Domestic violence (also known as domestic abuse or spousal abuse) occurs when a family member, partner or ex-partner attempts to physically or psychologically violate the other. If you are facing violence or abuse of this kind, wake up! Things are not okay and you are not imagining it - and this is not something that you need to take.
Domestic abuse is perpetrated by both men and women. It occurs across cultures, races, ethnicities, religions, sexes and socio-economic classes. Though abuse happens to men and to same-sex partners, domestic violence usually involves men abusing their female partners. A large number of women suffer abuse from their husbands, ex-husbands, boyfriends or intimate partners.
Be it a man or a woman - no one, for any reason, deserves to be abused. Howe without help, abuse will continue and is likely to worsen. Many resources are available to help you understand your options and to support you.
Forms of Domestic Violence
Domestic violence has many forms, including physical violence, sexual, emotional and/or psychological violence. The latter may include intimidation, harassment, damage to property, threats, extremely controlling behavior and financial abuse. Physical and sexual abuse can fall into the category of crime. Although emotional, psychological and financial abuse are not criminal behaviours, they are forms of abuse and can lead to criminal violence.
Physical abuse ranges from hitting, kicking, biting, slapping, pulling hair, or anything that leads to physical injury or harm to the victim.
Sexual abuse includes sexual violence or sexual coercion, even if it is between married couples.
Emotional abuse (also called psychological abuse), can include humiliation, controlling what the victim can and cannot do, withholding information, doing things to embarrass the victim, isolating them from friends and family, and denying them access to money (financial abuse) or other basic resources.
Cycle of Abuse
Abuse often occurs in a cyclical fashion and includes the following elements:
Abuse -> Guilt -> Excuses -> Normal behaviour -> Fantasy -> Set-up -> Abuse again
Abuse - The abuser shows aggressive behaviour - trying to show the victim "who is boss" or "who is in control".
Guilt - The abuser then goes through guilt and remorse for his/her actions.
Rationalization or excuses - The next step is when the abuser tries to justify himself/herself through excuses or shifts the blame from himself/herself to the victim. Sometimes apologizes for the harm caused.
Normal behaviour - The abuser tries to set things right leading the victim to feel hopeful about a better future.
Fantasy and planning - The abuser begins to think through a plan on how to abuse his/her victim again.
Set-up - The abuser sets up the victim and puts his/her plan in motion, creating a situation where he/she can justify abusing her.
Are You Being Abused?
Identifying abuse can be quite tricky, as it starts off very subtly and then slowly gets more and more threatening. It can be difficult to recognize the signs; one might even tend to view them as expressions of one's partner's love. To determine whether you are being abused, read our article "Are you in an abusive relationship?"
Effects of Abuse
Abuse can leave you confused and wondering if you are to blame. It leads to low self-worth and self esteem, leaving you with very little energy and willpower to take get back in control and rectify or escape the situation. You might also be living under the fear and shadow of the abuser.
To make matters worse, victims often engage in what is known as "enabling behaviour" in order to feel needed and wanted. This includes behaviours that support or protect the abuser - like taking care of the abuser physically and emotionally, intervening on behalf of the abusive partner, putting up a front to the outside world showing all is well, and so on.
Children in witnessing abusive marital relationships can get affected negatively and may get physically hurt, emotionally confused, or become upset.
Positive Steps for Coping with an Abusive Relationship
Be in touch with others, talk to others and seek 'reality checks' from your friends in order to figure out if you are actually being abused.
Get to know of resources available for victims.
Think of a 'safe place' to flee to if required.
Read up on abuse and become aware of the signs.
Reach out for support either through professional counselling or by sharing with a confidante and start forming a support system for yourself.
The most important thing is to look into the future and decide how you want it to be, instead of brooding about the past or blaming yourself.
How to prepare for an emergency situation
Arrange a safety signal with a neighbour if it becomes necessary to get help quickly.
Prepare an emergency bag in case you need to leave the place in a hurry, including some money, important documents, medication that you may be on, clothes and so on.
Know which safe place you can go to and the way to get there.
Don't make calls from your home phone because the abuser could trace the calls to find out where you're going.
Consider changing your mobile number to stop getting calls from the abuser. Do not give your number out to everyone.
The abuser may be able to monitor your Internet activities and access your e-mail account. Always change passwords or get a new e-mail account.
If the abuser has access to any of your bank accounts, inform the banks and revoke any privileges.
Protection through the Law
The Indian Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, 2005 is a law that offers protection to women abused by their partners. Under this law, you can obtain protection from husbands and partners by citing emotional, physical, or economic abuse. The primary users of this law have been married women; however, widows and daughters have also been granted relief under this law. The most commonly granted relief is for maintenance. Residence orders and protection orders are other benefits. The protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act can be downloaded here: http://wcd.nic.in/domesticviolenceact05.pdf
If you are a victim of domestic violence, you have a choice - to stay in the situation or to make your life better. Choose wisely, as this can impact your future in a big way! For more information, you could go to support centers for battered women.