Abuse can take many forms and can affect a person both physically and emotionally. A person can experience emotional, verbal, financial, physical, and sexual abuse. One thing that most types of abuse have in common is that it usually takes effort to end the cycle of abuse. Below, we’ll discuss what constitutes abuse in a relationship and look at six steps to end the cycle of abuse and leave an abusive relationship.
What You Can Do: Six Steps To End The Cycle Of Abuse
There is never an excuse for domestic violence. If you are in an abusive relationship, know that you are not alone, and it is possible to break the cycle of abuse. Creating a plan specific to your needs and implementing it may help you break the cycle and take back control of your life.
To end the cycle of abuse, consider taking the following six steps before leaving an abusive relationship:
- Plan how you can safely leave when the abuser is absent, where you can go, and how to get out fast if needed.
- If possible, keep evidence of the abuse, such as photos of injuries, hospital bills, and damaged clothing and possessions. Keep these items where the abuser cannot find them.
- Prepare a bag of essential possessions you need to leave quickly, including spare car keys and house keys, your driver’s license and other important documents, medications, a change of clothing, and valuable personal items like family photos. If possible, leave this bag with a trusted friend or family member.
- Set aside money whenever you can to support yourself once you leave, and keep these funds where the abuser cannot find them.
- Consider talking to an attorney specializing in domestic abuse cases, especially if you have children.
- Contact a domestic violence organization in your area for support and help to leave.
If you are experiencing domestic violence, reach out to the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). You can also text the word “START” to 88788 or use the hotline’s online chat feature.
Recognizing What Constitutes Domestic Violence
However, domestic violence can occur between anyone living in the same household, not just between intimate partners.
Domestic violence can also include stalking, cyberstalking, and threats of harm, and it can happen to people of any age, gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or financial or social status.
Understanding Different Types Of Domestic Violence
Physical abuse may be the type of abuse most people think of when they hear the word abuse. It involves any type of assault, such as pinching, pushing, hitting, choking, shooting, or stabbing. In addition, it can include anything that could cause physical harm, such as threateningly invading someone’s personal space, driving recklessly, or creating fear of injury.
Sexual abuse can include physical and non-physical components. Sexual abuse may involve rape or other forced sexual violence or acts, but abusers may also use sex to devalue or judge their victims. It can sometimes be related to technological abuse, such as threats to reveal intimate pictures of another individual.
Financial abuse can involve controlling household finances and not allowing the targeted person to their bank accounts or money. In addition, abusers may apply for credit, creating debt in the other person’s name, thus keeping control over the victimized person through poor credit ratings. Abuse of credit can affect the person’s ability to get an apartment, car, or other necessities that would make leaving the abusive relationship possible.
Emotional abuse may be more challenging to identify because the wounds tend to be mental and not physical. This type of abuse may involve talking in a demeaning way, such as telling a person they are stupid, worthless, ugly, or undesirable. Emotional abuse may also occur when an abuser manipulates a person, leaving them to question their sanity—a form of abuse called gaslighting. For example, the abuser may deliberately move something so that the victim cannot find it and then deny the event occurred.
These are some of the main forms of abuse, but is not uncommon for people to simultaneously experience more than one type of abuse.
Risk Factors Associated With Domestic Violence Perpetration
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), several risk factors are linked to a greater likelihood of a person committing acts of intimate partner abuse. While these risk factors may be contributing factors, they are not necessarily direct causes of abuse. The CDC advises that not everyone identified as at risk becomes an abuser, but it may help to be aware of the following common risk factors:
A prior history of abuse in childhood
Heavy alcohol or substance use
Community and societal factors may involve cultural norms that support aggressive behavior toward others, traditional ideas about gender roles, and economic and social policies.
What Is The Cycle Of Abuse Theory?
The cycle of abuse theory was part of the research conducted by Lenore Walker, who interviewed women in abusive relationships to understand the dynamics involved. She found that abusive behaviors often follow a cycle, leading to the abuse occurring repeatedly. She believed there was a cycle of three stages:
Acute battering incident
This process tends to continue until something changes to stop it. The cycle of domestic violence tends to be a repetitive roller coaster of events involving threats of violence, violence, apologies, promises of change, and forgiveness.
Repetition of the cycle of violence often starts when the survivor thinks the first abusive occurrence is a one-time event. They may feel hurt and shocked but often accept the abuser’s excuse or apology, thus setting the stage for the cycle to continue and gain momentum.
After a violent incident, abusers often try to return to normal as quickly as possible. During this time, they may buy extravagant gifts for the person they hurt, pay extra attention to details, and try to make the other person believe they have changed. A survivor may slowly begin to be less defensive and open themselves to communication and affection from the abuser.
Also, the abuser may set up the survivor to feel that the abuse is justified. For example, the abuser may ask the person to do a household chore they know the other person cannot complete without help. Then, when the person cannot follow through, the abuser feels justified in inflicting abuse. Abuse is not justified in this or any other circumstance, and there are ways to end this cycle.
Talking To A Counselor May Help End The Cycle Of Abuse
If you’re looking to end the cycle of abuse, it may help to seek support from a healthcare provider or professional counselor to work out a safe way to leave the situation. Health care providers usually have relationships with mental health providers and can give a referral for counseling. If you feel hesitant to see a therapist in person, you might consider online therapy, which research has shown to be just as effective as traditional in-person therapy.
With online counseling, you can connect with a licensed therapist from home or anywhere you have an internet connection and a mobile device. You can communicate with a therapist via audio, video, live chat, or a combination of these methods. With BetterHelp, you can also message your therapist at any time through in-app messaging, and they’ll respond as soon as they can.
If you don’t have the resources for therapy at this time, know that you are not alone. Local domestic violence organizations often have free counseling services for people in abusive relationships. A counselor at such an organization may be able to help you create a plan to safely leave the situation.
Many domestic violence organizations can also provide legal advice, which may be particularly useful if you have children. In addition, many organizations have free shelters where people can stay until they get settled in a safe place, and some also offer guidance on what to do with pets while getting out of an abusive situation.
In addition, it may help to speak with a licensed counselor, whether in person or online. With online therapy at BetterHelp, you can speak with a counselor who has experience helping people get out of abusive relationships. Take the first step toward ending the cycle of abuse and reach out to BetterHelp.
How does the cycle of abuse affect people's understanding of their situation?
The cycle of abuse refers to the pattern that abusive behaviors usually take. The theory suggests that there are four stages: the tension building stage, the acute battering incident, the honeymoon phase, and the calm. During the tension stage, external stressors might be acting on the abuser, leading to the abusive act.
After a violent incident, abusers may try to return to normal behavior as quickly as possible, acting like the relationship is the same as it was before the incident. Survivors may believe that the incident was a one-time thing or that this will be the last time, and abusers may buy them extravagant gifts, pay extra attention to them, or try to convince the person that they’ve changed. A survivor may begin to let their defenses down because they believe their abuser really has changed, and the cycle starts all over again.
Why does the abuse cycle continue?
The abuse cycle continues because many survivors may truly believe that their abusers are sorry and that it won’t happen again. After the honeymoon stage, there is usually a calm stage, where the survivor and the abusive person may behave as if the abuse never happened. Calm stages can last for weeks or even months, which can create a false sense of safety for the survivor as they may believe that the abuse has truly stopped.
Why is it difficult to break cycles of violence?
There are many reasons why it can be hard to break the cycle of abuse. Many survivors may feel that leaving can be dangerous and that their partners may get more violent if they attempt to do so. If children are involved, the survivor may not think that leaving is the best thing for them, especially if the children are not being abused directly. They may be afraid that the abuser will win custody or that they can’t afford to raise kids on their own.
Abusers may try to isolate the survivor from their friends and loved ones, which can make the survivor feel like there’s no one to turn to if they need help.
Survivors may have a hard time getting institutional support from shelters or the police, which can be amplified by some situations. For example, people with disabilities are more likely to be abused by a partner or someone in their household, and they may have minimal means to leave on their own. Some survivors who have immigrated may fear being deported or being separated from their American-born children.
How do you break the cycle of emotional abuse?
You can use the same steps to break the cycle of many kinds of abuse, including emotional abuse like the silent treatment. First, create a plan for how you can safely leave when the abuser is absent, including where you can go and how to get out quickly if needed. Document the abuse if possible, and keep any information somewhere the abuser will not be able to find it. Pack a bag with essential items, like any important documents, medications, keys, driver’s license, and anything with sentimental value that you want to take with you. Leave this bag with someone outside of the home who you can trust. Save money whenever you can, and keep it in an account that the abuser doesn’t know about. Talk to an attorney, especially if you have children, and contact a domestic violence organization for support.
How does the cycle of violence affect delinquent behavior?
Abuse and neglect can have serious ramifications for public health. Recent research shows that the presence of child abuse or neglect is related to delinquent behaviors. This study also concluded that physical and emotional abuse were the main generators of criminal behavior.
Why is it important to understand the cycle of violence?
It is important for survivors to understand the cycle of violence or abuse so they can identify the honeymoon period and the calm afterward for what they are. Once someone understands the cycle, it may make it easier to see that the abuse is likely to happen again.
How can we overcome the effects of emotional abuse?
Overcoming the effects of intimate relationship abuse can be extremely challenging. Talking to a therapist can help you work out a plan to leave an abusive relationship and start working on healing.
How do you treat someone who has been emotionally abused?
If you want to support someone who is experiencing or has experienced abuse of this kind, there are a few things you can do. Be willing to listen and believe their story. Don’t pass judgment, critique the situation, or make any excuses for the abuser. Don’t put pressure on them to leave, as it may drive them away and isolate them even more, but let them know that you are there to support them if they choose to leave on their own.
How do you deal with the effects of emotional abuse?
Healing from emotional abuse can be difficult, but there are some things you can do to try to cope. Journaling can help you document things as they happen so you can look back and remind yourself that your memories are real. Abusive partners may make you doubt yourself and your reality, and keeping a record can help you trust yourself more.
Many survivors of emotional abuse or physical violence might feel like the abusive incidents were their fault or that they somehow deserved it. Remind yourself that the abuse was not about you, that it wasn’t your fault, and that you didn’t deserve it.
If you’re a survivor of emotional abuse, you may be tempted to downplay it and the effects it has on you, but acknowledging it and asking for help dealing with it can be essential to healing. Reach out to trusted friends and loved ones for support. If you are having severe symptoms that are affecting your ability to live your life or are showing signs of battered woman syndrome, consider talking to a therapist to help you understand more about the effects of emotional abuse and how you can move forward.
How can we prevent emotional abuse in the workplace?
Understanding workplace culture can be an important part of preventing emotional abuse at work. Recognizing the dynamics between employees and management can shine a light on the types of interventions that might be needed. Employees should be encouraged to voice any concerns, and clear policies about workplace conduct that address basic definitions, procedures for reporting and investigating each abusive incident, and disciplinary actions can help everyone know what is expected of them and the consequences if they do not live up to those expectations. A zero-tolerance policy can send a clear message and tell employees that they are valued.
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