Relationship Blog

Are You a Victim or Perpetrator of Abuse?

domestic violence

Do you find relationships challenging at the best of times?

When people are under stress they cope in different ways. If really stressed, they can get  into fight or flight mode. And whether intentional or not may create abuse in a relationship.

Others just might have a habit of abuse that they have learned somewhere along the way as a strategy to control and get their needs met.

Abuse in a relationship is typically called Domestic Violence. In a relationship, abuse can take many forms. Smashing things, carrying weapons, threatening body language, verbal and physical threats, demonstration of power like what could happen by putting a fist through a wall, raising the voice, looks to put you in your place, dangerous driving with the victim in the car, even harassing at work. And any other way to try and make their victim feel helpless.

All abuse is unacceptable and some are criminal offences.

The perpetrator of the abuse uses fear typically through intimidation tactics to dominate their victim and make them feel powerless and get them to comply with their view of the world.

The following definition of Domestic Violence comes from an Australian Government paper – Domestic violence in Australia – an overview of the issues.

Domestic violence includes:

  • Emotional Abuse – Blaming the victim for all problems in the relationship, undermining the victim’s self-esteem and self-worth through comparisons with others, withdrawing interest and engagement and emotional blackmail.
  • Verbal Abuse – Swearing and humiliation in private and public, focusing on intelligence, sexuality, body image or the victim’s capacity as a parent or spouse.
  •  Social Abuse – Systematic isolation from family and friends, instigating and controlling relocations to a place where the victim has no social circle or employment opportunities and preventing the victim from going out to meet people.
  •  Economic Abuse – Controlling all money, forbidding access to bank accounts, providing an inadequate ‘allowance’, preventing the victim seeking or holding employment and taking wages earned by the victim.
  •  Psychological Abuse – Making threats regarding custody of children, asserting the justice system will not believe or support the victim, destroying property, abusing pets and driving dangerously.
  •  Spiritual Abuse. – Denial and/or misuse of religious beliefs or practices to force victims into subordinate roles and misusing religious or spiritual traditions to justify physical violence or other abuse.
  •  Physical Abuse. – Direct assaults on the body, use of weapons (including objects), assault of children, locking the victim out of the house, sleep and food deprivation.
  •  Sexual Abuse – Any form of pressured/unwanted sex or sexual degradation, causing pain during sex, coercive sex without protection against pregnancy or sexually transmitted disease, making the victim perform sexual acts unwillingly and criticising or using degrading insults

In addition to the above definition here are some more ways to look at abuse.

Controlling behaviours – Dictating what the victim does, where they go, who they see and communicate with, or discouraging them from making friends and from communicating with their family or from having their own money. This also includes stopping them from going to work, or forcing them to go to work, stopping them from expressing their own thoughts and feelings, or making decisions for them self.

Separation Violence- Oftentimes the violence may intensify throughout the separation process both during and after, leaving the victim in a more dangerous position than before. When the perpetrator becomes conscious that he has no control over the victim anymore, they can become unpredictable, and the violence will often escalate creating more trauma for the victim.

Stalking- Occasionally either before or after separation, the perpetrator will stalk the victim. This includes, hanging around in places she is known to be at frequently, following and watching her, making never-ending phone calls, texts and emails including undesirable love letters, cards and gifts even though the relationship is over. Stalking someone is a criminal offense. Under the stalking legislation more than one type of behaviour has to occur or the same type of behaviour has to occur on more than one occasion

What to do about Domestic Violence

Domestic Violence is a big topic. The definitions have been included here to raise awareness, so that you can see if any apply to you

domestic violence

I acknowledge that there are levels of degrees of abuse. For example, you may come home one day and ‘lose it.’, yell at your partner and the kids. By the above definitions this is Domestic Violence, and I am going to suggest that it is unacceptable and something needs to be done. Even if it is a one off, or happens rarely, it is good to go the bottom of what is going on.

If it is a regular occurrence then it should be taken more seriously and professional help may be required.

On the other end of the scale, there may need to be a major intervention because the abuse is life threatening.

There is always help available no matter the level of abuse. The first decision you need to make is that you will no longer put up with abuse. Whether you are abused, or you abuse others.

Next is to seek the appropriate help to work toward setting boundaries and creating new strategies and choices.

For small simple matters, this may be plucking up the courage and having a heart to heart talk with your partner and working out on how to go forward. There is a section called “Setting Boundaries Conversation” that can help here.

Finding a good coach to work with is always a good option. Because they are outside the system, they can be more objective and help you see things differently and come up with new choices and strategies to help you move forward.

Finally it is taking the action to change. There is a reason or many reasons that abuse shows up in people’s lives. Let’s take the positive viewpoint that there is something to learn here. It is neither good nor bad, just an experience, albeit it can be a very painful one. If there is something to learn, then there is something that can be changed for the better, often for the better of both parties.

Sometimes people are genuinely unaware that they are causing abuse. They are so much in their own world, they are getting their needs met and oblivious to the pain they are causing others. Here I am going to suggest that they have not had the right feedback for it to register.

When we are able to communicate our needs, when our needs are heard, when we stick up for getting our needs met with mutually acceptable strategies, abuse will no longer have a hold. When others truly hear and understand the pain they have or are causing then they are more likely to change. It just may take some time, skills and help to get to that point.

Let me ask you and can you be brutally honest here.

  •              Do you have any abuse in your life?
  •              Are you a victim of any abuse?
  •              Are you the cause of any abuse on any level?
  •              If you have abuse in your life, how much longer are you going to put up with it?

Before you do anything, I repeat again, seek outside help, someone objective, not just friends and family, to get a clear picture on what is going on. Friends and family will be there to support you, and often they are biased toward protecting you. Also you may have a read on my previous blog: How Do You Handle Rejection in a Relationship?.

So if you’ve got any questions regarding this blog or any aspect of your relaionship, why not take advantage of the complimentary 30-minute session I offer. Contact Me to see how I can help you have more healthier and happier relationships.  Until next time.

Marriage Counsellor and Relationship Counsellor - Keith Flynn

Keith Flynn BSc, Dip. Hyp.


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