Think you’re a victim of Domestic Violence?
Domestic Violence and Abuse (DVA) takes on many forms, some of which you may or may not have experience of. In this light, I would advise anyone reading this to take care of themselves; if you need to seek professional help check out some of the links contained below.
In this study, I will attempt to heighten awareness of DVA and its manifestations, and touch on the psychology of it. There may be a number of different theoretical models that can be used to understand how and why DVA occurs but rather than go too deeply into this side of things I will concentrate on statistical and psychological awareness of this delicate subject.
“I was grateful for whatever small mercies anyone bestowed on me, because I didn’t feel I deserved anything better and because I was so used to being ignored, deprived or taken for granted.” (Engel, 1990)
It may be helpful to use the terms “victim” and “abuser” although as we well know with our theoretical models these terms can mean so many different things to different people.
Framework – statistical awareness
Click for source (19.04.15).
DVA is viewed by “Woman’s Aid” as a type of violence that can be “physical, sexual, psychological or financial that takes place within an intimate or family-type relationship and that forms a pattern of coercive and controlling behaviour” (www.womensaid.co.uk).
It is believed that approximately 1 in 4 men and women experience DVA at some point in their lifetime, and that 1 in 8 to 1 in 10 women experience it annually (www.womensaid.co.uk, accessed 03.08). There are no defining factors with regards race, creed or colour. It is important to add that abusers can be male or female, but there is arguably slightly greater prevalence with male to female violence, and greater chance of male to female violence resulting in lethal harm.
Amnesty International believes that 1 in 3 women have been subject to abuse of one form or another throughout their lifetime.
The UK Reality
Click for source (19.04.15)
- Domestic violence accounts for nearly a quarter of all recorded violent crime in England and Wales
- One incident of domestic violence is reported to the police every minute
- One in four women will be a victim of domestic violence in their lifetime
- On average, two women per week are killed by a male partner or former partner. Nearly half of all female murder victims are killed by a partner or ex-partner
- The British Crime Survey estimates that approximately three-quarters of a million women (754,000) have been raped on at least one occasion since age 16
Many men and women choose to remain in abusive relationships for a number of mitigating factors. One of these can be due to powerlessness and yet another can be due to social factors such as children, extended families and many more. It would be wrong of me to suggest there is one feature that is applicable to all, and wrong to suggest that all abusive relationships have one typical pattern, although there are many common shared features.
The cost of DVA
In monetary terms, DVA is suggested to cost society nearly £23 billion annually. This includes cost to the state as well as cost to employers and human suffering.
It is vitally important that we consider the ripple effect of DVA which can involve children – either from the relationship, or caught up in a DVA situation – ie. step or visiting children. Children witnessing DVA often end up being abused in turn which naturally will have repercussions and different knock on effects in the widest possible sense.
It is also important to bear in mind that the person responsible is the abuser, not the victim. They have a choice to stop. The victim also has a choice but may have that choice repressed or taken away in due to feelings of powerlessness.
Typically, DVA is a sign of a controlling relationship which induces feelings of repression and helplessness in a victim. The situation is very common among “romantic” partnerships, and is more often male -> female abuse, although as many may be aware is also prevalent female -> male. The main difference being that female – > male is less lethal.
The Classic Abuse Cycle
An emotional roller coaster ride that can wear down and deplete self-esteem.
The Tension-Building Stage:
The angry person becomes increasingly controlling during this period, which may take days, weeks, or even years to evolve and progress. Despite actions the partner takes, the abuser becomes increasingly remote, contemptuous, critical, preoccupied, or otherwise on edge. The tension and control increase until culminating in the abuse stage.
The Abuse Stage:
A major verbal, emotional or physically abusive incident occurs that was instigated by the abuser. A trivial event is often used to trigger the main event. The abuser actively looks for excuses to blow up over, and may set their partner up in a no-win situation. The victim is often left feeling hurt – and confused.
The Remorse Stage:
Once the blows are delivered, the abuser is calmed. Having blown off steam and regained composure, the abusive person is full of apologies and promises never to do “it” again. Therein follows a kind of “honeymoon” period prior to the next abusive situation recurring. And so the cycle continues until effective intervention takes place.
Sometimes leaving a situation doesn’t guarantee the ending of the DVA, and often once the victim has left the situation, this can result in the highest risk of violence.
DVA situations may need to be referred to experts, so an awareness of when to intervene needs to be assessed. There are situations where the victim or abuser needs counselling and support for his or her situation. If a counsellor is not equipped to do this, it is important to refer.
Psychological implications of DVA
Whilst appreciating abuse can affect all, regardless of age, creed, colour or race, this particular study is focussed on relationship abuse or domestic violence. Under the banner “domestic violence” are physical, mental, financial considerations, yet the overriding aspect is one of control.
The “abuser” takes the form of someone who has a need to control a situation or a person at all costs, and yet outwardly can seem the epitome of the “perfect” husband or wife. Arguments carried out behind closed doors will rarely be evident to the outsider, and if so, will be cleverly disguised in some form or other by both victim and abuser for different reasons. The victim – possible fear, and the abuser – possible loss of face (see slides for additional information).
The “victim” will somehow feel it is his or her fault, and yet there will sometimes be that “nagging feeling” at the back of their mind that something is not right, but then because it doesn’t always stack up with the majority of the “abusers” characteristics may well dismiss the feelings, especially if the “victim” has been used to criticisms and subtle forms of abuse from a young age, perhaps feeling they are not worthy and that the occurring abusive situations are somehow their fault.
In other words, DVA could be likened to a very clever worm; that plants itself surreptitiously into personal relationships and can often be undetected by either the trained or untrained eye with even the participants unaware of its existence until brought into conscious awareness. Perhaps it would be helpful to have some signs that may alert the antenna to the existence of DVA in a relationship.
Click here for a downloadable pdf
The abused woman:
- shows guilt, ambivalence, and fear over living conditions.
- feels isolated and untrusting of others, even though she may be involved in the community.
- is emotionally and economically dependent.
- has a poor self-concept (this may not have been true BEFORE the relationship).
- has observed other women in her family being abused or may have been abused as a child.
- feels angry, embarrassed, and ashamed.
- is fearful of being insane.
- has learned to feel helpless and feels powerless.
- has unexplained injuries that may go untreated.
The abusive man:
- shows extreme jealousy and wants to keep the woman isolated.
- has an inability to cope with stress and shows a lack of impulse control. (This may not necessarily appear outside the home)
- has a poor self-image and blames others for problems.
- shows severe mood swings.
- may have a history of abuse in his own family and may have been abusive in courtship.
- presents a history of personal and/or family discord; unemployment, cruelty to animals, abuse of alcohol or other substances, and other unexplained behaviour.
Men as victims – research also shows that men are almost as likely as women to experience different forms of abuse at the hands of a partner. The figure quoted is approximately 1 in 4 during their lifetime. It is widely accepted that the reason we have awareness in the first instance about DVA is due to women’s experiences and reporting. That said, it is also becoming more accepted that many men also experience domestic abuse with similar psychological manifestations of guilt, repression and a desire to make things better in the relationship even though they, much like women, are in a controlling situation that they can never really improve upon without expert intervention of one form or another.
Domestic abuse as illustrated above can take on many forms, but for reasons of brevity I will concentrate on the victim rather than the abuser.
The victim may well come from a long history of close critical relationships, such that their expectation is always that they need to try harder in order to please others. They may well be attracted to a strong, dominant other because that is part of their comfort zone and thus they can perpetuate the critical nature of close relationships. Abusers too are attracted in a similar sense to their “victim” because it is what they themselves have learned over the years; perhaps they had a dominant father who was abusive to their mother, or a younger sibling they could manipulate and control. Familiarity is arguably one of the keys here.
Stepping outside of the comfort zone is a difficult and uncomfortable thing to do, but that is one way in which the violence can be stopped with good intervention skills.
The victim will may feel that the arguments or abuse is his / her fault and abuse of this nature is often invisible to the outside world. The victim may well be in denial of the abuse a) because they are so used to it in their familiar circles, and b) they don’t want to admit to the outside world that their relationship is a failure. Maybe too if children are involved (and this is another vital aspect in terms of child protection), the idea of being a single parent can bring up in aspects of guilt and simple survival skills.
The abuser is, more often than not, adept at covering up signs of abuse and to the outside world might portray a charming side that belies any existence of abuse.
A clue is to ask the victim if they feel frightened. If the answer is yes, this opens up grounds for further discussions. Whilst this may well be a closed question, it can open up opportunities for exploration and see what intervention methods can be applied. Simple cases of talking through may help realise the implications of what is happening, but in cases of escalated abuse as a result of greater realising means that expert sources might need to be called upon. This is an incredibly delicate area and one to be alert to.
Some organisations where to get help and support:
¡ Women’s Aid: http://www.womensaid.org.uk
¡ Splitz: http://www.splitz.co.uk
¡ Hidden Hurt: http://www.hiddenhurt.co.uk
¡ Relate: http://www.relate.org.uk
¡ Victim Support : http://www.victimsupport.org
¡ Domestic Abuse: www.domesticabuse.co.uk
¡ MALE: http://www.mensadviceline.org.uk
I hadn’t appreciated how widespread domestic abuse is. The millions of others affected yearly by domestic abuse deserve better. How do we stop or prevent it? We cannot without a good deal of education among both the victims and the perpetrators of abuse, so it becomes a question of management. It can start in the family, and needs to stop being perpetuated. Children learn from their peers, let them learn tolerance patience and respect.
“The Emotionally Abused Woman”, B Engel, Random House Publishing, 1990 – ISBN 0-449-90644-2
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/devon/3085330.stm [accessed 19.04.15]
http://www.mensadviceline.org.uk/, accessed [03.03.08]
http://www.letswrap.com, accessed 19.04.15
http://www.safe4all.org/finding-help/research.html/, [accessed 19.04.15]
http://www.drirene.com/cyclesof.htm [accessed 19.04.15]
http://www.fremantle.wa.gov.au/home/List_of_News_and_Media/2013/October/White_Ribbon_Day [accessed 19.04.15]