Most couples treasure their vows, love and marriage, but not all. Domestic violence is a rapidly growing crime that affects 2.5 million women each year. Men and children can also be victims of family violence, which can shatter lives and bring untold costs.
What is domestic violence?
Domestic violence is any abuse committed by an individual to someone they are related to in some way, be it spouse, child or significant other. Any violent confrontation between a family or household members involving physical harm, sexual assault or fear of physical harm is considered domestic violence. Domestic abuse is one of the most under-reported crimes in America today. Most victims are women.
No one deserves to be abused. The responsibility for the violence belongs to the abuser. It is not the victim's fault. The cycle of violence needs to stop. The abuser needs to start by admitting to having a problem, facing the truth and wanting to change and get help.
Types of Domestic Abuse
Some examples of the physical abuse inflicted on victims of domestic violence include biting, shaking, pushing, pinching, choking, kicking, hair pulling, confinement, slapping, hitting, punching, using weapons, forced intercourse, unwanted sexual touching in public or in private, and depriving the victim of food or sleep.
Emotional abuse may include insulting the victim in public or in private, demeaning the victim's friends and family, making the victim feel bad about herself, calling the victim names, making him think he's crazy, humiliating him, making her feel guilty and treating her like a servant.
Economic abuse includes preventing the victim from getting or keeping a job, making her ask or beg for money, giving her an allowance, taking his money, not allowing the victim to have a voice in important financial decisions and demanding exclusive control over household finances.
Other types of abuse may involve coercion and threats, such as threatening to leave the victim or do something to hurt her, threatening to commit suicide or report him to welfare, and making the victim do illegal things.
Domestic Violence Stages
Victims of domestic abuse go through some well-established stages before they eventually find the courage, or desperation, to leave the relationship.
Stage One is the honeymoon stage, which can quickly degenerate into verbal abuse, throwing objects, breaking objects, and making threats; increased tension, anger, blaming and arguing.
As the violence escalates into Stage Two, it can include more physical things, such as spitting, pushing, shoving, grabbing and restraining.
Stage Three includes slapping, pinching, kicking and pulling hair.
Stage Four is more severe: hitting, punching, choking, beating with objects, use of weapons and rape by intimidation, threat or force.
In Stage Five, the abuser calms down and may deny or rationalize the violence, apologize or promise not to repeat the abuse.
Causes for Domestic Violence
There are many causes for domestic violence. Some of the most common include the need for power and control; growing up in a cycle of violence and abuse; a distorted concept of manhood; poverty and unemployment; lack of housing; racism and social injustice; alcohol and substance abuse; and hopelessness and despair.
Characteristics of an Abuser
Most abusers exhibit the following characteristics: They are less educated than the victim; have lower economic class than the victim; need a lot of attention; are possessive, jealous and controlling; exhibit fear of abandonment; are emotionally dependent; have explosive anger and rage; blame, lie and manipulate; and may have very traditional beliefs about the roles of marriage.
Getting Help for your Anger
Prevention starts with the abuser wanting to change his or her attitude toward violence. He needs to know that it's human to feel anger but wrong to release those feelings by beating others.
Anger management classes can help an abuser get the counseling needed to control his or her anger. The goal of anger management is to reduce the emotional feelings and physiological arousal that causes anger. If someone is acting in ways that seem out of control and frightening, he might need help finding better ways to deal with his emotions.
Deep breathing and relaxation can help calm down angry feelings. Taking a hot bath, going for a walk, taking a drive or walking away things you can do if you start to feel frustrated or angered.
Negative thinking produces negative acts. Replace negative thoughts with positive reinforcement; watch your words and think before you talk. Logic defeats anger because anger, even when it's justified, can quickly become irrational.
Some couples tend to grow apart over time. It's important to keep the lines of communication open and talk through any struggles, problems or issues that may arise to avoid frustration later down the road. If your marriage starts to suffer from tension, anger or everyday pressures, try taking a scenic drive, going to the park, having a picnic or just going to the movies to avoid the same boring routine.
Finally, if you know certain situations tend to anger you, avoid them! Remove negative people and entities from your life. Shut the door if your child's loud music is aggravating you--simply avoid getting angered at all costs. Remember, the way to avoid violence is to stay calm.
But if you feel you cannot cope, seek counseling, preferably from someone who specializes in domestic violence or marriage problems. A professional can work with you in developing a range of techniques for changing your thinking and your behavior.
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