Despite much progress in gender relations over the past few decades, domestic violence remains a serious issue. Though both men and women can be victimised by domestic violence, research indicates that domestic violence against men is rare, though about one in three women are eventually victimised by domestic violence. At Three Seas, we work with domestic violence victims to move past the pain and trauma. If you have a history of domestic violence or are in an abusive relationship, we may also be able to help you navigate these challenges.
The Difference Between Domestic Violence and Normal Conflict
Domestic violence isn’t just a tiff gone awry, and it’s not a natural reaction to intense conflict. It doesn’t matter what your partner has done or failed to do. Infidelity, disrespect, dishonesty, and a host of other problems are common in relationships, but they are not a valid excuse to hit your partner. If you believe such behaviours excuse domestic violence, then you are almost certainly an abuser.
So how can you tell if you’re trapped in a domestic violence relationship? Not all abusive relationships begin with physical violence. In fact, in most cases the violence starts small, steadily escalating over time. Some signs that your relationship is an abusive one, and that you’re not just experiencing normal conflict include:
- Your partner threatens your physical safety.
- Your partner shows you weapons as a veiled threat.
- Your partner has isolated you from friends and family.
- Your partner controls the finances in your house, or won’t let you work outside of the home.
- Your partner is excessively jealous, or frequently accuses you of things you didn’t do.
- Your partner abuses your children or pets.
- Your partner breaks things in the house, especially your things.
- Your partner controls your behaviour to minimise your chances to talk to someone else about your problems.
- Your partner calls you names, spits on you, yells at you, or punishes you.
- You are afraid of your partner.
- Your partner coerces you or forces you to have sex when you don’t want to.
- Your partner makes you feel worthless.
- Your partner forces you to care for him, but does not offer you care or compassion in return.
- Your partner monitors your communication or otherwise interferes with your ability to communicate with people outside your relationship.
Understanding the Cycle of Abuse
Domestic violence is cyclical in nature, so if your partner is nice to you sometimes, or even most of the time, this doesn’t mean you’re not in an abusive relationship. Most experts on domestic violence recognise three distinct phases to the abuse.
During this period, conflict steadily builds. You may argue about daily issues, work to please your abuser, or perform some combination of the two. In most cases, you can feel that things are steadily getting worse as the frequency of your partner’s kindness gradually decreases.
During the battering phase the abuser uses things that happened during the tension-building phase – such as infidelity, disagreements, or issues with your children – as a reason to lash out at you. Battering may take the form of physical or emotional violence, or some combination of the two. Battering tends to escalate over time, but each battering cycle may be different from the last.
During the honeymoon phase, the abuser stops battering temporarily, apologises for his actions, and may take extraordinary measures to show his remorse. Importantly, the batterer does not take meaningful steps toward improvement, such as seeking therapy or recognising that he is participating in a cycle of abuse. The abuse victim may so desperately want to believe that things will be better that she sticks around. It is the honeymoon period, during which the abuser is kind and apologetic, that keeps most victims in abusive relationships.
How Domestic Violence Affects Victims
Domestic violence is a complex social problem, and victims stay in abusive relationships for a variety of reasons, ranging from financial security to concerns that they’ll be killed if they leave. And, of course, for many victims, love figures prominently. It can be intensely painful to end a relationship, even an abusive one, and this alone is sufficient to keep many victims subjecting themselves to abuse for years.
The consequences, though, cannot be overstated. Domestic violence affects victims in myriad ways, including:
- Trauma to children; children who witness domestic violence face a host of health and psychological problems
- Severe injuries such as broken bones, injured organs, brain damage, wounds, and head injuries.
- Death; more than half of murdered women are killed by a current or former romantic partner.
- Depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem.
- Feeling disconnected from reality; abusers are often so good at convincing a victim it’s her fault that the victim begins to feel as though she can’t trust herself.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder.
- Difficulty working, paying bills, or performing other daily tasks.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder.
- Nightmares, disturbed sleep, or difficulty sleeping.
- Changes in eating or exercise habits.
- Distorted body image.
- Chronic pain.
Treatment for Domestic Violence Survivors
At Three Seas, we offer intensive counselling to help victims move beyond domestic violence and into a happy life. The process begins with helping you manage your current relationships. If you’re still in a domestic violence relationship, we’ll work to help you leave. Together we’ll discuss strategies for exiting, in addition to exploring any psychological barriers to leaving. For example, if low self-esteem causes you to believe you couldn’t function on your own, we’ll help you move beyond this distorted belief.
If you’re already out of an abusive relationship and are trying to put the pieces back together, we can help. Domestic violence victims often struggle with depression, anxiety, depleted self-esteem, fear, and difficulty establishing healthy relationships. We tackle each issue one by one, helping you steadily rebuild your life so that you never again have to live with the pain and fear of domestic violence.
Treatment for Domestic Violence Perpetrators
If you are a perpetrator of domestic violence, treatment begins with recognising that you, and you alone, are to blame for the abuse your partner has suffered. We work with domestic abusers who are ready to more effectively manage their anger and avoid ever harming another partner. Some of the issues we can help you address include:
- Finding non-violent ways to express your needs and resolve conflict.
- Making amends to a partner whom you have abused.
- Controlling your anger.
- Recognising that violence is never an appropriate response to anger.
- Understanding any underlying factors that contribute to your anger, such as insecurity, depression, or a childhood history of abuse.
We often find that people who engage in violence against others have an underlying mental illness, such as depression. If this is the case with you, we’ll offer you comprehensive and compassionate treatment. We are non-judgment and understanding, and we know it takes courage to recognise that you need help controlling violent behaviour.
But our services don’t end there. We know that it takes more than compassion to end the cycle of domestic violence. For that reason, we challenge you when necessary. When we notice you sharing a false belief, a thought that leads to violence, or an idea that blames your partner for your violence, we’ll call you on it. Moving past domestic violence means recognising your own dangerous or problematic ideas, and we help you do precisely that.
We offer a number of services for perpetrators who want to have peaceful, gentle, nonviolent relationships. Individual counselling can help perpetrators understand the cycle of violence and move beyond violent coping skills. And our anger management group allows you to get support for your anger from other people who know what it’s like to live with overwhelming anger each day.
Treatment for Couples Involved in Domestic Violence
Most experts on domestic violence agree that couples counselling will not solve domestic violence. Violence is the fault of the perpetrator, not a shared problem in the marriage. But when it is treated as such, counselling can become an avenue through which the abuser further abuses the victim. In some cases, counselling can even become a tool for the abuser to blame the victim for her own abuse!
Consequently, we don’t offer couples counselling to work specifically on domestic violence. What we do offer is assistance for couples who want to pick up the pieces after moving beyond violent relationships. When a perpetrator is sufficiently committed to change, it can be possible to move into a healthy, happy relationship. In couples counselling, we’ll help you:
- Find ways to make amends to your partner and nurture a sense of safety.
- Understand better ways of communicating.
- Express your needs to one another.
- Express anger and frustration in a healthy, non-harmful fashion.
If you’re not ready for couples counselling, we’ll offer you each individual counselling. With Three Seas, you can both move past a history of domestic violence. Don’t allow violence to undermine your well-being for another second.