The common perception is that domestic abuse is the physical abuse of women. Admitting that it affects disproportionately more women, there are still many men who find themselves in the same situation. And although the physical effects are easier to recognise, it is certainly not the only damage that occurs.
Whether the abuse is physical or psychological, the main reason for it is that the abuser wants to gain power over the victim. And progressively so. It might start with tiny little things, such as a push or a shout. All is aimed to make the victim feel dependent, scared and isolated. Abusers in general are not shy when it comes to finding ways to get what they want. Their main aim is to gain Coercive Control.
This means that the abusers use intimidation, manipulation, acts of assault, degradation, isolation, threats or other abuse to harm, punish, frighten or pressurise the victim. All to gain control about what the victim can or cannot do.
Some of the tactics are more recognisable than others. Lying, hiding personal items, jealousy, sulking, threatening to commit suicide and so on. All to make the victim feel guilty. In many cases a mixture of different tactics is being used.
Who could be affected?
The abuser is not always the life partner. It could be anybody living in the same house or someone who visits the house very regularly, i.e. on a daily basis. Keep in mind that these people can be very clever in hiding what they are doing. It could even be a grown up child that has moved out already. Husbands, wifes, uncles, mothers and any other person that has free access to the victim. Most aggressors are insecure, distrustful, jealous, possessive and cruel. And in some cases have been diagnosed with depression.
The abuser will most likely choose a person that is vulnerable to make it easier to control them. Someone that is friendly, caring, loyal and loving. Or maybe ill, insecure or coming out of a bad situation before. The victim is a kind of person who would do anything to make his/her loved ones happy. Even though the abuser might not deserve the loyalty and love that is directed at them. This is the main reason a victim will stay in this horrible situation.
Why does the domestic abuse start?
The reason is very difficult to pinpoint. In any case, what sets this behaviour off has nothing to do with the victim. Many aggressors have very bossy and cruel tendencies to begin with. And as soon as they feel they are not fully in control, they will do anything to gain back control. An additional trigger could be something in their personal life, such as losing a job. Addiction to drugs, gambling or alcohol can also have an influence on this kind of behaviour. Every situation is different.
Why is it so difficult to recognise?
Victims of domestic abuse are very often ashamed of what is happening. Or they feel that they deserve this treatment. And they are also often very resilient, even to the point where get used to the way they are treated by the people. Furthermore the abuser as well as the victim find ways of hiding the abuse. This is why it's not uncommon for victims to even make excuses for the perpetrator.
What can you do?
Do you suspect that someone you care about is in an abusive situation? The first step is to listen to them very carefully. Keep in mind that most victims are in denial. They don’t think they are being subjected to domestic abuse. Listen and make sure they know they can tell you anything, without you being judgemental.
It is important to keep an eye out for comments in relation to someone who:
Is constantly checking up on them
Expresses unreasonable jealousy
Questions everything they do
Isolates them from friends and family
Puts them down in public
Bans them from seeing certain people
Allows them no privacy
Controls how they spend their money
Tells them what they should eat
Makes negative comments about their figure
Tells them they are worthless
Makes them do things in a specific way
These are only a few symptoms. Some more obvious than others. There is a lot of anger and impatience involved. If you know what to look for, many situations from the person's past will become very clear too.
What is next?
Hopefully you will be able to convince the victim that they need to talk to someone with experience in offering help to victims of domestic abuse. That is where I can help. Please feel free to call me to see if there is anything I can do for someone close to you.