Over the years, I’ve come in contact when a number of women, men and children who have been affected by domestic violence in some way, shape or form. Not only have I come in contact with people and counseled people who were victims of abuse, I too, was affected by domestic violence. Without going too much into my story, I watched my mother get beat what seemed to me, to be daily, from the age of 5 to 8 years old. While she was getting beat, I was being molested.
We are victims. The term victim fails to give us survivors credit for our strength. Survivors of abuse are often very capable, strong, smart and usually women. According to Care, an international organization, 1 in 4 women will be victims, and intimate partner violence kills and disables as many women ages 15 to 44, the same as cancer, malaria, traffic accidents, and war combined. Devastating right? Make no mistake, men can be victims of intimate partner violence as well.
Before I get started on the signs of domestic abuse, I want to clear the air on some things. Abuse is not a low income problem. If you don’t know what I mean by that, it doesn’t just happen to poor people, or poor people of color. Survivors of abuse come from all walks of life, rich, poor, all religions, and ethnic backgrounds. Abuse is caused by perpetrators who typically have low self esteem, a tremendous fear of abandonment, or in my mother’s case, I remember her boyfriend saying “Well, my dad use to beat my mom and she took it.”
For the purpose of this article, I will use the female as the pronoun for the victim, and male for the perpetrator. Please, no one take offense. Let’s go into the 5 signs of domestic abuse.
- An Imbalance Of Power And Control
Abusers often feel sure the victim is going to leave them or have an affair. There is usually nothing the victim can do or say to make the perpetrator believe that they are being faithful. Right from the beginning, the perpetrator will begin to monitor when the victim comes home and when she goes. He monitors her conversations with her friends and family. He will claim to be worried about her, making her believe that her friends and family are jealous or don’t have her best interest at heart. At first, she is flattered by the attention, but later she becomes suffocated.
Suffocation will include repeated calls throughout the day and monitor of computer and cell phone usage. If you have a friend who is constantly in fear of returning home late or always on a time schedule when it comes to her partner, your friend may be in danger.
2. Intense Jealousy
Abusers are jealous of anyone or anything that has the victims attention, including their own children. As the jealousy increases, the victim begins to change her behavior in effort to avoid the verbal or physical abuse, even if it means neglecting her own children. Victims will stop spending time with friends and family and may avoid wearing nice clothing and makeup in fear of attracting attention from the opposite sex. This leads to isolation. Victims will isolate themselves to avoid arguments or abuse.
Perpetrators are sure that the victim is cheating on them or going to leave them. Manipulation is the key part of the power and control. Isolation allows the perpetrator to have more control. The victim stops coming to family functions, social events, and even stops answering her phone. Perpetrators sabotage work and social relationships, even sabotaging the job itself, causing the victim to be unemployed and home with him at all times.
Perpetrators sometimes twist Scriptures or life principles the victim believes in to convince her to cut ties and end relationships that he sees as threatening to his control of the victim. The more the victim becomes isolated, the more insane the perpetrator becomes.
4. Poor And Strange Appearance
Here comes the unexplained bruises and injuries along with the poor excuses. Her explanation definitely lacks credibility. She walked into a door or fell down stairs (yeah right). She wears long sleeves in the extreme heat. She wears excessive makeup and avoids eye contact. And again, she wears baggy clothes to avoid attention. One thing you may not notice and it may not seem strange to the average eye, but the victim’s home is often spotless, even with children because the abuser is controlling. If anything is out of place, someone is “in trouble”. Abusers often create excuses to abuse and a “mess”, in the abuser’s eyes, may be a dish in the sink, a toy on the floor, or a rug out of place. I can’t make this up. I’ve seen it happen.
I use to be terrified to play with my toys because if my mother did everything right, then her boyfriend would find a reason to strip me naked and beat me. And yes, it could come from a toy being out of place.
5. Abusers Cycling Behaviors Or Explosive Behavior
Some abusers cycle. You may ask, what does that mean? There is an abusive incident followed by an apology or honeymoon period. The perpetrator may go to great lengths to make peace. Dinner, flowers, “family time” with her and the children. Pressure begins to rise and the victim feels as if she is walking on egg shells until the abuser explodes and abuses again. Then the cycle repeats.
Now there are some abusers who do not cycle. They are extremely controlling and the victim lives in fear of not knowing what will set him off. Romantic moments are short lived and followed by abuse. Victims spend years waiting on that “honeymoon” period to reappear, but it just doesn’t.
If these signs fit you or someone you know, please get help IMMEDIATELY. These relationships often end in someone getting seriously hurt or worse… death.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233. They even have an online chat available at http://www.thehotline.org. Their highly trained advocates are available 24/7/365 to talk confidently with anyone experiencing domestic violence, seeking resources or information or questioning unhealthy aspects of their relationships.
If you’re in Richmond, VA and need help, resources, or someone to talk to, email ViolenceOutreach@gmail.com.