Why Domestic Violence Happens and How You Can Help Prevent It

Defining Domestic Violence

Defining Domestic Violence

Also known as domestic abuse, domestic violence (DV) involves two people in a relationship where one attempts to assert their domination over the other in a forceful manner. The way this control is asserted doesn’t necessarily have to be in the form of physical violence. Many domestic abuse cases also involve emotional leverage, where the dominant partner manipulates the other using fear, shame, or guilt to keep them under control.

While victims of DV are more prevalent with women, this type of abuse does not discriminate between gender, sexual orientation, age, ethnicity, or economic background, and it can be seen everywhere in society. In such relationships, there exists a cycle of abuse where the dominant partner abuses the other, followed by period of forgiveness, and then loops towards another act of abuse when a triggering incident pushes the abuser to justify their actions.

Types of Domestic Violence

The driving reason behind many DV cases is to be able to exert control over another’s partner in a relationship. This can manifest in various forms.

  • Physical or sexual abuse – Perhaps one of the most common incidents of DV that we hear about, this type of abuse occurs when physical force is used as a form of control. Similarly, sexual abuse forces an unwilling partner to engage in sexual acts that degrades their self-esteem and can lead to physical abuse when the domineering partner is denied intimacy by the other. The former case is clearly considered physical assault under the law and is a punishable crime.
  • Emotional abuse – There are many times that emotional abuse is often overlooked because there doesn’t seem to be any obvious manifestations in domestic abuse victims at first. However, emotional abuse can have can have long-lasting effects on a person’s mental health that can lead them to things like physically hurting themselves or even suicide. Even verbal abuse can be considered emotional abuse since acts like yelling, name calling, and verbal shaming are ways to control a person into submission.
  • Financial abuse – Another form of control can be exercised through a person’s finances. Financial abusers aim to gain control of their partner through their money—either by controlling their finances, withholding necessities like food and clothing, restricting or preventing their professional career choices, or outright stealing money from them. This forces a dependency to form with the abuser and their abused partner, basically sending a message that the latter cannot survive without the former’s financial aid.
  • Social abuse – This type of abuse can occur within a more open environment where the abuser deliberately humiliates and demeans their partner during a social setting or event. This prevents the victim from forming lasting relationships outside of their partner for fear of further abuse. Likewise, the abuser can completely isolate the victim from any form of social interaction and deny them any kind of support that they can receive from friends or family. This circle of isolation becomes the entire basis of the controlling relationship and can be quite oppressive for the victim.

Regardless of the type of DV, domestic abuse forms a tight-fisted ring of control between the abuser and their partner. There are many times that the domineering partner will downplay or will even deny their actions as a way to diffuse the seriousness of the situation. However, victims should learn how to recognize the signs of an abusive relationship so they can either get support or safely end their relationship before the situation escalates further.

Recognizing the Signs of Domestic Abuse

Recognizing the Signs of Domestic Abuse

Domestic violence is one of the most underreported crimes in the world, so it can be quite difficult for outsiders to see if something like this is forming between two people in a relationship. If you notice any of these warning signs, then it’s important to take them seriously and talk to them about it with the abuse victim.

Telltale signs of physical abuse are perhaps the easiest to spot. Bruises and small injuries on a person may be dismissed at accidents at first, but it’s important to note their behavior when talking about these injuries. If they tend to deflect or outwardly dismiss the topic, then there might be an underlying reason why they are averse to talking about the subject. Other typical signs of physical abuse include frequently avoiding work, school, or social events, as well as wearing concealing clothing to hide any injuries or bruises on their body.

There are also several behavioral patterns to look out for if you suspect someone is a victim of DV. These people will always tend to place their partner as the center of their attention, constantly trying to please them and even feel anxious if they go against their partner’s wishes. The DV victim will also make it a point to check in with their partner constantly, and they will also get frequent phone calls as well regarding to their location and current activities.

Finally, there are also psychological warning signs that can manifest in DV victims. Domestic abuse can take a massive toll on a person’s self-esteem and confidence. They will also exhibit signs of depression and anxiety, especially when the topic of discussion is their partner. This kind of mindset can slowly erode a person’s mental health and can even lead to suicidal thoughts.

If you notice any of these signs, you shouldn’t hesitate to speak up about it. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that this is none of your concern and it isn’t right to step in between a relationship. Expressing your concern to the victim is a good first step in letting them tell their story and possibly save their life.

Understanding the Cycle of Abuse

Understanding the Cycle of Abuse

One of the most difficult things of DV is that it is part of a cycle of abuse that is very difficult to break, especially if no one is there to intervene. There have been various theories explaining this cycle, but it is typically centered on these four different periods in the abusive relationship:

  • Period of Tension – Incidents that cause tension within the relationship happen during this time. It is these incidents that the abuser will use as leverage or justification against the victim once the period of abuse begins. To diffuse the situation, the victim may try to become more compliant with their partner. Alternatively, they may also do the complete opposite as a way to get the abuse over with.
  • Period of Abuse – Abusive behavior becomes prevalent during this period and is usually preceded by verbal abuse, leading to more severe types of DV (as listed above). Incidents during the period of tension are brought up and used to justify the acts of abuse to the victim.
  • Period of Reconciliation – After the release of tension from the abusive period is done, the abuser may feel some form of remorse over the act. There may also be feelings of fear behind this remorse since their partner may leave or call the authorities to intervene. In any case, acts of DV are non-existent at this point and the abuser will try to win back their partner by showering them with affection and ask for their forgiveness. All of this is to prevent their partner from leaving them and this usually convinces the victim to stay and improve their relationship.
  • Period of Calm – The relationship settles down during this period, and the incidents of abusive behavior are more or less forgotten at this point. However, it is also during this time that a cloud of negativity begins to form around the relationship. This can lead to a loss of love between the two partners and erode the relationship as a result. Eventually, relationship difficulties will begin to arise again and move towards a period of tension building that will repeat the cycle once again.

Without outside intervention, it can be very difficult to escape from this cycle since the victim may be lead to believe that the relationship is still salvageable. Victims of DV are advised to talk to their partner during the reconciliatory period and see if they can get professional help for their relationship.

Helping Others Who Are Experiencing Domestic Violence

One of the best ways in helping victims of DV is by becoming part of a solid support group that can encourage them during their time of need. Because isolation is part of the abusive cycle, it is important to always be there for both people in the relationship and see how they can work towards breaking the cycle of domestic abuse.

You can also help the community in general become aware of the dangers of DV by participating in campaigns and advocacy groups against domestic abuse. These organizations make it a point to hold events to raise awareness of DV. They also print campaign materials or make promotional materials like custom wristbands and t-shirts to help spread this message. Alternatively, these groups also accept donations that fund their DV-related campaigns and programs.

By devoting either time or money to this particular cause, you can make a difference in changing the lives of others who are experiencing DV.

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