This is Part One of a Two Part series covering emotional abuse and how to deal with it. The link to Part Two is at the bottom of this post.
Let me put some perspective into the question which starts with two statistics recently published by Cambridgeshire Police:
- 1 in 4 Women are victims of domestic abuse
- 1 in 6 Men are victims of domestic abuse
Domestic Abuse is NOT just suffered by Women!
In British society, we need to get away from the notion that it is always the man who is the the cause of abuse inside relationships.
One of the main reasons that Domestic Abuse seems more prevalent in Women is because Men generally do not speak out.
Sad as it is, there are very few support services available to properly support Male victims of Domestic Abuse. And it is fair to say that those services that do exist, are not as accomplished with the wide range of packaged support options readily available such as –
- counselling and advice
- help with Court processes etc.
In 2019, Cambridgeshire Social Services acknowledged to me that, while support is meant to be equally available, sadly, they are ill-equipped in the tools needed to assist men coming out of abusive and violent relationships.
I suspect that this inequality is a far wider problem across the United Kingdom today.
This article is designed to apply equally to both Men and Women – for this reason I do not label which gender is the Abuser or the Victim.
Defining some of the forms of Abuse.
A form of learnt behaviour as a repeating pattern which has been witnessed from a historic, dysfunctional, setting and is subsequently seen to be normal behaviour. Because the person does not understand otherwise.
Physical and sexual abuse
Physical violence and chastisement is a typical primary tool of abusers. Humiliating and dismantling the victim with punches and slaps, pushing and shoving etc, so to terrify the victim into complete submission.
Where sexual abuse exists, it can take a horrifying turn for the worse with assault and violation. The victim is told it is make-up sex which the abuser finds very gratifying but leaves the victim feeling used and humiliated and completely degraded.
The abuser feels a sense of superiority and therefore this abuse is relentless. The intention is to disempower the victim and create a sense of worthlessness. Forms of this type of abuse include (but are not limited to) name calling, regular criticism of every aspect of the victim and is designed to create a form of co-dependency where the victim relies upon the abuser for validation.
This involved intimidating the victim into cutting out friendships and increasingly distancing from family and any external forms of support. The victim often finds that they cannot communicate freely with anyone and this is tactically what the abuser wants because they do not want the victim to be awoken into realisation of their circumstances.
This generally begins the process of domestic abuse and usually is a way of the abuser testing boundaries to see how far they can go before the victim has a reaction. Once they know how, the intimidation increases to destabilise the victim psychologically.
Denial, Blame and Minimising
A frequently used tactic so that the abuser can shift blame and avoid responsibility, especially if something does not go their way. Eventually the victim feels they must take responsibility for all the forms of abuse (as if they deserve to suffer it). Where addictions are part of the problem, the victim is blamed as the reason why the addiction started.
All too often, within the pattern of abuse, the abuser threatens the victim with taking away the children. Putting them beyond reach. It is not about the children per se, it is about the desire of total domination over the victim and hitting them in areas where they are extremely vulnerable and susceptible.
Privilege and Advantage
This is traditionally seen as a Male over Female form of domination; centred around the belief that a Man has historically had the rights, entitlements and decision-making choices. It is now a stereotype.
In reality, this can nowadays be seen as a problem which can happen in both Male-Female and Female-Male domestic abuse situations; especially where the Woman is the family bread winner and more educated and dominant than the man.
Put simply, where the abuser takes overall control of the household finances and blocks the victim from access to either shared or their own monies in order to prevent the victim from leaving and putting themselves in a position of safety.
A form of abuse that became illegal in 2015 (in the UK). See my article on Narcissists. The abuser stops the victim from doing anything the abuser does not want. The abuser will use threats such as taking away children to maintain overall control.
Patterns of domestic abuse are often accompanied by periods of remorse (sometimes referred to as the honeymoon period). The Abuser is apologetic and promissory that the behaviour will not continue (It will never happen again, I promise!). And typically, this does not last long.
Where addiction interplays within the toxic situation, alcohol and substance abuse act as an antagonist, precipitating the sequence of abuse which then ensues. Victims describe their abuser as a Jekyll and Hyde character.
Sadly, victims, all to often, make excuses for their partners’ outbursts and bad behaviours. Inevitably the victim then takes responsibility for it as if it was their fault.
And unfortunately, it is the nature of the abuser to deny any accountability for their abusive actions. Their complete blindness to the negative impact it has, both toward the victim partner, as well as any children of the family, compounds the problem. Because those who have to live with it, are caught up in the patterns of abuse as co-victims.
It is for this reason that the Family Court identify that child abuse includes where children have seen, witnessed or overheard the arguments and unpleasantness at the hand of their parents.
“Overcoming abuse doesn’t just happen, it takes positive steps every day. Let today be the day you start to move forward”.Assunta Harris
Every week I meet people who have fallen victim to domestic abuse. Some are truly harrowing stories. For others, they escaped their circumstances before their issues really escalated.
One thing is constant, however.
Almost everyone says that they never realised that they were in an abusive relationship until the point where they were able to leave it behind and remove themselves!
None of us want to see the failings and misgivings within our relationships. After all, even without abuse, relationships are always about a co-dependency. More so when that relationship involves children. It can be traumatic to contemplate ending a partnership, toxic or not.
Those who see me for treatment and support, generally present with very deep depressions and severe forms of anxiety. The numbers of emotions which have long since become repressed. The utter sense of denial by the victim which is typically masked by a sentiment of false happiness.
This is not how our emotional centres work!
Feelings are designed to grab our attention and tell us when something is wrong. And recognising a lack of confidence and a low self-esteem is always worth a reality-check.
Yet, it is regularly ignored and glossed over.
At this point it maybe worth you reading my article on becoming single and the life after.
Where a relationship has fallen on hard times, it can be possible to resolve problems with Couples Therapy. Within a safe setting, I work with both partners, initially separately, to gain an understanding and form a picture.
I find that both partners point the fingers at each other. Neither want to see fault in themselves and prefer to lay blame and accountability with the other.
This is why seeing both in separate appointments allows me to take the heat from the situation.
Then it is possible to redirect the attention and focus. I work with each party and help them to understand what the root causes are and where they come from. I find genograms to be very helpful. Often, each person has witnessed or been part of problems in former settings. Such as warring parents when they grew up, alcoholism, addictions etc.
I also try to establish what Mental Health backgrounds exist, most notably where diagnoses have been made.
They say that, today, if our relationships last ten years, we are extremely fortunate!A reflection of modern society and changing social and familial trends.
Where therapy for couples is no longer an option, individual counselling remains a sensible alternative, to help restore a sense of self, low self-esteem, and lack of confidence.
Balance and lower anxious states come from unlocking repressed and forgotten feelings; disconnecting them from the problems that created them, processing them, then (safely) letting them go.
Depression often resolves once both parties are no longer locked into their own former toxic anatomy of disaster.
What endures, however, is the needs of children. And this can become a massive source or contention and bitterness.
Occasionally, separated parents are able to co-manage their children and can agree with whom they should live and see, how frequently etc.
Children need stability, even when the parents’ lives are falling apart and breaking down. It is important to keep this in mind. It does get overlooked!
When there is no alternative, for the best interests of the children, the only way to breach the deadlock is to involve the Family Court and apply for a Child Arrangements Order.
Domestic abuse is incredibly relevant to the Child proceedings. In fact, the Court has a sub-process known as a ‘Fact Finding’ (Practice Direction 12J) to establish what abuse existed and how it may have impacted on the children.
As adults, we forget to look at problems through the eyes of children, usually because we are so caught up in our own emotional pain and suffering.
So I am sharing with you a really thought-provoking video about Daisy (fictional) which was written by His Honour Justice Stephen Wildblood, a Family Court Judge.
My friends at Families Need Fathers have prepared Guidance Notes which accompany this video and serve to highlight and explain the important features of it. You can access those notes here.
If you feel you have been affected by Domestic Abuse in your life and are looking for options for support, Contact me.
Carry on and read Part Two.