Post No.: 0252
Domestic abuse is frequently a hidden crime. Many cases go unreported. So let’s learn about some of the key warning signs to look out for…
A small percentage of males can be incredibly possessive of their female partners to the point of constantly being suspicious of, controlling, accusatory and abusive towards them due to the fear of being cuckolded. This behaviour may have evolved for a reason, but in these cases it expresses in an extreme way, and no known extreme is healthy or right. Everyone needs to be vigilant of their partners to a tiny degree (no good being a walkover if your partner really is cheating on you) but this behaviour goes way too far if it ventures into abuse.
Women sometimes domestically abuse men in relationships too, although this is nowhere near as common as men abusing women. Now is it more ‘manly’ or tough to continually tolerate pain, or more ‘manly’ or tough to stand up and say, “No more” against a source of pain (which in this case is one’s abusive partner)? It’s therefore not a question of being tough or stoic, for any gender – abuse must be stopped.
Possessiveness is a major red flag for the risk of domestic abuse. Victims must learn to recognise the signs of possessiveness, and safely get out of such relationships as soon as possible, and then stay out of them. Other signs of domestic abuse include coercively controlling the partner by any means possible and degrading their self-worth. Abuse can be mental, physical, sexual and/or via financial control. The abuser may exhibit extreme jealousy, mood swings, impulsivity, explosive behaviours, verbal abuse and of course threatening and physically violent behaviour.
They destroy the victim’s self-esteem so that the victim ends up feeling like they deserve the abuse and humiliation (often both privately and publicly). They deny the victim’s right to feel happy – by keeping the victim depressed, the abuser makes it less likely for the victim to leave (an extreme form of ‘treating them mean to keep them keen’ I guess).
A domestic abuser can seem incredibly charming at first (a central trait of a psychopath) but their true colours will eventually show. A victim may not leave her/his abuser until over dozens of incidents because she/he might not recognise that she/he’s in an abusive relationship. This is because, at the beginning, behaviours like being constantly asked where one is seems caring and endearing, and having one’s dress sense or hair criticised seems like normal constructive criticisms. But gradually over time these criticisms encompass everything the victim does and get more extreme, they’re more controlling, they may groom the victims family and friends to overlook any signs of abuse, they’ll try to even get the victim to turn against or otherwise isolate themselves from their family and friends, the victim is made to feel useless and like she/he is to blame for everything, and then (although not in every case) the mental abuse escalates into physical and/or sexual abuse.
You may be pressured for a rapid commitment. But it must be clarified that excessive love and attention in itself isn’t abusive unless there are signs of jealousy and trying to control and degrade you. (It may be a bit sappy but it’s not abusive!) As a rough rule of thumb – if you feel like you are walking on eggshells around them and are changing your behaviours out of a fear for what they might do to you then that’s not good. Charm or mood swings are not in themselves signs of an abuser either – but if you get hit just once then that’s definitely crossed the line and they could do it again.
Some women can conversely mistake jealousy as caring too much, and/or the charm allied with moments of aggression as their partner being some sort of dangerous but desirable ‘bad boy’. Women who find such men attractive tend to be high in attachment anxiety, are anxious over rejection, they love the initial attention and admiration, and fail to balance independence and interdependence. The solution is to listen to what friends are saying – to see what one cannot for being too close and full of the hormones involved in lust or love. These women can often understand that the relationship is bad but their instincts and hormones still make them think ‘it feels right’ deep inside due to the ‘energy and charisma’ of the abusive person who is in essence manipulating them.
A victim might mistake that it is a confusing but not abusive situation. They can believe that they are at fault for all of their abuser’s abusive behaviours (all the criticism, shouting and violence they’re receiving from them). Or they might feel alone or humiliated to admit to the problem and think that it should stay a private matter. There might be a perceived stigma attached to being a victim of domestic abuse (some don’t want to call themselves ‘victims’, but by the definition of the word they are, or at least were if they’ve now escaped and survived a case).
Many other factors make it difficult to leave a relationship, such as young children, the home and financial ties, clinging onto the hope that it’ll all work out eventually and one will get one’s ‘perfect relationship and family’ one day if one just doesn’t give up on it, or the fear of the amplified rage of the abuser if one tells the truth to anyone else, for instance. A victim might think that threatening to leave will escalate the abuse, or that actually leaving will create a dangerous stalker – but the abuse won’t stop and it will likely escalate dangerously if one stays anyway. A victim might also not realise how common domestic abuse is behind closed doors, and not realise that there are helplines for this kind of thing. So if one is in such a situation – one is not alone, one is not at fault and there is help available. Meow.
If you are in an abusive relationship, you do however need to be careful about how you approach help because once an abuser realises that you may be leaving, that’s when the domestic abuse risks escalating further. So you’ll need to find a safe time, place and way (because an abuser will likely be checking your phone records) to call a helpline, and these services will then help you to plan and execute a step-by-step action plan from there. If you have someone to confide in then utilise them. If you suspect that a friend or family member is in an abusive relationship then help them and don’t give up even if they say they’re okay – some victims find it incredibly hard to admit that they’re being abused even if directly questioned about it again and again.
The cycle of abusive incident, to making up again, to a calm phase, to tension building (e.g. via alcohol abuse or blaming work stress), back to abusive incident – needs to be recognised and stopped. Don’t keep on letting it slide if they don’t change!
‘Gaslighting’ is a form of psychological manipulation and abuse in relationships too, that makes the victim question her/his own perception, memories and thus sanity. The gaslighter projects himself (it’s usually a male again but in truth any gender can be a perpetrator once more) with an image of being a highly desirable mate thus whisking the victim off their feet, but then the victim goes from being adored to being told that she/he is an embarrassment and is incapable of doing anything right. But having tasted the ‘ideal life with the ideal mate’, the victim feels desperate to make things right for the gaslighter, but then the victim gets ditched, often when another victim is being groomed. This can leave victims of gaslighting with low self-worth and depression. So learn to recognise this situation in advance and get out of such relationships as soon as possible – and don’t listen to a gaslighter’s claims that you ruined everything, are useless or won’t do better without them. (But do update what you find as a ‘highly desirable mate’.)
After we first and foremostly care for the victims of abuse and dispense justice, we need to consider the background and mental health of the perpetrators too – in order to learn to prevent cases of abuse in future generations. There seem to be patterns of behaviour in domestic abuse perpetrators, such as regarding their possessiveness, jealousy and desire for control. They might have too many genetic risk factors, along with an upbringing, life events and/or a wider culture that allows these particular phenotypes to express or seem acceptable, in conjunction with too little protective factors. For example, some abusers may have been victims of abuse in the past themselves – although this is never a vindication for committing domestic abuse. Hardly every child abuse victim becomes an abuser as an adult anyway.
The situation may seem like a mess and one might be worried about getting the law involved and so forth, but many victims have successfully survived and moved on from abusive relationships. If you recognise that you are in such an abusive relationship, or suspect you know someone who is, then please search online and call your local domestic violence hotline. Please be brave and speak out to get as much social support as possible, or don’t be an idle bystander if you suspect domestic abuse is happening to someone else. It’s not just ‘somebody else’s problem’. We shall stand up together against domestic abuse!
Meow. If you’re a survivor of domestic abuse or would otherwise like to share your personal insights in order to help protect others then please do via the Twitter comment button below.