While it is critical to recognize the signs of domestic violence when it is happening to you or to someone you love, it is better for all parties to prevent violence before it happens. Experts state that to prevent violence before it occurs it is important to analyze your inner thoughts and feelings, your partner's belittling and controlling behavior, and your partner's threats. Additionally, family members and friends of potential victims may use these considerations as a resource to determine if their beloved family member or friend needs help or should leave a relationship.
Your Inner Thoughts and Feelings
It is important to trust your instincts. If you feel overly afraid of upsetting your partner, unsafe, or helpless in a relationship, it may be a sign that you are in an unsafe relationships. Relationships have an unhealthy dynamic where one partner fears the other, avoids discussing certain topics with their partner, feels as if they cannot do anything right by their partner, believes they may be crazy or deserving of mistreatment, or emotionally numb or helpless. These dynamics may indicate there is already emotional abuse of one partner. Emotional abuse is incredibly serious and a valid reason to leave a relationship. However, this dynamic may indicate that physical abuse could follow emotional abuse. As such, it becomes even more critical to leave such a relationship.
Your Partner's Belittling or Controlling Behavior
A belittling and controlling partner has the potential to become an abusive partner. If your partner yells at or humiliates you, criticizes you and puts you down, embarrasses you in front of family and friends, ignores you or your accomplishments, blames you for abusive behaviors, sees you as a sex object, acts excessively jealous or possessive, controls where you go and who you see, limits your access to life's necessities, or constantly checks up on you, then you may be with a belittling or controlling partner. These partners-whether consciously or subconsciously- create an unsafe relationship dynamic that may result in abuse. Such behaviors also indicate emotional abuse which can be equally as traumatizing to a survivor as physical abuse.
Threats are not something to take lightly. It may be easy to explain away your partner's threats, especially if they have made frequent threats and never acted on them. However, such threats should not be ignored. If your partner threatens to hurt or kill you, to commit suicide if you leave them, to force you to have sex, or cause you other physical or emotional harm then your partner is using threats as an attempt to control and manipulate you. While the partner may not recognize the severity of their behavior, you must. Lao Tzu, an ancient Chinese Philosopher once stated that one must watch their words because words become actions. You must watch your partner's words because these words can turn into violent action.
The Cycle of Abuse
Finally, it can be difficult to recognize when you are stuck in a cycle of abuse. This cycle holds periods in which the partner makes excuses or shows an outpouring of love and even returns to normal. Such actions may entice you to believe that the abuse is over. However, as abuse is part of a cycle, you must recognize it and break it by leaving the relationship. Read more about the cycle below:
Abuse – Your abusive partner lashes out with aggressive, belittling, or violent behavior. This treatment is a power play designed to show you “who is boss.”
Guilt – Your partner feels guilt after abusing you, but not because of their actions. They’re more worried about the possibility of being caught and facing consequences for their abusive behavior.
Excuses – Your abuser rationalizes what they have done. The person may come up with a string of excuses or blame you for provoking them—anything to avoid taking responsibility.
“Normal” behavior – Your partner does everything in their power to regain control and ensure that you’ll stay in the relationship. A perpetrator may act as if nothing has happened, or they might “turn on the charm.” This peaceful honeymoon phase may give you hope that the abuser has really changed this time.
Fantasy and planning – Your abuser begins to fantasize about repeating the abuse. They spend a lot of time thinking about what you’ve done wrong and how they’ll make you pay for it. Then they form a plan for turning the fantasy of abuse into reality.
Set-up – Your abuser sets you up and puts their plan in motion, creating a situation where they can justify abusing you
It is not easy to leave a domestic violence relationship. The cycle of abuse, emotional harm, dependency, and shame and embarrassment involved in domestic violence often prevent survivors from leaving their abuser. Unfortunately, some are unable to leave and experience incapacitating physical harm or sadly lose their lives to domestic violence. Please try to recognize the signs of physical violence before they begin and try to safely break free from the relationship. If physical violence has already began, please seek help in leaving the relationship. The domestic violence hotline is available 24/7 at https://www.thehotline.org/ and We Will is always available for help.