October – Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Hi Readers!

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Therefore, this blog post is to raise awareness about domestic violence. 

***Please note that the use of him/her/theirs is not used to stereotype. Abusers can be male, female, non-binary, etc. This statement is also applicable to the victims. 

What is domestic violence?

Domestic violence involves a dynamic in which one partner uses a variety of strategies to gain or maintain control over the other. Domestic violence is characterised above all as coercive control exercised in various spheres, but also by the frequency and severity of violent behaviour. Although it can be exercised by both sexes, studies show that it is generally experienced by women and perpetrated by men. Domestic violence is a chosen way to dominate the other person and assert power over them, and not as a loss of control.

Situational marital violence occurs during conflicts or ad hoc disputes between two partners and is said to result from an inadequate response to the stress, exasperation and anger resulting from conflicts in the couple. Situational violence can be minor or severe, frequent or isolated. Domestic violence is primarily defined on the basis of a set of violent acts between partners, whether criminal or not, minor or serious, without necessarily taking into account the context in which these acts are committed and the underlying motivations. This is attributable to the limits of the measurement tools used in these studies, which do not allow us to clearly define violence from a perspective of empowerment versus control. Studies conclude that this type of violence is generally more likely to be reciprocal and less likely to escalate and cause injury.

Domestic violence or an argument between a couple

It can sometimes be difficult to distinguish domestic violence from the quarrel. In all couples, in times of anger and frustration there can be hurtful words, disparaging comments and other aggressive behaviour. Usually these episodes are occasional and do not fit into a repetitive cycle in which one partner dominates the other.

We will talk about domestic violence when such acts are common and are part of the relationship dynamics of the couple. In addition, there may be the search for control and power over the other that will persist over time. The victim will not dare speak out or openly oppose their spouse for fear of said spouse’s reactions, consequences or reprisals. Fear and helplessness are important clues in distinguishing domestic violence from a couple bickering.

Here are the different forms of domestic violence as well as their characteristics and the ways in which it manifests itself:

Psychological violence• Difficult to separate from verbal abuse
• Subtle
• Difficult to detect by the entourage and by the victim
• Devaluation of the other
• Contemptuous attitudes and words
• Blackmail and implicit or explicit threats (suicide, kidnapping or killing children)
• Negligence
• Social isolation, control of going out and dating (relational control)
• Violence against objects and animals
Verbal violence• Often trivialised
• Most often accompanies other forms of violence
• Used to intimidate, humiliate or control others
• Sarcasms, insults
• Howls
• Degrading and humiliating remarks
• Blackmail and threats
• Suddenly responding orders
Physical violence• The most publicised
• Injuries often disguised as accidents
• Knocks and pushes
• Burns and bites
• Exercise physical restraint
• Homicide
Sexual violence• Often hidden due to taboos
• The least denounced
• Most often accompanied by other forms of violence
• Sexual assault and sexual touching
• Imposition of degrading acts or unwanted sexual practices
• Harassment, intimidation, manipulation or brutality with a view to having sex without consent
• Sexual disparagement
• Sexual and reproductive coercion
• Marital rape
Economic violence• Widespread, but little known
• Impediment to financial independence, even when the victim is employed
• Deprivation or control of financial and material resources (control budget and spending for basic needs, demand accountability, seize income, identity cards or passports, etc.)
• Control and supervision of economic activities
• Creation of financial dependence (eg ban from working)
• Excessive expenditure that jeopardises the family budget

The cycle of domestic violence

The cycle has four phases: tension, aggression, justification and reconciliation. This cycle sets in slowly and gradually. You can understand that this is getting dangerous, because it is also a way to manipulate and change the dynamics of the couple quietly without showing big changes. Partners who experience domestic violence experience fear, shame, guilt, doubt and helplessness.

The cycle is repeated several times with accelerating velocity. Manifestations of violence also tend to intensify over time and does sometimes end in spousal homicide. The more it is repeated, the shorter the phase of “reconciliation”, before it disappears all together.

The victims

Several factors make it difficult to break the cycle of domestic violence, including:

  • Fear of reprisals
    • They are afraid of threats made by their spouse. Some even fear for their own life and that of their children.
    • They are afraid of taking legal action, whether to denounce their spouse or to separate from them. They are afraid that the violence will increase. Many victims believe that the laws will not, following a possible separation, offer them adequate protection against the aggressor.
  • Social isolation
    • Through their controlling behaviours, the abuser often prevents their victim from maintaining relationships and contacts with relatives and friends. They denigrate people who could help or simply forbid their spouse from hanging out with them, leaving the victim without social resources and completely isolated. Some do not get the support of family and friends and do not know about victim support resources that can help them and their children.
  • Fear of judgment
    • They fear the judgment of family, friends and caregivers. They feel like we won’t believe them. They don’t feel the strength to face the comments.
  • The constant hope that the spouse will change.
    • The experience of violence in a romantic relationship is a traumatic and overwhelming experience. Because violent behaviour is accompanied by justification and making the victim the source of the problem, it becomes difficult for the victim to question the relationship. They also have hopes that things will change. They believe in their partner’s promises of change, hope that their love for him will change him. They believe it will change if they change their own behaviour.

Issues of separation in a context of domestic violence

Ending a relationship in the context of domestic violence is a long process that can have certain dangers. Studies show that separation is one of the most dangerous times for victims, as some spouses can become aggressive and put their partner’s life in danger. Separating from a partner with violent behaviour does not necessarily end the violence.

What makes them manage to leave the abuser

The final departure of a person experiencing spousal violence is a long process necessary to gradually loosen the hold the abuser has on their victim. It is often at the end of a long journey, marked by ambivalence, that victims manage to break the cycle of domestic violence. Experiencing the cycle of violence over and over often makes abused people ambivalent, not knowing whether to leave or stay. Often times, they leave to see if they can survive outside of the relationship. In some cases, they come back to see if the relationship can change. This evolutionary process helps lift victims out of the cycle of violence.

It takes an average of eight times for a female victim to leave her partner before leaving him permanently.

Main reasons that women permanently leave their abusive partners:

  • Knowing that there is help available for them and their children
  • Recognise the impact of domestic violence on children
  • The violence exceeds their critical tolerance threshold (threshold differs from one woman to another)

I hope this article has helped to shine a light on the issue of domestic violence and has made you more aware of what to lookout for. I will be putting out an article on some of the different resources available for victims of domestic violence. 

Be kind to one another

Julia, Sexologist 

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