“He reached across the kitchen table, choked me and dragged me across the floor. It felt like he almost broke my spine. He screamed at me, said that I am fat and ugly and stupid and beat me in the face. I was so upset, I had to lock myself in the bedroom and couldn’t go to work, because I knew he would be there.”
This is a text message I received yesterday from a person in my immediate social environment. Until this point I was in the fortunate position of being to say that I never experienced major forms of abuse in any of my past relationships, and had never been confronted indirectly with it through friends or family members.
Domestic violence or living in an abusive relationship always occurred to me as something removed from my life, a fact I would deal with only as a research topic for university. Reading this text message and sensing the despair, sadness and helplessness of the abused, domestic violence suddenly assumed significance in my life. This has led me to dig deeper into the different forms and patterns of abuse as well as risk factors, consequences and possible ways to withdraw from interpersonal violence in relationships.
Individual Risk Factors
Factors such as being involved in stable and supportive social relationship,s and being financially and socially independent from your partner, seriously reduce the risk of experiencing domestic violence. On the other side, there are a number of facts increasing this risk:
- Being female (approximately 85 % of the survivors of relationship violence are female, while there are a high number of unreported cases among men. Currently, there are also studies carried out concerning violence in relationships within the LGBTQ spectrum)
- Living with a physical or mental disability (persons with disabilities also run at a high risk to suffer from abuse by health care providers or caregivers)
- Personality characteristics (e.g. low self-esteem/insecurity, leading to emotional dependence)
- Young age (women ages 20 to 24 are at the greatest risk of experiencing violence within a relationship)
- Low educational qualification/unemployment, leading to financial dependency
- Prior experience of physical or psychological abuse (spiral of violence)
Forms of violence
Violence in relationships not only occurs in the form of physical assault – it is only the most obvious of the potential forms of violence. Instead, violence manifests itself in different, more subtle, forms that often arise in combination with each other. Non physical violence is not to be classified as “less bad” or less painful. Although there are no immediate visible injuries; its effects are as significant as of the other forms of violence.
Violence can be:
- Verbal: insulting, constant criticism, shouting, devaluations, threats
- Psychological/emotional: insults disguised as jokes, intimidation, permanent control, emotional blackmailing, prohibitions, twisting of facts, intentional denial (e.g. “I have never said that”, “I’ve never done this”)
- Social isolation, control/sabotage/prohibition of social contacts, confinement, disregard of privacy, spreading rumors/lies (e.g. “s/he is crazy/jealous)
- >Economic: control of finances, refusal of money, forbidden ownership of a bank account, sabotage of education or work, constant calls to the workplace
- Sexual violence: sexual pressure, coercion to sexual practices, unwanted touching
- Physical violence: confinement, pushing, spitting, violence against pets and objects, punching, kicking, choking/li>
Patterns of violence
The Power and Control Wheel was invented by the Domestic Abuse Intervention Programs (DAIP) in 1984 to visualise the cyclic pattern of violence in abusive relationships, and to describe the different dimensions of relationship abuse. It is important to again state that men (and transgender) individuals can, and are, also subjects of abuse, but that male-female relationships are the certain toxic mythologies about manliness contribute to this arrangement’s prevalence.
The results of violence
There are a number of different psychosomatic and psychological consequences of domestic violence, caused by a permanent state of alarm. Beyond the immediate consequences of the physical assault by the abuser, survivors tend to suffer from heart and circulatory problems, headache, digestive problems, back problems, and a general weakening of the immune system.
Psychologically, and alongside the primary effect of a minimised self-esteem, abuse can cause insomnia and nightmares, and, if experienced regularly, increases the risk of mental illnesses such as Depression, Burnout Syndrome and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
How to break the cycle
If you suffer from any of the forms of domestic violence and are not sure how to break the cycle of abuse and subsequent apologies, please be sure to tell the ones close to you about your experiences. This is the first step to regain a healthy self-image which has been and still is damaged by the abuser. It also makes it harder for the abuser to portray the abused as exagerating or making it up, should the abused seek help from the police.
Do not feel overpowered by shame – domestic violence, and living in an abusive relationship is never primarily your fault. Doing nothing about the situation, whether your relationship or one involving a friend or aquaintance, would be your fault. Please reach out for support and remember that you don’t have to deal with the situation on your own – friends and family would love to help if you make the first step, so talk to them about the abuse. Another step could be to call a hotline (e.g. the U.S. National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or TTY 1-800-787-3224), or to visit a crisis center to get expert help with crisis intervention and safety planning in a confidential and safe space.
National Network to End Domestic Violence: www. nnedv.org
Domestic Abuse Intervention Programs: www.theduluthmodel.org
The Power and Control Wheel: www.theduluthmodel.org/pdf/PowerandControl.pdf
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: www. cdc.gov
Office on Women’s Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: www.womenshealth.gov
Statistic Brain: www.statisticbrain.com/domestic-violence-abuse-stats
Domestic Violence Statistics: http://domesticviolencestatistics.org/domestic-violence-statistics
re-empowerment e.V. – Frauen gegen Partnerschaftsgewalt: www.re-empowerment.de