Domestic Violence (DV) or Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) is a maladaptive pattern of beliefs and behaviors hidden in society’s traditional way of life. It’s quietly embedded in thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors not constrained by age, gender, race, ethnicity, culture, religion, education, or socioeconomic status. Reasons for these maladaptive attitudes and behaviors abound. It’s helpful, however, to see the causes of DV in a continuum ranging from problems in the family of origin to the androcentric tendency of the dominant culture.
According to The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men in the United States are or have been victims of severe physical violence by an intimate partner. These are numbers of actual violent domestic/sexual incidents reported. If we think of the cases that go unreported and consider other forms of abuse such as psychological and financial, the numbers increase considerably.
The primary purpose of using Domestic Violence is to submit a partner through subtle or forced control over their behaviors, attitudes, system of beliefs, resources, and even opinions.
Whether the dominant partner is aware of their abusive behavior is irrelevant because the type of submission they pursue is abusive, dangerous, and psychologically unhealthy.
The Cycle of Abuse
Abusers often exploit their partners’ feelings of love, hope, and fear to maintain a cycle of abuse. Victims that love their abusive partners hope that they’ll change at some point, fearing at the same time for the safety of their children and their own. The cycle of abuse consists of three phases:
Tension-building, the abuser is critical, moody, and demanding; it may include threats of violence.
Explosion, the abuser escalates their abusive tactics becoming more explosive and dangerous.
Honeymoon, the abuser feels remorseful after an episode of violence. They tend to overwhelm their victim with attention and gifts. The abuser may even offer to change and attend counseling for a while. Eventually, however, the abusive tactics return, reinitiating the cycle of abuse again and again.
Preventing Domestic Abuse and Violence
Like in the case of unhealthy masculinity, power and control are DV’s handlebar. Having some power is good since it provides us with the ability to act. Power is what helps us thrive in life and adequately control ourselves and manage our circumstances. However, when we overextend that power to control others in our relational life, then power is misused and abused, causing ripple effects with devastating consequences that can last generations.
The need for power and control isn’t something individuals are born with, except in the case of psychopathy. There are several reasons for this psychology of abuse:
People exposed to abuse and violence in their childhood homes tend to respond to conflict similarly.
Individuals experienced an absence of healthy attachments in childhood.
People raised by families and cultures that sanction male privilege.
No matter the reasons or circumstances abuse is never justified.
Abusers, like everybody else, can discern their thoughts and circumstances. They’re capable of making choices. To abuse and hurt someone is a conscious decision that, sometimes and to some degree, is enhanced by the presence of drugs or alcohol. Notwithstanding, we do a disservice to victims and survivors of DV if we fail to recognize that these substances are not the cause of abuse.
Abuse is a pervasive attitude associated with behaviors that, in time, tend to escalate into violence.
If you think or feel that you’re being abused in your relationship or know someone who is, this is what you can do or recommend:
Confront your misplaced feelings of shame and guilt and the ensuing silence and isolation.
Seek trustworthy friends who can provide you with the safety (place, presence) and assurance (“It’s not your fault!”) that your mind and soul need while you consider your situation and options.
Call The National Domestic Violence Hotline, 1-800-799-7233, learn more about the subject and explore your options with law enforcement and the justice system or social and therapeutic services, or both.
You may feel at first confused, afraid, and angry, which is expected since you’re being betrayed (abused) by the most trusted person in your life. You may feel tempted to blame yourself for the situation and what provoked the argument or violent episode. That’s why it’s crucial to call supportive services and be surrounded by good friends.
Normalized abuse is a learned behavior, and as such, it can also be unlearned with psychoeducation and proper therapeutic intervention. Violence is preventable.