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Domestic abuse: Breaking it down

By By Nicole S Farrell

Unfortunately, domestic abuse or violence is a part of some people's lives. Usually, when we hear of domestic abuse, we conjure up images of women being beaten.

Organisations are seeking to sensitize the public about abuse towards men. Yes, while known to be in the minority, there are men who suffer abuse regularly at the hands of their female partners.

Note that individuals who lived with domestic violence learned that violence and mistreatment are ways to vent anger.

What we frequently forget is that while physical abuse quite often leaves visible and tangible proof, other types of abuse can be so subtle, it may be difficult for someone to discern what is happening. The discovery is sometimes made almost or too late into the relationship. Some individuals think that once they aren't being hit, they're not being abused but this is a misguided view. Once one recognises that the abuse does exist, then they can make a proper assessment to move forward.

Intimate partner violence and elder abuse

The different forms of abuse are verbal, non-verbal (psychological, mental and emotional abuse), sexual, stalking, cyber-stalking, financial and spiritual abuse. It is noteworthy that domestic abuse that includes physical violence is called domestic violence.

The key elements of abuse are intimidation, humiliation and injuries and the main objective of the abuser is to control the other partner.

According to one publication, the common pattern of domestic abuse is that the abuser uses violent, abusive behaviour followed by apologetic behaviour, usually concentrated with seemingly emotion-filled promises to change. Additionally, the abuser may be someone who is pleasant most of the time and so many persons find it difficult to leave an abusive relationship. We've heard women especially say, "He's not like that all of the time."

Seeing that we're more than aware of the signs of physical abuse, let's examine the other forms of abuse.

Mental/Emotional/Psychological Abuse

These forms can be verbal or non-verbal and subtle and can affect pain just as with physical violence.

Verbal or Non-Verbal Abuse

Signs can include threatening or intimidating to gain compliance; destroying the victim's personal property and possessions; 'attacking' an object such as a wall or ornament or furniture in front of the victim; yelling or shouting at the person; name-calling; constant harassment; embarrassing or making fun of the partner while in private or in public; diminishing the partner's accomplishments or goals; saying that the person is worthless; possessiveness; demanding that the partner refrains from hanging out with friends and even relatives; excessive checking-up on the victim to make sure they are at home or where they said they would be; using alcohol intoxication as an excuse to say hurtful things; blaming the victim for how the abuser acts or feels; leaving the victimised person on the scene of a public incident just to 'teach them a lesson' and making the victim feel that they are destined to be in that relationship

Sexual Abuse or Sexual Exploitation

This includes forcing someone to participate in unsafe or degrading sexual activity; aggressively attempting to limit the persons' reproductive choices; forcing someone to look at pornography or to participate in making pornographic videos.

Stalking

Stalking is the harassment or threatening of another person repeatedly. It may take place during or after a relationship, with unnecessary monitoring of the partner's activities in the former case. In the latter case, the abuser may be trying to 'punish' the victim for leaving the relationship or they may be trying to reconcile.

Some examples of stalking are repeated phone calls (sometimes with the perpetrator hanging up when the other person answers); finding the person through public records; online searches for personal information, suddenly showing up the victim's home, school or workplace; constantly sending emails; sending unwanted gifts or letters; contacting or visiting the victim's friends, family, co-workers or neighbours to find out about the victim. Stalking should always be considered dangerous. Cyberstalking sometimes escalates to real stalking and physical violence.

Financial Abuse

Financial abuse can be displayed by someone withholding money or credit cards; stealing from or defrauding a partner of money or assets; exploiting the intimate partner's resources for personal gain; withholding food, clothes, medication or shelter from a partner; preventing a spouse or partner from working or choosing an occupation.

Spiritual Abuse

This abuse is apparent if someone uses the partner's religious or spiritual beliefs to manipulate them; preventing the partner from practising their religious or spiritual beliefs; ridiculing the other person's religious or spiritual beliefs; and forcing the children to be reared in a faith that the partner has not agreed to.

How can you determine if you are in an abusive relationship? Ask yourself the following questions:

• Are you fearful of your partner a large percentage of the time?

• Do you avoid certain topics or spend a lot of time figuring out how to talk about certain topics so that you do not arouse your partner's negative reaction or anger?

• Do you ever feel that you can't do anything right for your partner?

• Do you ever feel so badly about yourself that you think you deserve to be physically hurt?

• Do you sometimes wonder if you are the one who is crazy, that maybe you are overreacting to your partner's behaviours?

• Do you sometimes fantasise about ways to kill your partner to get them out of your life?

• Are you afraid that your partner may try to kill you?

• Are you afraid that your partner will try to take your children away from you?

• Do you feel that there is nowhere to turn for help?

• Were you abused as a child, or did you grow up with domestic violence in the household? Does domestic violence seem normal to you?

If you answered 'yes' to many of these questions, there is a great possibility that you are being abused.

While it's inexcusable, abuse can be caused by stress, provocation by the partner, economic hardship such as prolonged unemployment, depression, desperation, jealousy and anger.

While domestic abuse might negatively impact the abused person's life, an abused parent should consider that it can also have a tremendously negative effect on children as well. Children or teenagers who live with such a situation are more likely to use violence at school or among neighbours against perceived threats; attempt suicide; use drugs ; commit crimes (especially sexual assault); and use violence to enhance their reputation and self-esteem.

Regardless of the form of abuse, there are scars, emotionally and maybe physically. No one, absolutely no one, deserves to be abused in any way, shape or form. Here's to abused souls being restored and abused victims having the strength to leave...

nfpeters3434@gmail.com

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