Domestic violence does not follow a linear pattern of progression. Instead, it consists of a number of behaviors that are likely to repeat and maybe even worsen over time.
WHAT IS DEFINED AS ABUSE?
Abuse can look like a number of things, not all physical.
Emotional abuse is used by abusers to attack victims’ sense of self. This includes abusers using degrading comments regarding the victim’s appearance, behavior, personality, and sense of independence. These comments can often include threats toward the victim’s well-being or the well-being of those close to the victim.
While physical abuse is often seen as being physically violent (e.g., hitting, throwing, scratching, etc.), it also includes nonviolent behaviors. These nonviolent behaviors include neglect and/or deprivation of basic human needs (e.g., food, shelter, water, and access to
Like other types of abuse, sexual abuse consists of a number of behaviors. This could include sexual assault, threatening sexual assault, holding sexual acts over one’s head, over-sexualizing an individual, seeing an individual as just a sexual object, or labeling someone with a degrading sexual label (e.g., whore, slut, prude, etc.). If the concept of sex or topics surrounding the subject are used in a way to degrade, oppress, or threaten an individual, this is considered sexual abuse.
Abusers use psychological abuse to make victims question their own realities, ways of thinking, emotions, and behaviors. After a victim has experienced psychological abuse, they are likely to think that they are irrational or “going crazy,” when in actuality, they are being manipulated to believe so by their abuser.
Guilt is complex in the concept of domestic abuse, because it is often felt by both parties (the abuser and the victim) but in different ways.
The guilt of the abuser
When an abuser begins to feel guilty for harming another individual, this often leads to them over-appologizing to the victim. This is likely not because they truly feel bad about their own actions, but more so because they are attempting to avoid facing the consequences of their own actions. Additionally, abusers may attempt to be overly affectionate to their victims after abusing them in an attempt to regain the victim’s favor, making it easier to manipulate the later on.
The guilt of the victim
Following the abuse, victims may begin to feel guilty because their abuser has likely led them to believe that the abusive actions are consequences of the victim’s behavior. With this in mind, it is important to note that this is never true. No person deserves to receive such abuse, and it is not the victim’s fault that the abuse occurred in the first place.
Something that abusers often do is rationalize their own harmful behavior by placing blame on the victim or another third party (e.g., another person, being under the influence, a bad day, their past, etc.). This is another tactic used to avoid taking responsibility for their own actions and facing the consequences.
Often, the abuser normalizes their behavior out of avoidance of consequences. Abusers may attempt to normalize by pretending like nothing happened after they have been abusive. They may even put in extra effort to embody the individual their victim initially came to know and love. Victims may attempt to normalize out of shame, due to domestic abuse being a somewhat taboo topic in western cultures. If there are physical marks left on the victim after being abused, it is possible that some victims will try to explain them away to other individuals by claiming the marks occurred in a less taboo way (e.g., falling down the stairs, running into a doorway, etc.).
Domestic abuse can make victims feel like they are isolated, alone, and lost with nowhere to turn for help, but there are individuals out there who want to help and who are trained to help in such circumstances. The National Domestic Violence Hotline can be reached via telephone by calling 800-799-7233. Additionally, anyone can text “START” to 88788 to text with a professional. Both of these resources are available 24/7 and were established for the sole purpose of helping individuals living in abusive environments.
Attending therapy is also a helpful step to take when experiencing abuse and/or navigating the aftermath of abuse. Therapists are also trained professionals who keep their client’s best interests in mind and do everything in their power to ensure their safety and the safety of others. A therapist may be helpful in deciding what further steps to take to ensure one’s safety and will also likely be able to provide other resources to assist victims during their time of need. At Heartland Therapy Connection, their team of therapists are trained to do just that. To book an appointment or consultation, feel free to visit our website to schedule with a clinician.
No matter if the abuse has happened in the past or present, or even if one is unsure if they have experienced abuse, these resources are open and available for all individuals.