Medically Reviewed By: Aaron Horn, LMFT, MA
Domestic violence is defined as abuse from one person against another individual that takes place within a domestic setting, which could include marriage or an environment where two people live together. Sometimes called domestic abuse, DV can be called intimate partner violence when a partner commits abuse toward their spouse. Domestic violence can take place in a relationship with heterosexual relationships, same-sex partnerships, or across any gender lines. It can occur between partners, parents, children, or the elderly. Domestic violence does not have to be physical abuse. It can include, verbal, emotional, mental, financial, religious, sexual or reproductive abuse. The abuse can be severe. A partner could repeatedly be assaulting the other to the point where they are in fear of their lives. Domestic violence is a serious crime and it should be treated that way.
People of all genders experience domestic violence. In some countries, domestic violence is rationalized when there is suspicion of infidelity amongst partners. Some countries even legally permit domestic violence against the woman if there is a hint that she cheated on her husband. There is a correlation between countries that have higher gender equality and lower rates of domestic violence. Women tend to be survivors of domestic violence more often than men.
There is often a cycle of abuse when it comes to domestic violence. There is an intergenerational connection of child abuse where the younger generations learn abuse as normalized. Domestic violence is subconsciously accepted and even encouraged. Many individuals don’t view themselves as victims and deny that they’re being abused. If a person doesn’t believe they are a victim of abuse, they won’t report what’s happening to them to friends, family or the authorities. Their perception is skewed. That’s why domestic violence is frequently underreported because people who are being abused don’t view it as abuse.
The Cycle of Abuse
Why do people stay in abusive relationships? The simple answer is that they’re not always abusive. If a person is kind most of the time, there’s no reason to leave the partnership. The abuser tells the person who is being abused that they’re crazy, the abused is imagined, and they're “too sensitive.” Then abused individual otherwise known as “the survivor” believes that they’re complaining for “no reason.” They stay in a toxic relationship because they think they're ungrateful. The abuser may tell their victim that they won’t be able to “do better,” and might say that the abused is “lucky” to be in a relationship with the abuser. That’s why the person stays in a harmful dynamic.
Power and Control
An abuser thrives on power and control. They try to dominate their victim into doing what they want. They use these techniques in a variety of ways. One method an abuser uses is to limit the abused financial resources. If the person who is being abused cannot access money, they won’t be able to leave the relationship. If they can’t save their own money, they’re stuck in a toxic relationship. Another method they will use is belittling the abused person to the point where their self-esteem is low, and they don’t feel they deserve to be in a healthy relationship. The person who is a victim of domestic violence believes that they are bad or wrong. So they continue to stay in a toxic relationship.
Gaslighting is a type of manipulation where the abuser plants doubt in another person’s head. They aim to make the abused question their memory and even their sanity. The abuser will use denial, lying or other psychologically manipulative techniques to throw their victim off, and gain control over them. They retain the control by reinforcing the idea to the victim that they’re crazy. The abuser will pretend like things didn’t happen the way that the abused individual says that they did. People who are victims of gaslighting need to get help and the first thing they should do is seek counseling.
Online counseling is an excellent form of treatment for people who are survivors of domestic violence. Working with an online counselor is a great way to gain insight into what you’re thinking and feeling. An online therapist will never question the validity of your feelings. Your feelings are valid because you experience them. Search our network of experienced counselors at BetterHelp and find one who you can confide your emotions in safely. If you’re a victim of domestic violence, you’re not alone. You can get help, and we are here to help you get safe, and lead a productive, happy life.