Published On: Sat, Nov 30th, 2013

What is Domestic Violence? By Lisa Oliver

Domestic violence is more than just a situation of a man hitting his wife on a Saturday night after they have both had a few drinks, although this situation can be part of a biDomestic Viollencegger problem.  Domestic violence is a pattern of behavior that evolves over time with an end result of one partner using a range of tactics to have ultimate and complete control over the other partner.  These tactics can include verbal abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse and/or psychological abuse.  Depending on the levels of control the abuser has over his own behavior, domestic violence can at best result in a woman or child living in fear of an attack on a daily basis, to a situation where a woman or child dies at the hands of their abuser.  In New Zealand alone six women died at the hands of their partner between November 2005 and January 2006 and these figures are comparable per head of population in most western countries.

The important point to note in this definition is the fact that domestic abuse is a pattern of behavior that evolves over time.  Often times early in a relationship a male partner may express jealousy when his partner talks to another man at a social gathering for example.  If, in response to his verbal anger his partner spends time reassuring him and taking the blame for her “wrong” behavior, the male starts to learn that the initial anger he expressed was “acceptable” within the relationship and so the next time he gets upset he gets that much worse, and so on.

For some women the warning signs are not as obvious although they are often glaringly obvious in hindsight.  Some of these  “warning signs” that you as a woman should note is when you are dating someone new for example and the man might want to really fast track the relationship so that he is living with you before you really know too much about him; he might always need to be right in a discussion even if he isn’t; he doesn’t give you any space in the relationship and always needs to know where you are, who you are with and what you are doing; other signs include the use of pornography; lack of consideration of your needs; has problems with homosexuals or people of a different race to himself; and so on.

One of the reasons why it is fairly easy to be lulled into a false sense of security when in a relationship with an abuser is that in the early stages of the relationship the length of time between incidences might be fairly long.  He may get angry only once every two or three months for example, but if the woman stays in that relationship, and the degree of abuse, whether it be physical, emotional, psychological or sexual (it is usually a combination of these elements) gets steadily worse, then regardless of what the man might say in the “honeymoon period” he is not going to stop abusing her. In fact there is a very real danger that the number of incidences in a year will increase alongside the increased severity of the attack.
One of the common misconceptions about domestic abuse is that the man who is doing the abusing has actually lost control of his own behavior, supposedly because of something that his partner has done (or not done).  However studies have shown that the level of control exhibited by the abuser is actually very high, and that the men who do hit their women, or abuse them in some other way do chose their behavior.

There are three final points that need to be made in this article: Firstly the single underlying element that is used to control abused women and children is fear.  Fear is something that is difficult for an abused woman to convey to another person – fear is an insidious feeling that can permeate every aspect of a woman’s life – and finally fear is the emotion that has to be overcome by a friend or support person who is trying to help an abused woman.

The second point that must be made is that there are many cases where abusive acts are not evident to an outside observer.  While the most common face of domestic violence is one that is covered in bruises there are many other forms of abuse that are just as debilitating to the victim and yet is not visible to other people. In particular emotional, psychological and sexual abuse, leave very few visible scars that could be noted by another person.

Finally an abusive man does not have the word “abuser” tattooed on his forehead. An abusive man can be from any ethnic group, belong to any socio-economic group, work in any profession or trade, or come from any family unit model.  An abuser cannot be picked out by the clothes that he wears, the way he acts in public or the car that he drives.  While there are some warning signs that could indicate the possibility of a man being an abuser, which were mentioned earlier, the fact still remains that because an abuser is an expert at controlling behavior, it makes that person very difficult to pick out of a crowd.

If you or someone you care about is a victim of domestic violence take them to the nearest police station or consult your local directory service for a women’s refuge or similar local organisation.

By Lisa Oliver
Copyright 2013

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Lisa Oliver is a work-at-home Mum who writes about small business topics.  She is also author of books such as Invisible Bars: Why Women Don’t Leave (domestic violence) & “Can Ghosts Hurt You & Other Questions”.  Oliver Group Publications


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