Domestic Violence – Adult Victims
Violence is detrimental to women’s personal and financial independence and can do serious damage to their physical and mental well-being; therefore we must fight the age old societal standards that reinforce the stereotypes that encourage men to act aggressively and use violence against women and children to solve problems, that women are weak and submissive and that they should accept that male dominance is the norm and that all women should accept this abusive behaviour without any complaints.
There is no typical victim and any person can experience domestic violence regardless of race, ethnic or religious group, class, disability or lifestyle. However, domestic violence is mainly gender specific; it is most commonly experienced by women and perpetrated by men. These terrorist acts of abuse include violence against women by an intimate partner, including a cohabiting partner, and by other family members, whether this violence occurs within or beyond the confines of the home.
It happens among heterosexual couples and in same-sex partnerships. It occurs within all age ranges, economic levels and educational background. Domestic violence and abuse does not discriminate and while women are more commonly victimized, men are also abused and experience violence from their partners (both within gay and straight relationships) especially through verbal and emotional abuse. Domestic abuse is more common in low-income populations due to lack of mobility and the financial resources to leave an abusive situation. No matter how you look at it abusive behavior is never acceptable, whether it’s coming from a man, a woman, a teenager, or an older adult. Everyone deserves to feel valued, respected, and safe.
Domestic abuse is most often recognized as one of the following:
- abuse of a spouse or domestic intimate partner
- child abuse
- elder abuse
The abuse may occur during a relationship, while the couple is breaking up, or after the relationship has ended. Women are often in great danger and face a regime of terror and violence at the hands of from the person they should be able to trust, in the place where they should be safest, within their family they come to depend on for security. Those victimized suffer physically and psychologically. They are unable to make their own decisions, voice their own opinions or protect themselves and their children for fear of further repercussions. Their human rights are denied and their lives are stolen from them by the ever-present threat of violence. In addition, this violence has serious human, social and economic consequences both for the women who endure it and for society as a whole.
How Victims Face Domestic Violence
People handle stressful situation differently; but the emotions expressed towards their attacks tend to be similar in nature. The following is a list of emotions and feelings that may frequently be experienced by the victim that tend to be present after domestic violence attack or rape has taken place.
- Anger is a healthy and common reaction for a survivor, as long as the anger is not aimed at them. Anger is a common feeling that develops after an attack and can be a helpful tool for regaining the strength and the courage needed to get back control of their life. They may show anger at:
- Significant others for not understanding
- Society and the legal system
- The abuser
- The disruption in their life
- Themselves and lack the trust in themselves in their own ability to make judgments
- In cases of male victims, the abuse itself is not nearly as bad as the fear of other people finding out about the abuse. The victim may feel that everyone around him/her can tell that they have been abused.
- The reason they didn’t fight back, or did not receive help right away because they were fearful that their abuser would injure or even kill them. Fear is the biggest tool used by an abuser to receive and maintain control. This fear is not only of bodily injury but of death as well. They will also have fear of:
- Being alone
- Having to report the crime, or of going to court
- Going to sleep
- Men, or women, in general
- Others finding out
- Places and people that remind of the assault
- The rapist returning
- Their own anger
- Sometimes, it is easier to blame their own behavior, then to admit that their abuser was truly to blame. The survivors will often recall particular situations and make statements like: “I should have known that…” or “If only I hadn’t….” They will also have/show guilt for:
- All the feelings they feel
- Being “stupid” enough to get into that situation
- Having “caused the rape”
- Not fighting back more
- Many things that took place during the abuse can be hard, or embarrassing to talk about. The victim may feel dirty and ashamed; especially in cases where sexual abuse has taken place. They may also feel that everyone can tell, just by looking at them, that they were the victim of an assault.
Lack of Control:
- This fear of helplessness may extend into other aspects of their lives, for varying amounts of time. During the attack, the victim was entirely without control.
- Aside from the symptoms associated with the abuse itself, some other physical symptoms will develop that are directly caused by the emotional stress. Some common physical symptoms are: muscle tension, headaches, stomach pains, nausea, appetite loss, sleep disturbances, fatigue, and nervousness.
Powerlessness and depression:
- Feeling as if things will not get better
- Feeling totally victimized
- Feeling helpless
Shock and Disbelief:
- Often, the survivor will make excuses for their abusers behavior. Sometimes, the survivor will have an incredibly hard time facing the fact that the abuse has taken place. They may feel betrayed by:
- The abuser
- Their significant others
Helpful methods for coping and healing after an abusive attack
- Be gentle with your own healing process: You and only you know how you are feeling and how you are coping with the aftermath of the abuse. Allow yourself to feel however you need to feel whether it is feeling angry, sad, or regretful. These feelings are all perfectly normal for abuse survivors.
- Express feelings through writing or art: Capturing your feelings at a particular moment can make it easier to get the most out of therapy or counseling. Often a person will go in to see their therapist or their counselor and be unable to explain the feelings they were having before. Writing these feelings down, or expressing them through artwork can really help you heal, as well as help your mental health care provider offer the best and most effective treatment. Be careful where you keep your notes.
- Give yourself time for healing: The pain and the emotional turmoil following the abuse does not go away overnight instead it is a long and hard process all survivors must go through in order to heal and move on with their lives.
- Identify your support network: Try to be aware of the supportive people in your life. Know whom you can and cannot talk to and who will allow you the opportunity to share your true feelings. This is a necessary part of recovery.
- Listen to your body: If your body needs a break make sure to take one. Taking a few minutes in your day to do something you enjoy or just taking a minute to relax can make a world of difference in your recovery process. The human body is a strong and resilient machine but in order for it to be at its absolute best it needs to be taken care of.
- Try to understand and express your feelings: Your mind, body and soul are all going to have certain ways of coping with the abuse. Taking a moment every now and then to acknowledge these feelings and behaviors is a good idea for coping.
Why women stay
- A person who is being abused may endure the abuse for a long time before seeking support. Some victims never tell anyone about the abuse. A person who is being abused may be reluctant or unable to talk about or report abuse for many different reasons. No one deserves to be abused and you don’t have to put up with it. There are a number of things you can do if you are experiencing violence and abuse from a partner or ex-partner. However none of these will be easy and none provides a complete or immediate end to the abuse. Getting free from abuse is a long process: most women seek help from a number of sources, and may leave and return several times before they are able to make the final break.
- If you haven’t been in this situation yourself, leaving may seem the obvious answer. Although the idea of walking away from a relationship seems easy enough, it isn’t for a victim of domestic violence. There are many reasons why women stay with their abusers however it is also important to know that leaving does not always end the abuse (and sometimes, at least for a time, it may get worse). The questions that are often asked to why women stay in the abusive relationship are: (a) “Why didn’t you leave?” or (b) “Why did you stay so long?”
- It is hard for an outsider to understand exactly what the victim feels is going through or why they feel they must stay. Here are a few reasons that women feel they need to stay:
- Childhood experiences – If a child is raised in an abusive environment, they are more likely to have tolerance of that behavior then someone who hasn’t. Children that were raised to believe in domestic violence as a means of resolution, they will learn that domestic violence is a means of resolution in general. Children in violent households are equally more likely to become abusers, and to allow themselves to become abused.
- Economic dependence – Quite often, the abuser is the primary money maker, leaving the victim without a means of financial dependence. Leaving is near impossible if there is no money to fund that escape, so the victim’s only option is to stay.
- Emotionally attached to the abusive partner or have strong beliefs about keeping their relationship or family together.
- Fear is a common emotion expressed in an abusive relationship. If attempts are made to remove themselves from that situation, the retaliation from their abuser can be horrible. So, instead of trying to change things and risk being hurt more, the only option left is to stay. That the abuser may retaliate against them or their loved ones or they may fear being stigmatized by others.
- Frequency and severity of the abuse – The victim knows how to fuel an attack, and they also know how to help prevent making the attack worse than it has to be. If the victim knows that showing signs of a potential departure would cause an attack on the part of their abuser, then their only option is to stay.
- Isolation – An important tactic used by an abuser is isolation. Turning the victim against their friends and/or family makes them an easier target. If the victim has no one to turn to for help, then their only option is to stay. They may live in an isolated area, or be socially isolated from others. They may face communications, language or cultural barriers.
- Maybe their confidence has been undermined so badly that they believe they couldn’t cope alone, and lack the confidence to leave.
- They are terrified of the consequences
- The abuser may threaten to harm or even kill his partner or the children if they leave
- They may feel that it is best for the children if they stay and try to make their relationship work.
- They may be worried about practical issues:
- Where can they go?
- Will they make themselves homeless?
- Where will they get money? They may be worried about loneliness – particularly if their partners have isolated them from friends and family
- They may feel ashamed or powerless and lack access to information, resources and support.
- Victims may be reluctant to involve authorities because they:
- Do not believe that the criminal justice system can help or protect them.
- Do not believe that involving the criminal justice system will stop the abuse, or they
- Do not want the abuser to be removed from the home, go to jail or have a criminal record
- Women may worry about losing their children
- Women stay with their abusers because they still love them