contrary to popular belief, a wife, or girlfriend doesn’t have to give her partner sex. It is not her ‘duty’ to do such. Likewise, a lady wearing tightly fitting clothing isn’t ‘asking’ to have sex, despite how revealing her clothing may be. It is her right to wear any style of clothing of her choosing without being expected to want sex. Never engage in intercourse without the other person’s consent. Remember, if the other person is under the influence of alcohol, drunk or intoxicated by any means, said person may not actually know what they are agreeing to. A partner has the right to change their mind before sex. They have a right to decline for any reason. They have a right to say, “No.” No means no.
Abusive relationships are a three phase cycle. In order to break this cycle, we must understand the phases. An abusive relationship typically goes through three general phases, each with their own unique set of characteristics. These phases are categorized as the Tension Building Phase, Acute Battering Phase, and Honeymoon Phase.
Domestic abuse doesn’t happen overnight. It is a gradual process. You meet someone new. The two of you seem to really hit it off quite nicely, and there is an intense attraction between the both of you. The new relationship is exciting. He is clean cut, smells good, pampers, and spoils you. There are red flags present, however, that you may miss if you aren’t aware of what to look for. For example, he tends to call you every day, just wanting to check up on you. He tells you he loves you much too soon. Soon you find him picking your meals for you, and isolating you from your family, and friends. Your relationship starts to sour, and tension starts to build.
As you enter the Tension Building Phase, your partner becomes more controlling. He becomes condescending, and critical. Verbal assaults are thrown your way by the use of insults, putdowns, accusations, and the like. He may begin to interrogate you. Over time you tend to become more passive, while he becomes increasingly more oppressive. You may attempt to calm him down, or guess his next move. Minor battering incidents may occur. Soon, the tension reaches its climax, and it becomes unbearable.
The tension explodes, and the Acute Battering Phase begins. It is at this phase that you will most likely be hurt. The man may be unpredictable. Things that he had no issue with mere days earlier now set him off. His anger is relentless, and you are at his mercy. The man wants to teach you a lesson, and will stop at nothing until he feels as if you have learned said lesson. Once satisfied, the batterer then puts an end to this phase, and there is an unusual period of calm.
During the Honeymoon Phase the abuser often becomes kind, loving, and contrite, asking you for forgiveness. The man appears to feel shame, and guilt. His behavior is akin to that of a little boy who has done something wrong, and has been caught in the act. He showers you with gifts, and affection, promising that it will never happen again. A cloak of silence surrounds the two of you; both partners deny, and rationalize the battering. Neither of you discuss it with each other, nor with anyone else. This brief affectionate period that you experience becomes an increasingly important factor in the denial of the battering. The denial helps to convince you that the man really does love you, and that he will change. It isn’t long, however, that this loving behavior gives way to tension build up, and the cycle of abuse repeats itself.
Keep your eyes open. When someone shows you who they really are believe them. Don’t sweep what is happening under the rug. See the red flags as they are happening. Be knowledgeable of the six types of abuse. Acknowledge what is really happening. Admit that you cannot change your abuser, and that things will only continue to get worse. Do not give in to denial, and accept reality for what it truly is. Seek help. Get educated. Create a safety plan. Leave your abuser, and never take him back. Empower yourself with knowledge. Know your value, and self-worth. Love yourself, respect yourself, be kind to yourself, and never be with anyone that treats you otherwise. Never settle for being mistreated, for you deserve so much more. By doing so you will set yourself free from the shackles called the cycle of abuse.