If you’re in an immediate danger - skip to hotlines.
Excuses, honeymoon, tension build-up, abuse. Excuses, honeymoon, tension build-up, abuse. Excuses, honeymoon, tension build-up... Albert Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different outcome. Perpetrators of domestic violence force their victims into this cycle of insanity, and silence and denial keep it going. But you are NOT insane. You don't have to continue playing this game.
First step in breaking the cycle of abuse is recognizing that things aren’t working right between you two. Sounds obvious, but only to those who have never been in an abusive relationship: admitting there’s a problem is often the hardest part. So let’s take a look at it. Criminal (prosecutable) domestic violence may include physical assault (hitting, pushing, shoving, etc), sexual assault (unwanted or forced sex, i.e. - rape), or stalking. Non-criminal domestic violence may include emotional abuse (name-calling, putdowns, isolation from friends, family, or employment, intimidation, etc), or financial/economic abuse (withholding money). These latter forms eventually turn into criminal behaviors in 80% of cases. Does any of this sound familiar?
The common pitfall of domestic violence victims is rationalizing their abuser’s behavior and empathising with his problems rather than with their own. He only beats me up when he’s drunk. He only yelled at me because he had a bad day at work. He had a tough childhood, it’s hard for him to control his temper. However, many people have bad days or sad childhood memories, yet most of us don’t batter our significant others. Violence is a choice: does he assault everyone who gets on his nerves? His supervisor at work? Landlord? Random people on the street? If he does - you’re in a relationship with an uncontrollable loon, run. Most probably though, he’s able to contain himself when doing otherwise would cause unpleasant consequences. Not that he consciously calculates pros and cons, but when he’s mad - he uses his favorite punching bag - you. Why he does it is beyond the point: you are not his shrink, his issues shouldn’t be your problem. He’s the one who needs to work through them, get himself some therapy, anger management classes, an extra hour in gym, etc. Assaulting you isn’t an ok coping mechanism, it needs to stop, and that’s all that matters.
But he says he’ll never do this again, he didn’t mean to, it was an accident, etc... Yep. Most perpetrators don’t consciously plan to keep on hurting their victims. They don’t think of themselves as abusers either. He’s a nice guy, he’s not a wife-beater at all, it was just a single slip-up, he was drunk, he doesn’t even remember it, he is sorry, etc, etc, etc. How many times have you heard it? Do you still believe it? If he wants to stay in denial about this problem - it’s his choice, but you don’t have to play along. Be honest with yourself: he’s done it before, he’ll do it again - unless something changes. So stop empathizing with your abuser. Domestic violence is not OK. There are no excuses for it, it’s wrong, however you look at it, and it needs to stop.
Second step in breaking the cycle of domestic abuse is reaching out for help. Now, many victims mistake “help” for “intervention”, i.e. - if I tell anyone, police will be at my door the next minute, I’ll lose my house, my kids, my husband will go to jail, etc, etc, etc. Abuse, by definition, is a boundary violation - is it surprising that we struggle with trust that other people won’t violate our boundaries too, by providing us with “help” we did not ask for and do not want? Of course, if your life is in danger or your kids are being abused and you refuse to take action - someone should step in, to protect you both, but otherwise - it’s your life, and you have every right to be the one in charge. Just set your boundaries: say politely but firmly that you’re the one making decisions here. Don’t let anyone tell you what to do, this isn’t what freedom from abuse is about.
So what kind of help will you be reaching out for? The absolute best form of help that’s easily available to everyone is peer support. Talk to other survivors of violence. Vent your fears, concerns, hopes, thoughts, plans, etc. To be heard, understood, validated, not judged, by people who shared your experience is invaluable, as it provides excellent emotional support and often a helpful insight too. You can get this by visiting your local domestic abuse support groups, or, if you prefer the anonymity of online interactions - domestic violence chat rooms and/or forums. Other great sources of support are your family, friends, and professionals. Talk to people for a while. See what they say. Communication alleviates the feelings of isolation and helplessness so common in abuse victims. You don’t have to do anything until you’re ready. Just please talk to someone about what’s going on.
Finally, when you’re ready to take action - do plan it out carefully, preferably with professional help (see hotlines/links below). Domestic abuse is a serious and potentially dangerous situation, you want to be sure to make the transition to freedom as safe and painless as possible. Do take advantage of all the domestic violence resources available to you, - society does care about you, and is there to help, in many ways: legal, financial, psychological, etc. - you don’t have to do this on your own. Call those hotlines - they can link you to some great organizations in your area. And remember - you’re always the one in charge. Please be safe.
~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
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