The first thing to realize is that domestic violence and domestic abuse are two different things. While domestic violence may also entail also domestic abuse, and domestic abuse may lead up to domestic violence, they are still two different things. A simple way to distinguish between the two is that domestic abuse is psychological in nature while domestic violence is physical. Domestic abuse is when one person in a domestic relationship seeks to abuse and overcome the will of their partner, to control and dominate the other person in the relationship. Domestic violence entails a wide variety of violent acts, starting maybe with pushing or physically coercive acts, but, ultimately may end at shooting, stabbing, threats of violence, or forms of lethal violence by one partner against the other.
The objective of domestic abuse and violence is to assert mental and physical control of the other partner. Domestic abusers may use a variety of approaches in achieving their domination, emotional blackmail, guilt, the sense of shame, fear, and mental and physical intimidation. The only thing that matters to them in achieving their objective of domination regardless of the adverse emotional effects on the person they want to dominate. The abuser can also make threats to hurt the victim or other people to convince the abused partner to cooperate.
Domestic abuse and violence can occur in any type of relationships, heterosexual or same sex. It may develop and take place at any stage of life, all ages, all ethnicities, and at all economic levels. Both men and women can be the victim of domestic abuse. Younger members of a family might abuse older members or vice versa. Teenagers can abuse other teenagers, and senior citizens can abuse other senior citizens in the family.
The critical element to recognize is that, in any relationship, it is not appropriate for one partner to intimidate or abuse the other partner in order to gain power over them. When they do, it is a noxious relationship, toxic to both partners, but in different ways. The abuser is possessed by a toxic need for power, and the victim is subject to thoughts and actions against their will. Neither of these situations is healthy.
Both partners in a relationship should be co-equal, both feeling relatively equally valued, due and given respect, and safe, one partner not having or expressing significant power over the other. Of course, in all relationships, there may be differing degrees of domination and submission, but these are ordinarily expressed in benign ways, the submissive partner not being psychologically or physically harmed by dominating partner. These normal power relationships, however, by one partner or the other, may be pushed over the line and become not benign but abusive.
Responses to domestic abuse and violence are different depending on the individual. Some victims excuse the abuse or violence in the mistaken assumption that it is a natural part of a relationship or that, somehow, they have done something to deserve the abuse and violence. It might be overlooked and minimized until it reaches a stage where it becomes the dominating characteristic of the relationship. Other people, both victims, and abusers deny their actions, Psychological abuse is easier to rationalize by either the abuser or the victim or both than is physical domestic violence, which can leave physical damage that cannot be ignored.
What are the signs of an abusive relationship?
One of the most significant signs is that one partner has a fear of the other partner. If one partner accepts the fact that they must be very careful in what they say and do so as not to antagonize the other partner in some way which engenders abusive or violent responses, that is an abusive relationship. In a normal relationship, one partner should not be in fear of the other partner. If you are in constant fear that your partner will “blow up” and do something rash, then that is an abusive relationship. If your partner constantly criticizes or belittles you, that is a sign of an abuser. If the other partner always wants and gets his or her way that is a sign of an abusive relationship. If the words and actions of your partner leave you with feelings of low self-confidence, low self-esteem, and personal feelings of inadequacy, then that is a sign of an abusive relationship. Feelings of desperation and helplessness in a relationship is a sign that something is wrong in the way that one is being treated.
Both the abuser and the victim in circumstances of domestic abuse and violence need psychological counseling. In circumstance involving personal danger, appeal to the police or 911 is required, but for treatment leading to both partners recognizing the fact of domestic abuse, and seeking to control and alleviate the abusive situation, psychological counseling offers a number of potential solutions. Critical, however in improving the circumstances of domestic abuse, psychological counseling should be one of the first responses to confront and reverse the situation. Do not hesitate to call a psychologist for a consultation regarding your situation to get expert and knowledgeable advice on how to respond to it.
More on Domestic Abuse and Domestic Violence coming in Part 2.