What is Domestic Violence?
Domestic violence is not physical violence alone. Domestic violence is any behavior the purpose of which is to gain power and control over a spouse, partner, girl/boyfriend or intimate family member. Abuse is a learned behavior; it is not caused by anger, mental problems, drugs or alcohol, or other common excuses.
When the general public thinks about domestic violence, they usually think in terms of physical assault that results in visible injuries to the victim. This is only one type of abuse. There are several categories of abusive behavior, each of which has its own devastating consequences. Lethality involved with physical abuse may place the victim at higher risk, but the long term destruction of personhood that accompanies the other forms of abuse like Emotional & Verbal abuse is significant and cannot be minimized.
Emotional Abuse & Intimidation: According to the AMEND Workbook for Ending Violent Behavior, emotional abuse is any behavior that exploits anther’s vulnerability, insecurity, or character. Such behaviors include continuous degradation, intimidation, manipulation, brainwashing, or control of another to the detriment of the individual(AMEND 3). This may include but is not limited to:
- Insulting or criticizing to undermine the victim’s self-confidence. This includes public humiliation, as well as actual or threatened rejection.
- Threatening or accusing, either directly or indirectly, with intention to cause emotional or physical harm or loss. For instance, threatening to kill the victim or himself, or both.
- Using reality distorting statements or behaviors that create confusion and insecurity in the victim like saying one thing and doing another, stating untrue facts as truth, and neglecting to follow through on stated intentions. This can include denying the abuse occurred and/or telling the victim she is making up the abuse. It might also include crazy making behaviors like hiding the victim’s keys and berating her for losing them.
- Consistently disregarding, ignoring, or neglecting the victim’s requests and needs.
- Using actions, statements or gestures that attack the victim’s self-esteem and self-worth with the intention to humiliate.
- Telling the victim that she is mentally unstable or incompetent.
- Forcing the victim to take drugs or alcohol.
- Not allowing the victim to practice her religious beliefs, isolating her from the religious community, or using religion as an excuse for abuse.
- Using any form of coercion or manipulation which is disempowering to the victim.
Isolation: Isolation is a form of abuse often closely connected to controlling behaviors. It is not an isolated behavior, but the outcome of many kinds of abusive behaviors. By keeping her from seeing who she wants to see, doing what she wants to do, setting and meeting goals, and controlling how she thinks and feels, he is isolating her from the resources (personal and public) which may help her to leave the relationship. By keeping the victim socially isolated the batterer is keeping her from contact with the world which might not reinforce his perceptions and beliefs. Isolation often begins as an expression of his love for her with statements like if you really loved me you would want to spend time with me, not your family. As it progresses, the isolation expands, limiting or excluding her contact with anyone but the batterer. Eventually, she is left totally alone and without the internal and external resources to change her life.
Some victims isolate themselves from existing resources and support systems because of the shame of bruises or other injuries, his behavior in public, or his treatment of friends or family. Self-isolation may also develop from fear of public humiliation or from fear of harm to herself or others. The victim may also feel guilty for the abuser’s behavior, the condition of the relationship, or a myriad of other reasons, depending on the messages received from the abuser.
Verbal Abuse: Coercion, Threats, & Blame: Verbal abuse is any abusive language used to denigrate, embarrass or threaten the victim. This may include but is not limited to:
- Threatening to hurt or kill the victim or her children, family, pets, property or reputation.
- Name calling (‘ugly’, ‘stupid’, among others)
- Telling victim she is unattractive or undesirable.
- Yelling, screaming, rampaging, terrorizing or refusing to talk
As long as we as a culture accept and tolerate violence against women, abuse will continue.
To learn more about what constitutes DV, including mental and emotional abuse, visit: https://www.thehotline.org/is-this-abuse/abuse-defined/
Just when the caterpillar thought “I am incapable of moving,” it became a butterfly.
And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.
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