Wednesday, March 19, 2008

What is domestic violence?

Domestic violence is defined as a pattern of behavior in any intimate relationship where one person aims to gain or maintain power and control over the other person through abusive means. Abuse can be one or a combination of the following: physical, sexual, emotional, economic or psychological. This includes any behaviors that is meant to frighten, intimidate, terrorize, manipulate, hurt, humiliate, blame, injure or wound the other person. The act is abusive because these are delivered without the consent of the other partner and is repetitive. It can happen between partners in a romantic relationship or between an adult and a child.

The behavior of partners in a domestic violence situation is described as a cycle of violence. It is cyclical in the sense that episodes of conflict which may or may not include physical violence is followed by peacefulness and forgiveness, then followed with the same conflict that preceeded the calmness. The repetitive cycles may involve verbal altercations, physical violence or mental manipulations. In most cases, it doesn't start with physical abuse as much as it starts with verbal put downs that can erode the victim's self confidence and sense of self-worth (emotional abuse). Physical abuse can start with the abuser inflicting harm on persons close to the intended victim (like their own children) or the family pet; before physical harm is inflicted on the original intended victim. Yelling, screaming, breaking furniture, punching walls, shoving, grabbing, hitting, choking, punching or sexual attacks can add to the erosion of one's self-worth, resulting in continuity or repetition of the violent cycle. Usually the victim isn't sure why the other person is mad or even what triggers the anger. And the angry partner blames the victim for causing anger. After the escalation of violence comes the apology, a stage of forgive and forget, and promises that it will never happen again. Things are better for awhile until the cycle resumes.

What are sign of domestic violence? Does your partner:
  • Criticize and degrade you?
  • Is jealous and possessive?
  • Controls every aspect of your life?
  • Isolates you from family and friends?
  • Controls your finances?
  • Threatens to hurt or kill you, your children or your pet?
  • Becomes violent and then blames you?

If the situations repeat and each episode of violence leaves you confused and helpless, and wanting for resolution; seek help. The manner by which abuse is inflicted can escalate from emotional to physical. The harm inflicted by your abuser can be directed towards others you value so highly: your children, your relatives, close friends and your pets. Seek help through counseling and find ways to protect yourself.

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