Wednesday 15 March 2017

Why They Do It: A Look at Domestic Violence and Abusive Relationships


After an interesting long day I stayed up the whole night writing, then at 6:15 am I went to a nearby coffee shop to carry on in a different setting. One of the female customers waiting in line ― mid 40s pleasant-looking blonde wearing the typical Santa Monica morning sport gear ― had some bruises caused by finger marks on her right arm, perhaps three or four of them purple ones. Almost instinctively I started wondering why would a human being inflict any kind of pain on any other human, let alone someone they supposedly have a relationship with. I found myself lost in thoughts and memories…

Domestic abuse, also known as spousal abuse, occurs when one person in an intimate relationship or marriage tries to dominate and control the other person. They use harmful, injurious, offensive ways to do so. Physical violence is called domestic violence and it includes sexual abuse. There are also psychological and verbal abuse ― the emotional abuse type.

One may think that physical abuse is much worse than its emotional counterpart, since physical violence often leads to scars and injuries. But, the scars of emotional abuse are real, and they run down deep inside. In fact, they can be just as damaging as the physical, sometimes more so. Unfortunately, it is often minimised, overlooked, or excused even by the person being abused.

Emotional abuse involves name-calling, yelling, blaming, and shaming. This drains the abused person. It eventually leads to stripping away their pride, forcing them to compromise their self-worth and self-respect; to always live in the shadow, constantly walking on eggshells. As such, it could leave deeper scars compared to the physical abuse, which is more of an instantaneous, prompt thing, if you will. The damage lasts here. Not that it doesn’t in the case of physical abuse, but perhaps because more emotions are involved, this kind of scars may be significantly destructive to the person and to any relationship.

Another reason why it may be harder to get rid of the consequences of verbal abuse is that the inner voice of the abused keeps replaying whatever they used to hear from the abuser. The toxic thought pattern invades their minds, resulting in even more insecurity and low self-esteem.

Sometimes, the abuse leads the victim to become codependent. So they remain in the dysfunctional relationship because they take on the role of the saviour, believing they can fix the abuser, which seldom works since the healing has to come from the abusers themselves. The abused may or may not be able to offer real help; but one thing is certain, the abuser needs to work on their own selves.

This brings us to a few more related piece of mine: Codependency: What Being Addicted to Someone Means, What Is Fear of Abandonment and How to Overcome It, and To Forgive Is Not To Reconcile.

Physical abuse can be identified by the following signs:

Tramline bruise: Two linear shaped bruises separated by a linear area of relatively unbruised skin, which results from being struck with a rectangular or cylindrical object.

Linear bruising: The slap of an open hand may leave parallel linear bruises on the cheek or elsewhere, bruises may also be caused by objects such as a stick, rod, etc.

Pinch mark: Two oval shaped bruises, with one bruise (caused by the thumb) larger than the other, and separated by an area of relatively unbruised skin. Depending upon the amount of pressure applied, a hematoma — a localised swelling that is filled with blood caused by a break in the wall of a blood vessel — may be present within the area between the two bruises. Curvilinear lacerations caused by fingernails may be present in one or both bruised areas. Typically these occur in smaller pinch marks where the skin is pinched between the fingernails.

Fingertip bruising: Caused by grabbing or squeezing the flesh appear as oval shaped bruises with the bruise caused by the thumb some distance away. Not all of the fingers may leave a bruise as a result of the uneven pressure being applied. This, I believe, was the case with our coffee shop lady.

There are various reasons why abusers do what they do; and they often alternate between different ones. They might want to:

  • Stop the abused from doing something
  • Shut them up
  • Punish them for doing something he/she didn’t like
  • Punish them for hurting his/her feelings
  • Show them who’s the boss
  • Win an argument
  • Get their own way

Essentially, domestic violence is all about power and control. The violence and abuse are used for one purpose only: to gain then maintain total, rigid control over a person. Be it a partner, a child or even an animal, to force someone to do something means attempting to control them. Abusers use fear, guilt, shame, intimidation to get their way. They may also threaten the abused, hurt them, or hurt those around them.

Domestic violence and abuse do not distinguish. They occur among heterosexual couples as in same-sex partnerships; within all age ranges, ethnic backgrounds, and economic levels. They also occur between people from different generations as well as siblings. And while women are more commonly victimised, men are equally abused — especially verbally and emotionally, sometimes even physically as well.

The abuse inflicted by women can take a slightly different curve. As insightfully noted by a pen pal of mine, when a son, for instance, grows up being overly controlled by his mother, the consequences are different due to the nature of the mother/son relationship. Because they are males, when those boys mature they often tend to hide and repress the abuse they went through. The dire consequences are still there, though they may be more subtle in such cases, perhaps sometimes also more profound.

Some of the following facts regarding abuse are truly shocking:

  • Every 9 seconds in the U.S a woman is assaulted or beaten. Imagine?
  • Around the world, at least one in every three women has been beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused during her lifetime. Most often, the abuser is a member of her own family.
  • Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women — more than car accidents, muggings, and rapes combined!
  • Based on reports from 10 countries, between 55 percent and 95 percent of women who had been physically abused by their partners had never contacted non-governmental organisations, shelters, or the police for help.

More facts and statistics can be found on this U.S. Department of Justice Link.

In reality, men who as children witnessed their parents’ domestic violence were twice as likely to abuse their own wives than sons of nonviolent parents. So that vicious circle starts early when it certainly doesn’t, and shouldn’t, have to be like this.

An additional feature is that men who abuse members of their family tend to blame other people, or circumstances or alcohol for their rage and violent outbursts. Not taking responsibility for one’s own actions by blaming others is precisely the major cause of suffering. So the abuse is actually a blatant sign of weakness in those men, which says a whole lot about them. In many cases, the reasons behind the abuse have to do with some deeply held beliefs about their masculinity. As human nature, it stems from their inner fears and the many insecurities their ego breads.

At the end, abusive behaviour is never the answer. The nasty, lasting repercussions of domestic violence and abusive relationships can be gravely harmful. We need more people to realise that any kind of abuse is not healthy and should never be tolerated. Victims may seek help, or choose to heal themselves, or end their toxic relationshits. Simply because we are all worth much more. Whether the abuse is coming from a man, a woman, a teenager, or an elder, all beings deserve to be safe from harm. All beings deserve to be treated with dignity, and to feel valued and respected. All beings deserve to be Loved.

*Article originally published on Conscious Life News in April 2014


What Is Fear of Abandonment and How to Overcome It

Codependency: What Being Addicted to Someone Means

The Significance of Letting Go

What Is Overcompensation?

The Parable of the Cow: You Are Not Your Thoughts

To Forgive Is Not To Reconcile

Things I Got Rid Of To Become Happier

On Love and Attachment

Why We Should Not Fear Death

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