The Cycle of Abuse

2013-05-14 09:08

I think it is time that we remind ourselves about what abuse is before the high profile Oscar Pistorius trial begins on 4 June. This is also due to my past , and realising that still today 15 years after my mom, brother and I packed up and left, that "friends and family" do not clearly understand how damaging and terrifying our experiences were.

No outsider ever knows what happens behind closed doors; therefore I believe we need to educate ourselves as a nation about abuse and we need to actively and effectively remove it from all communities.

I am very well aware and so should you, that a victim is not necessarily a woman. Men can be victims of domestic violence too.

Abuse in any terms is a serious offence, from bullying, cyber bullying, verbal, mental, physical abuse and of course animal abuse.

It is really not fair nor accurate to say, Well, if she knew he had a history of abuse, why was she still with him?" or “why did she stay with him if he is/was abusing her

  • A victims self esteem and mental state due to the abuse is what hinders them.

  • Even if a victim’s family are aware of abuse there would be little they could do - unless the victim herself had realised that leaving her abuser was her best option. Self esteem is a weird thing. Abusive relationships too.

  • Victims can be seen in public without as much as a hint of their being a victim of abuse.

  • Victims are not likely to speak out about their abuser or their situation because of fear or embarrassment. They fear violent reactions from their abuser. Their abuser has highly likely been telling her that her abuse is a form of discipline. He makes sure that she believes that she is wrong.

Here is a little info on domestic violence: this is purely to allow people to see that a victim’s situation is never cut and dry.

It doesn’t matter what you look like from the outside, you can be the most beautiful woman in the world; your body image may be good but your self esteem could still be in tethers.

Victims don't leave offenders because of fear and self esteem plays a big role too.

Offenders are very aware of this and use it to their advantage. If an abuser feels that his partner is becoming more empowered to leave, he'll turn on the charm to convince the victim that he actually does love her, and then take something away from her to control and dominate her.

That something could be the victim’s right to money or privacy, or any number of other rights.

He may tell the victim that she's nothing compared to him, causing the victim to feel vulnerable and afraid. Even if a victim seems like she has nothing else to lose, an offender can still find something to control and that usually has a significant impact on the victim’s self-esteem, causing her to stay with her abuser for just that little bit longer.

Here are some ways that abusers keep their victims around:

Possible threats: "I will kill you if you ever leave me".

He may threaten retaliatory suicide

Abusers often escalate violence when they expect their victims to be leaving.

A promise of seeking counselling

Pointing out the incredible stresses under which he is operating,

Acknowledging the wrongfulness of his violence

Most victims are in committed relationships and some of the above points can and will restore hope for their abuser to change.

Many battered women lose their support systems. Their abuser isolates them; for example, an abuser may not allow their victim to use the phone; he may humiliate her at family gatherings; he may insist on transporting her to and from work; he may censor her mail, etc..

Men who are abusive are often highly possessive and excessively jealous. They believe that they own the woman and are entitled to her exclusive attention and absolute obedience.

He knows that if the truth is told about his conduct, supportive people will urge the victim to leave or seek assistance. Therefore, abusers quickly isolate their victims in order to sustain their power and control.

Victims fear that no one will believe their partners abuse or beat them. Abusers often are sociopaths; they are very ingratiating and popular men who keep their terrorising, controlling behaviours behind closed doors. The victim knows this, and it reinforces her fear that no one will believe her. No one understands that she feels like a prisoner who might be severely injured or die at the hands of her jailer.

Most victims leave and return several times before permanently separating from their abusers. The first time a victim leaves may be a test to see whether he will actually get some help to stop his behaviour.

When he is violent again, she may leave to gain more information about resources available to her. She may then reconcile and begin to get some economic and educational resources together in case she decides that she must later leave.

She may next leave to try to break out of the isolation in which her abuser has virtually imprisoned her.

The good news is that most victims do eventually leave.

Here is a little extra info on the “cycle of abuse”

The cycle of abuse is a social cycle theory developed in the 1970s by Lenore Walker to explain patterns of behaviour in an abusive relationship.

1: Tension building phase

This phase occurs prior to an overtly abusive act, and is characterised by poor communication, passive aggression, rising interpersonal tension, and fear of causing outbursts in one's partner. During this stage the survivors may attempt to modify his or her behaviour to avoid triggering their partner's outburst.

2: Acting-out phase

Characterised by outbursts of violent, abusive incidents. During this stage the abuser attempts to dominate his/her partner (survivor), with the use of domestic violence.

3: Reconciliation/Honeymoon phase

Characterised by affection, apology, or, alternatively, ignoring the incident. This phase marks an apparent end of violence, with assurances that it will never happen again, or that the abuser will do his or her best to change. During this stage the abuser feels overwhelming feelings of remorse and sadness, or at least pretends to. Some abusers walk away from the situation with little comment, but most will eventually shower the survivor with love and affection. The abuser may use self-harm or threats of suicide to gain sympathy and/or prevent the survivor from leaving the relationship. Abusers are frequently so convincing, and survivors so eager for the relationship to improve, those survivors who are often worn down and confused by longstanding abuse, stays in the relationship.

Although it is easy to see the outbursts of the Acting-out Phase as abuse, even the more pleasant behaviours of the Honeymoon Phase perpetuate the abuse because the survivor then sees that the relationship isn't all bad.

4: Calm phase

During this phase (which is often considered an element of the honeymoon/reconciliation phase), the relationship is relatively calm and peaceable. However, interpersonal difficulties will inevitably arise, leading again to the tension building phase.

Information on the “cycle of abuse” taken from: Wikipedia

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