When we think October, we tend to think fall and Halloween. We dress in dark colors, and watch the leaves change and fall. We watch scary movies and have nightmares about things that go bump in the night. For 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men, scary movies are not the most terrifying part of their October, or even their lives for that matter. Domestic violence is deadly, and it affects more people than you might think. October is Domestic Violence Prevention Month, but don’t let fool you. Domestic violence is a year long occurrence and does not limit itself to one season.
When it comes to domestic violence, most victims are women and most perpetrators are men. A lot of times, people will ask the question, “if he’s beating her, why doesn’t she just leave?” What they don’t understand is that the situation is more complex than it appears. It it were black and white, then every woman who’s ever been abused by her partner would end the relationship before her situation worsened. The batterer (the abuser) puts a lot of effort into making sure his victim does not leave the relationship. This process starts as soon as the relationship starts. He is looking for someone who will show commitment and mutual interest. At the beginning, he might seem like your knight in shining armor, here to sweep you off your feet. Most abusers are men that you wouldn’t even expect: they’re charming, well dressed, well spoken, and successful. He’ll try to spend as much time with you as possible. You’ll think it’s sweet that he adores you so much, but he’s really trying to learn where you’re vulnerable and isolate you from the people around you. He’ll want to move fast in the relationship. You’ll think it’s because he really loves you and wants to spend the rest of his life with you, but he’s really just making sure you won’t be exiting out of the relationship anytime soon. He’ll try to change you, telling you the changes are for the best, that they’ll make you a better person. Those changes are for him, to make it easier for him to manipulate you. He’ll become controlling, dictating what you wear, what you eat, and who you talk to. Before you know it, you won’t be you anymore. You won’t be able to talk to your friends and family without him knowing it, or allowing it. He might never hit you, but the abuse is there.
The reason why women don’t leave their partners as soon as they start showing signs of abusiveness is because abuse works in a cycle. The first part of the cycle is tension building. This is the part where the abuser controls every aspect of your life. He gets angry, he might shout and throw things. The second part of the cycle is the explosion. He’ll hit, kick, bite, rape, abuse you physically anyway he can. It might seem to come from nowhere, but it’s been boiling inside him for sometime. The last part of the cycle is the honeymoon phase. He’ll apologize and promise that it will never happen again. He’ll buy you nice things, take you on nice trips, he’ll be as gentle as the day you met him. Then the cycle repeats itself. The reason that women stay is because of the honeymoon phase. It makes them hold onto the hope that he can change; he’s a damaged man, and only their love can save him. On average it takes a woman 7 attempts to leave before she leaves for good. Chronic abuse is different. In chronic abuse, there is no honeymoon phase. It’s just constant abuse.
If you’re experiencing domestic violence in your own life, it’s important to reach out for help. Do not wait for him to change, because he won’t. The final step in the abuse cycle is death – do not let it get that far. If you’re worried that your partner might be showing signs of being potentially abusive, make it very clear that you will not tolerate that kind of treatment, otherwise the relationship will be over. Then stand your ground. His thought process will be “if I stick around, she’ll come around.” If you are already in an abusive relationship, tell everyone you know. The more people who know about your situation, the safer you will be. Develop a safety plan, for when you need to get away quickly and quietly. If you need someone to talk to House of Ruth, a domestic violence center based in California has a 24 hour hotline. You can also call the Domestic Violence and Child Advocacy Center, which is based in Cleveland.
The last thing to know is that if you are a victim of abuse, you did absolutely nothing to deserve it. No matter what he might say, his anger and his violence is not your fault. Please take precautions to keep yourself and people you may know safe from domestic abuse.
House of Ruth: 877-988-5559
DVCAC: (216) 229-2420