As a survivor of domestic violence I have faced several hard questions over the years. Hindsight being what it is I can now answer these questions clearly. As a survivor I think it is important to talk about my circumstance. Many people know about domestic violence in a detached way. A person who has not experienced domestic violence can not understand how it could be allowed. To tell you the truth even I could not understand the situation, and how it had gotten so bad, so fast. What everyone needs to understand is that no one goes into a relationship expecting to be abused.
Many women know the dangers of domestic violence before they ever begin a relationship. Most of us are taught as children that violence is wrong and we shouldn't allow it. What you need to understand is that violent behavior doesn't start suddenly. I do not write this to make an excuse for myself or my abuser. I write this because despite what many women or young girls think you CAN NOT tell that someone is a scumbag by looking.
Domestic Violence has no prejudice. Young girls, old girls, mothers, grand mothers, sisters, friends, are all at risk of a violent attack. It may surprise you that domestic violence is not limited to race or social status. Any woman of any race world wide can be a victim. Money and social stature also have no bearing on whether a woman will or will not be abused. One in four women are abused at some point in their life. I invite you to look at yourself and three of your closest friends. One of you could very well become a domestic violence victim.
Ok, so now that we have broken down the barriers you need to know an important fact. Your abuser is someone most people like. I don't mean to scare you with this bit of information but it is the truth. Generally an abuser will work at relationships outside of the home to keep up appearances. It is very important for him that his social circle however large or small thinks hes a great guy. He must have an untouchable persona, and most people will trust him without reservation. He can be a fire fighter, a cop, a teacher, a banker, or any number of other professions.
A batterer doesn't start out with physical violence. He tests your boundaries first. Most often emotional and psychological abuse starts long before you are hit. This is an important part in understanding domestic violence. If you did not have emotional ties, and you were not conditioned to think a certain way you would never stand for abuse.
An abuser often starts by making you question yourself. Am I fat? Am I stupid? Am I a horrible mother? An abuser takes partial or complete control over you making decisions for yourself. He handles the checkbook "because you would mess it up anyway." All the money goes into a joint account "because you spend to much or you accidentally bounced a check." He systematically starts out for control over every avenue you would have later as an escape route.
Understand ladies that this is an age old tried and true method. Domestic violence is a cycle, no matter how long it takes to complete the steps, it is a cycle that will come full circle and repeat again if you don't stop it.
An abusers first goal is to relieve you of your ability to think for yourself. This may sound like it is impossible but it isn't. Many young women in their quest to be a good wife or girl-friend allow this step readily. You make dinner the way he want's, you have a schedule that revolves around his. You cease being a sun in your world and become a moon that simply orbits him. Your attempts to be pleasing are merely steps in the process. I am not by any means trying to pick apart good healthy relationships. I am talking about relationships that start off great and turn into toxic wastelands quick, fast, and in a hurry.
Soon it is not enough that you have adapted to doing everything his way. He begins to pick apart every effort you put forth. Dinner wasn't exactly to his liking, your hair wasn't kept the way he likes. The outfit you bought isn't flattering, you parked the car in the wrong spot. All these things seem inconsequential but the lead to something bigger.
His constant correction of you in whatever form he delivers it eventually has you questioning everything you thought you knew. He phases out your friends, your family, your social circle. The excuses are delivered in such a way that it catches you off guard. Somehow you find yourself never having time for the things you used to. If you look closely at why the answer may very well shock you.
This is a systematic process as well. Putting distance between you and your family and friends is necessary to the overall goal. The goal is to control you, to own you, to make you his possession. This goal normally coincides with a move, one that takes you away from everything you ever knew. It's really alright with you because you and your friends are no longer close, life got in the way.
Once an abuser has you where he wants the emotional and physical abuse starts. Emotionally you will be on a roller coaster ride that seems to have no end. He could love you more only if you change (insert excuse.) Your friends and family no longer call because (insert excuse.) It doesn't matter that in reality hes intercepting phone calls or forgot to give you a message, what matters is how you perceive the situation. You begin to cling more to him because you feel like you have no one. He cultivates this situation by holding you close and whispering everything will be alright. Ladies, if a man does not encourage you to have relationships outside of your home, alarm bells should be going off.
So life seems great, right? You've made the move, the house is great, things seem like they couldn't be better. Except the new job isn't working out so well and his boss breathes down his neck. You should know that the first physical attack normally happens during a time that he has a potentially great excuse. That first attack is also followed by an even better apology. He has never done anything like that before, he doesn't know what come over him. It must be all the stress he is under, and the fact that he had a few drinks at the bar to feel better. A repeat batterer may even suggest that you go to couples counseling. Any attempt to resist his advances and not forgive him results in the threat. This is the sympathy play. "I could kill myself for what I have done." "I'll never be able to make this up to you so I should just leave." Before you even know what has happened your emotions have run the gamut and you can't think straight. An abuser doesn't give you time to sort things out or think about your next move. He has to keep the air emotionally charged and the decisions must be made before things can calm down and your thinking clearly.
Notice I didn't say you forgave him, or forgot. He is playing on a well known reflex. Your fight or flight response. You have two options in the event of a personal attack. Fight like a wild cat or run like hell. Women in the midst of a violent attack begin to process things very quickly. He could be bigger, faster, stronger and so you can't beat him up easily. You may not even want to beat him up, violence begets violence. Knowing this leaves you with one option. Run. Except where do you go? Your likely in an unfamiliar area. You haven't spoke to friends and family for quite sometime. The last thing you feel like being subjected to is an inquisition. Our own emotions can most often keep us from speaking up. No woman wants to call home and admit that the husband who was supposed to love you, and protect you , beat you up.
It's late, you've cried, possibly thrown up and all you want right now is to sleep. This is another bodily process. When your fight or flight response is triggered your given a burst of adrenaline. Once your body has burned through that energy you are left drained, and weak. Your defenses are down and you just want what ever is going on to stop. That is how he keeps you. Hes crawling on his knees, possibly crying, blubbering some nonsense about he loves you more than anything in this world and you accept it.
The next day things are BETTER than they ever have been. He made you breakfast in bed, played your favorite music, sent you flowers, your going out this weekend for the best time ever. No matter what the bribe, and understand it very much is a bribe, it will be something you cant resist. The bribe will be something to throw you off guard. Why is he acting so sorry if he meant to hurt you? Maybe he really was stressed, he really did just lose his temper. He's never done anything like this before in your relationship right?
Sadly this is the beginning and not the end. The cycle has only started over. Only you never realized you were in a cycle to begin with. There are seven stages of abuse. We will start with the abuse stage as that is what is closely in your mind.
You've been abused, hit, kicked, punched, strangled, whatever form of abuse you took it is still abuse. AFTER he has abused you he experiences self directed guilt. Insert his excuse here and understand its meant to be the best one you have ever heard. The he rationalizes that excuse. This is the "why" moment. He tells you why he did it and what you could have done to prevent it. The next step is the fantasy stage. This is the stage that you don't get to see. He actually fantasizes about what he did to you. These steps get progressively more dangerous in nature.
He fantasized about the brutal attack and now he is planning to do it again. He promises himself that the next time you step out of line your really gonna get it! Then he begins to plan. Once his well conceived plans are done they are set into motion and that stage directly leads to you being set up. The set up culminates in abuse, often more severe than what you sustained the first time.
This cycle was set into motion almost as soon as you met. It started with emotional abuse, then psychological abuse. It followed the same exact patterns, went through the same stages and then escalated. Abuse never works backward and never gets easier. You may experience mini cycles within the big cycle where you are only experiencing emotional abuse, however do not be fooled by this lull. This is only more conditioning for the next time. Trust me there will be a next time.
Make a decision for change, make that decision now, do it with your whole heart. Don't accept less than you deserve. No one deserves abuse. Make these changes, and make them soon. One day the flowers he sends could be the last you receive.