Perhaps the best response we can have to domestic violence is to develop our knowledge and understanding. After that, it helps to take direct action, removing a victim from harm’s way.
First, you need to understand why it is such a persistent problem and with that understanding, you can begin to recognize domestic abuse when you see it. After that, perhaps you can do something about it before the crisis escalates.
The number one most prevalent symptom of domestic violence is fear of one’s partner. This helps explain why so many domestic violence cases go unreported. Women who are abused fear retaliation if they report the abuse. Let alone the police, even telling a friend or a family member becomes extremely difficult if one fears the reporting will lead to more abuse.
Domestic violence, which kills three women each day in the United States, is almost never inflicted without a strain of domestic abuse running through the relationship. If you push someone, for example, that’s one thing. But if you push someone in the context of a relationship in which the pushing is framed as the fault of the person being pushed, then the abuse has done its job. Almost no abuser says, “It is my fault. I am sorry.” Instead they say, “It is your fault. You had it coming to you.” That is the abusive part of the relationship.
To recognize an abusive or violent relationship, look for these signs:
The victim of abuse defers and acts afraid of to the dominant partner.
The victim feels nothing they do is right or correct or adequate.
The victim makes apologies on the abuser’s behalf.
Victims blame themselves excessively for their own shortcomings.
Victims blame themselves for things that are not in their control.
The victim of abuse often feels crazy. Their reality (that they are being abused) is not validated by the people around them, so they feel isolated, like there’s an elephant hidden in the room. Even if they are covering up the abuse, they are wondering why no one acknowledges what is going on.
Victims make more doctor appointments than normal and have unconvincing reasons for doing this. “I’m having an old injury looked at,” for example.
Victims where long-sleeved shirts or pants in hot weather to cover bruises. They wear hats with visors to cover up black eyes. The wear makeup for the same reason. If that isn’t enough, they simply fail to show up to events where the injuries may be discovered.
Abusers exercising control over their victims. Look for control over decision making and in things like their victim’s opinions about things.
Look for signs of domination in general.
Abusers blame their victims, even in subtle and joking ways. The message comes across, even if it is delivered in a funny manner.
Abusers exert emotional control over others.
Abusers use their own emotions to control others. For example, “I’ll get angry if you do something …”
They limit control over money and over time in which the victim is allowed to spend time with others.
Abusers use threats in many forms to control the person being abused.
Finally, in a word: Addictions. Addictions are the underlying cause of many abusive relationships and are strongly associated with a fierce shame-cycle. People are ashamed of their addictions and how hopeless this makes them feel. They feel ashamed for caving in to their addition needs, but then use drugs, alcohol or sex to overcome their feelings of shame. This leads to more shame.
When someone needs a “fix,” they are irritable, anxious, controlling. They are also angry. They often lie to cover up their addictions. All of these issues blend together to create an abusive dynamic.
What can you do about it?
Thanks in part to the feminist movement, it is now recognized that the best approach to combat domestic violence is a humanistic approach, which means, in so many words, remove the victim from the abusive situation.
In the past, police and others questioned the victim’s role. Social workers would try to analyze the situation. All that can come later. The first and foremost strategy is to first get the victim out of harm’s way. After that, all other triage and psycho-therapy can happen later.
More information on domestic violence can be found at HelpGuide.org at http://www.helpguide.org/articles/abuse/domestic-violence-and-abuse.htm#emotional. You can also find information at http://thecanyonmalibu.com/dual-diagnosis/domestic-violence-and-addiction/. Read about the issue as seen through the lens of child abuse in state facilities at theantimedia.org.