Domestic violence goes far beyond the typical stories you hear so often in the news. It can involve a spouse, former spouse, girlfriend, boyfriend, a child, parent or live-in partner. Hitting is but one aspect of domestic violence, a social issue across the globe that has a far-reaching impact. One recent example making international headlines is that of entertainer Chris Brown who allegedly battered his pop singer girlfriend Rihanna February 8th. The incident is said to have taken place in Brown's car on a Los Angeles street and photos leaked to the press reportedly show a bruised and battered Rihanna.
The media onslaught over the case has drawn attention to an important and often overlooked fact - that domestic violence is not just a problem for the poor and uneducated. Domestic violence is a pattern of behavior in which one partner uses violence or abusive behavior to control, intimidate or gain power over a partner or family member. It can include abuse that is physical, psychological, verbal, economic or sexual. Add alcohol, pills or other drugs to the scenario and you have a cocktail for disaster. Domestic violence can also escalate to murder, whether intended or not. The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence reports that on average, more than 3 people are killed each day in the U.S. by domestic partners. They also note that about 14 percent of police officers killed in the line of duty die while responding to domestic calls.
Causes, Examples and Solutions
It can happen because we are angry, jealous, frustrated or feeling inadequate. In many cases, built-up rage learned in the childhood home spills over into adult relationships. This cycle needs to be broken as a high percentage of batterers report experiencing domestic violence within their families. The fear and shame experienced by many victims keeps them from reporting the abuse, so statistics reflect only substantiated cases.
Domestic abuse could include property crimes such as theft, vandalism and trespassing, violations of restraining orders, harassment, threats or stalking. Physical crimes include hitting, slapping, shoving, kicking, punching, tripping, raping, burning, choking, shooting, stabbing, hair pulling, restraining and confining. Emotional abuse includes shouting, yelling, criticizing, swearing, intimidation, humiliation, threatening, name calling and treating the other like a servant. Economic abuse is when one person withholds or hides money from another or imposes an allowance.
Controlling anger and other negative emotions takes restraint. When these feelings surface, it helps to just walk away. It's also very important to think before saying anything out of anger. Treat others the same way you would want to be treated. This may sound easier than it is. Anger management counseling, whether court mandated or not, can help you sort through issues and find new ways to cope with negative emotions. Understanding your personal triggers can help you avoid situations and improve self control. You do have control over how you act and react. Recognizing that is a step in the right direction.
Domestic Violence is About Control
Recent media reports that pop star Rihanna has taken back boyfriend Chris Brown after an alleged battering has sent shock waves around the world. Media outlets like TMZ have reportedly shown pictures of the two reuniting at a secluded Florida location just three weeks after Brown was arrested in connection with the incident. Though police have not officially named the victim, pictures leaked to the press show a bruised and battered Rihanna after the February incident in which he allegedly attacked and bit her in his car on a Los Angeles street.
Women - or men - who go back to their abusers are not a new phenomenon. Because domestic abuse is most often about control, abusers try to manipulate their victims, often professing their sorrow and vowing it will never happen again. In most cases it does happen again. When it does, the abuser often escalates the violence, and the cycle of abuse and reconciliation continues. This is a very dangerous cycle that can leave lasting physical, emotional, mental and spiritual scars.
The Cycle of Violence Rolls On and On
Victims who abandon their regard for personal safety risk severe injury, even death. Remorse is often short lived. Without proper anger management intervention, violence can continue for years and often goes unreported. People who haven't been in an abusive situation don't understand those who choose to stay. It's hard to walk in someone else's shoes and make sense of the complicated relationship between abuser and victim.
Domestic Abuse can be physical, mental, emotional, sexual or economic in nature. Examples include hitting, punching, slapping, biting, yelling, criticizing, withholding money, restricting the other's individual rights and sexual assault. The victim can be a spouse, ex-spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend, live-in partner, parent or sibling. Abusers often report being abused during childhood, proving that what is learned early on can surface later in life and continue in a cycle. Breaking the pattern requires that abusers and victims get help to deal with their feelings and the role they play in the relationship.
Victims and Abusers: Where to Go For Help
So what makes victims like Rihanna decide to go back to their abusers? In many cases, it has less to do with love and more to do with feelings of inadequacy, low self-esteem or co-dependency. Supportive therapy can help to resolve these issues. Specialists can help victims of abuse sort through feelings and provide support to help them get out of their situations. Victims of abuse owe it to themselves to get out and should not be afraid to ask for help. Caring organizations, shelters and programs exist to offer support and a safe place to go.
Therapy and anger management programs can help abusers sort through their issues and reign in their anger and frustration. The cycle of abuse can be broken but requires perpetrators of domestic violence to acknowledge the problem, seek help and be willing to change. If you or someone you know has been abused or is abusing someone else, I can help.