Domestic violence is a situation where one partner is using violence and/or abusive behaviours to dominate and control his or her partner. Most victims of domestic violence are women whose domestic lives are dominated by fear and intimidation.
How does domestic violence present itself?
Domestic violence can involve different kinds of abuse:
- physical – any attempt to injure and/or physically limit a partner’s activities
- emotional – such as put downs, humiliation, playing mind games
- financial – taking money, attempts to make a partner dependent for money and survival
- sexual – attempting to force sexual activities on a partner
- social abuse – enforcing isolation by controlling what a partner does, who they see or talk to
It can include threats as well as actual violence, abuse or harassment. Stalking is a threat like this. Domestic violence often occurs in cycles which can take place over hours, days, months or years. A typical cycle involves tension, arising from the abuser believing they lack control of a situation or person. Fear is associated with this and it builds up to an incident or threat of violence. After this the person feels remorse and promises of change are often made. Both people in the relationship often experience a period of hope and high mutual dependency for emotional wellbeing after an incident. The nature of the cycle often entraps people in a false hope for change.
Domestic violence is destructive to all those affected - the victim, the children and the violent partner. It is now recognised that witnessing domestic violence is damaging to children’s development and well being.
What sorts of thoughts and feelings are victims of domestic violence likely to experience?
- sense of betrayal
- numbness or inability to care about their own safety
- blaming themself for the abuse or violence
- believing their partner's justification for the violence or abuse
- being fearful of what will happen if your partner is unhappy or angry, treading on eggshells
What can people do?
Sometimes veterans blame their war service or feelings about the war for their abusive behaviour but these feelings on their own DO NOT cause violence. Those who are violent and abusive must take responsibility for their own behaviour. This may mean taking responsibility for their own recovery from war-related stress.
If a person is experiencing domestic violence, it is important that they refuse to take the blame for it. There is no excuse for abuse. No one asks for it or deserves it. No one has to live with it. Everyone has a right to feel safe in their own home.
Often children, who grow up in violent homes come to believe that violence and abuse is normal, and may become abusive themselves or tolerate abuse from others. Some will develop problems around trust and intimacy in relationships.
Sorting out what you can do is difficult, particularly if there are children involved, but it will be worth it. Making the decision to leave or stay in a violent relationship is a difficult decision. It is normal to have conflicting feelings about the decision to stay or leave.
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