There has been much buzz as of late regarding physical violence between romantic partners. Recently, there have been cases of abuse covered by the media. One particular case is that of the football player, Ray Rice. This is where a video surfaced that showed Mr. Rice hitting his wife and then dragging her body. Shortly after this incident, his wife issued an apology for causing her husband to hit her.
Historically physical violence has been kept a secret. Surprisingly not much has changed. It has been through the use of technology, cell phones, video tapes, etc. that physical violence has been exposed. Interestingly, the buzz about domestic violence has recently died down some. But, we chose to write about it today to keep it in your minds. What we know about domestic violence is that it continues best in denial, isolation, and secrecy. Exposure is one of the steps of breaking the cycle of violence.
Domestic Violence is best defined as the repeated pattern of violence in which one uses as an attempt to control or intimidate her/his mate. In other words, the aggressor is trying to control his/her mate through the use of aggressive force or power. It is an abuse of power. For victims of domestic violence they often describe feeling humiliated or intimidated. Domestic Abuse occurs to both men and women, straight and gay, poor and wealthy, educated and uneducated. Domestic Violence takes on many forms. Abuse can be physical, verbal, emotional, financial, sexual, etc. Aside from emotional abuse, for the purpose of this blog I will address the two most common types of abuse. It can be physical - pushing, shoving, hitting, grabbing, etc. Often an overlooked type of abuse is Verbal Abuse. Verbal abuse consists of put downs, belittling, name calling, blaming. Now all types of abuse are emotional abuse. Frequently one refers to physical abuse as the worst type of abuse. In fact the research suggests that twice as many experience verbal abuse compared to physical abuse. However, what I often hear is that emotional or verbal abuse is the worst. Survivors of abuse report that physical abuse heals and sometimes is forgotten, while the scars from emotional abuse are far more lasting. Emotional abuse consists of humiliation, degradation, negation, judging, and criticizing all of which can be more harmful than physical abuse because it can undermines what you think about yourself.
There has been much debate concerning who is to blame for domestic abuse. However, I’d like to think of domestic abuse as a systemic issue which means that both parties have a role to play. It’s tempting to take sides. However, taking sides doesn’t resolve the problem. One only has the power to change one’s self which will automatically change the dynamic of the relationship. While the aggressor may have initiated the abuse, it is through the cycle of violence that the abuse continues. Usually, what takes place during the cycle of abuse is that the abuse occurs and is followed by what is known as the “honeymoon phase” in which the abuser may apologize in an attempt to make up. It is through this the honeymoon phase that the victim feels more hopeful that his/her partner is changing, and has seen the error of his/her ways and thus the victim temporarily forgets about the abuse that took place and begins to act as if everything is back to normal. The perpetrator is typically confident that his/her attempts to make up will allow him/her to remain in the relationship. Then there is the “tension building phase” where the victim often walks around on eggs shells trying to prevent an explosion. However, the “abuse phase” occurs again. This cycle will repeat until one decides to interrupt this cycle. It only requires one of the partners to interrupt this pattern.
One of the reasons why it is important for us to understand and heal domestic violence between intimate partners is because it provides an opportunity to understand other misuses of power in our society. Thus, this understanding may provide invaluable information as to how to prevent other abuses of power in our communities. For example, violence between police and citizens; bullying in our schools, etc. are just a couple of issues we could address more effectively.