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Most victims of domestic violence are women.
Physical violence is most likely to be identified and named as violence.
Many forms of abuse of women go undetected because they are not usually called violence. But women leaving abusive relationships commonly report that they are more hurt and damaged by psychological and emotional abuse and that the effects last for much longer.
In the 1980s women support groups in Duluth developed the Power and Control Wheel based on stories from women about abuse they had suffered. It identifies the types and forms of abuse commonly directed at women by their partners.
At the hub of the wheel is power and control. The misuse of power and the desire to control are driving the abuse. The rim and spokes of the wheel identify tactics used.
This wheel has been shown to thousands of women accessing help for the violence they are experiencing and has been found to resonate with their experiences. Some women do not experience all forms of abuse identified, and some also report other forms of violence not identified.
Whatever their experiences of violence, women have reported a vast range of impacts on their lives, both short and long term. Following is a list of some of these:
|Shame||Financial difficulties||Loss of family|
|Depression||Feeling helpless||Feeling worthless|
|Appeasing||Death wish||Acute emotional pain|
|Isolation||Loss of dignity||Exhaustion|
|Bruising||Loss of self-esteem||Self harm|
|Scars||Feeling a failure||Anxiety|
|Nervous||Stress related illness||Insomnia|
|Self blame||Abuse of alcohol/drugs||Loss of faith|
|Neglect of self||Loss of children||Internal injuries|
|Confusion||Broken bones||Feeling betrayed|
|Silence||Terror||Loss of self|
|Brain damage||Feeling defiled|
This is by no means a comprehensive list. No one deserves to be treated in this way.
Women who are experiencing violence in their relationship often describe their partners as being like Jeckle and Hyde, being Mr Nice Guy at times and terrifyingly nasty at others.
Women who have been in abusive relationships identify a cycle of violence.
Relationships begin with the “hearts and flowers” stage. Everything and everyone is nice.
In an abusive relationship this doesn’t last.
The first stage of the cycle is a build up of increasing tensions, control and fear.
This is followed by an explosion with a violent incident – either physical, emotional, psychological or sexual.
This is followed by a period of minimisation, excuses, guilt, promises to change and romance again.
In the hearts and flowers stage her partner may make promises to change, attend an anger management course, bring her gifts and flowers or may do chores that he normally doesn’t like washing dishes or changing nappies.
Many women focus on this time and try to believe this is the real man they are with and the violence was not really a true part of him.
Women often describe the wind up phase as like walking on egg shells or thin ice. They do all they can to keep the peace, but the violence still happens.
As the cycle goes around it gets faster and faster.
Te Kupenga Whakaoti Mahi Patunga/The National Network of Stopping Violence Services has agencies throughout Aoteroa/New Zealand. Many of these run support services for women who have been or are being abused and support groups to help women break out of this cycle.
Disbelief and minimising often happen when a woman is first abused. She can’t believe the person she thinks loves her would behave this way. Most women believe it will never happen again. They may look for an outside cause to explain it or believe that they caused it and try to change their behaviour.
Managing – many women feel they are able to manage the situation, that they can calm the partner down, put him in a better mood. Trying to please and keep him calm becomes a way of life for women who live with controlling partners.
Switching off – some women will withdraw or disassociate from what is happening. They may start to believe that they deserve the abuse. Some women turn to alcohol, drugs and other addictions, under-eating or over-eating or self harm in order to numb out the pain. Some women commit suicide. Some women become like robots, existing but trying not to feel.
Misplaced compassion – many women feel sorry for their abusive partners and make excuses for his abuse, blaming his childhood, lack of self esteem, lack of work, health, depression.
Anger is an emotion and it’s normal to feel angry at times. When anger turns to violence it is not ok.
Many agencies offer support and help for people whose anger gets out of control, contact a member of Te Kupenga Whakaoti Mahi Patunga/ The National Network of Stopping Violence Services for more information.
If your children are unsafe from yours or someone else’s violence please contact Child, Youth and Family.