October is known for quite a few things, the start of the Autumn season, Thanksgiving, Halloween, Pink month to raise awareness of breast cancer etc. Unfortunately not nearly as well known is the fact that October, since 1987 is also Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
Before I get into the nitty gritty of this subject, here is a little fun fact with the upcoming U.S. elections just a few weeks away. It was in 1994 that Senetor Jo Biden led the fight against domestic Violence and got the Violence Against Women Act passed.
World wide there are great efforts to curb domestic violence, however there is still so much more that needs to be done, the end game is to eliminate this type of abuse not just control it. It too could be considered a pandemic as there is not a country in the world where women (and to a much lesser degree men) are safe from this type of violence.
There are any number of influences as to why it happens ranging from socio/economic background, and childhood issues to genetic factors. Under the general umbrella of domestic violence, which one automatically imagines as physical or sexual abuse, there are several categories : Control, Intimidation, Emotional, Verbal (threats and blame) Economic and Patriarchy syndrome.
My focus here though is on the victims, the whys and wherefores of what makes them endure their intolerable situation.
One thing I know, and have heard repeatedly is that in the beginning, and for a little while into the relationship, unless one is aware and on the look out, there are actually no signs that a person is going to be violent. No typical visible characteristics. Abusers come in all shapes, sizes, ethnicities, colours and cultures. Likewise there are no distinctive domestic violence victims, they too come from all sorts of environments and educational levels. Second fact is that most women are completely ignorant of the warning signs, and patterns of an abuser.
He dupes you into his web with kindness, compliments and caring. He masterfully sets up an atmosphere of trust and adoration. He totally makes you feel like you are the the most beautiful, intelligent, wonderful person on earth. Most importantly he gives you absolutely no inkling that he has a shred of violence in him, life couldn’t be better. This is the first short lived phase: caring and nurturing. Not too long into the relationship however, the second phase shows its ugly head: isolation and abuse.
It creeps in insiduously. Somehow he’ll convince you that it is so much better to leave friends, family and all that is familiar to you behind. For the good of the relationship, to keep interference at bay, just the two of you against the world.
Having removed you from your sphere of influence, he will now dictate what you wear, who you speak to, where you live, when and if you can go out, if you can work or not, and whether to allow any contact with your family. All done under guise of the utmost charm and seduction.
Now that he has you madly in love with him and totally trusting him, he introduces the threat of violence, to insinuate into your mind that he alone is in control. Perhaps he’ll forcebly stop you from leaving the family home, raise a hand to you, but not actually hit you, a “pretend” chokehold, or worse still threatening use of a weapon, or any solid object he gets hold of.
Final stage is actual violence, though not all domestic violence reaches this stage. It may be brought on by the slightest thing you do or say. Alternativly it comes from his own angry fire, anxeity, frustration and undealt with pent up issues.
The first time it happens you are left in a state of utter disbelief but you truly love him. Charmer that he is, he cleverly persuades you that it was just an isolated event, it will never happen again. The trust he has been so careful to build between you goes deep now, so you forgive him, and accept his appologies.
Through some cynical twist you have convinced yourself that you are his saviour, the person who most understands him, he needs you, you simply can’t abandon him, you alone can fix him. The notion that you are empowering him to abuse you doesn’t even enter your thoughts.
Clients of mine have all said that for a period of time, not once did they see themselves as being abused. Rather they feel a deep need to help and to shower more love upon their abusers.
Only when, and unfortunately in too many cases if, the victim finally breaks free of the cloud of denial they are in, is there some chance of survival and escape. At this point the victim realises that the person they are so in love with is actually going to kill them if they continue to allow the abuse.
Leave I hear you say. So much easier said than done, usually not from a logistical point of view, but because it is extremely dangerous. The straw that breaks the camels back, if he suspects you are going to leave him, he will kill you, though perhaps not there and then. In 70% of cases where the victim got away, murders happen after the the victim has left.
Death is of course the worst case scenario. Victims fear escape because there are consequences, ie: long term stalking, manipulation, threats to family members/pets, destruction of property, harrasment at work and many more.
Once denial is no longer an obstacle, the victim needs to break the silence. To help themselves it is imperative to tell everyone she/he knows, seeks out, or casually comes across. Crucial to make it known to the authorities, the chaplain, the doctor, the police, checkout clerk, postman, dustman anyone and everyone MUST know. It cannot be a secret anymore! It is then up to everyone who knows, to help.
As bad as the abuser, is the person who knows or strongly suspects domestic violence, but turns away from offering help.
Thank you for reading this article. I truly hope you take something of value away from it. If something resonated with you, or you know someone who could use some help please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also like to follow me on Facebook, where I post more self love content, and where you can connect with like minded people.