Love Hurts: Theories on Relationship Violence

I believe the current economy may have contributed to a rise in relationship violence <br><em>iStock photo by Juan Monino</em>
I believe the current economy may have
contributed to a rise in relationship violence
Photo by iStock Monino

The most difficult crimes to prevent are those committed by the ones you care about. Domestic abusers use love and trust take advantage and cause harm. These tips are intended to increase awareness about relationship violence and help prevent it.

Luring their victims
The Treasure Island Hotel and Casino has a sidewalk show that is quite a spectacle. Acrobatic entertainers perform a song, blow things up, and sink a ship! The show is called, “The Sirens of T.I.” an interpretation of a Greek myth in which birds with female faces sang hypnotic songs that pulled sailors into a deadly trap. Like sirens, abusers present a façade to lure victims into abusive relationships.

Author of Men Who Hate Women and the Women Who Love Them Susan Forward talks about this façade, calling it a “whirlwind courtship.” Forward claims this creates pseudo-intimacy usually mistaken for genuine closeness. When I spoke with a victim about her initial attraction to her abuser, she said that he made her feel special to him. Not special in general but special to him, and that made her “high.”

When potential abusers show their dark side, it’s significant. In the beginning of a courtship, try to remain logical despite the romantic euphoria. This is very difficult to accomplish, yet it may help you notice impending harm.

The grind
If all the world’s criminals were sitting around a swimming pool, the domestic batterers would test the waters with their toes prior to jumping in. Mood swings and demands preceding abuse are what I call “the grind.” This is when an otherwise normal person is molded or “ground” into the ideal victim. The personality and physical appearance of the victim noticeably changes. They begin to look, act, and feel like a victim. This submissive persona satisfies their abuser.

Recognizing Victimization
For most victims, the signs and symptoms of abuse begin to appear relatively soon, both through their personality and physically. Particularly with new victims, bruising begins to appear on extremities. After a while, they will have body marks in various stages of healing in other areas.

Here's an example of defensive wounds and the positioning when they were created <br><em>Photo by John Robert Taylor</em>
Here's an example of defensive wounds and the positioning when they were created
Photo by John Robert Taylor

An example of a defensive wound is in the picture above. That’s my arm. Now difficult to see after twelve years, the healed wounds were created when I was trying to defend myself against strikes from an ex-girlfriend armed with my fraternity paddle. My ignorance of domestic violence issues combined with my “male ego” kept me from filing a report, which is usually a mistake.

Getting help
This is a problem with abuse victims. They fail to understand that the level of abuse will increase. The more batterers realize that they get what they want with violence, the more they’ll employ it as a tool of persuasion. Most victims will endure abuse for years without seeking help.

I will not attempt to dig deep into the logic of domestic batterers. Whether they’re the result of mental disorders, an abnormal or abusive childhood, or addictions, the actions of abusers can become deadly. The first time they’re violent is not likely to be the last, so call the authorities and allow them to step in on your behalf. If an arrest is made, you’ll have at least have 12 hours to live in peace, contemplate your relationship, or commence moving arrangements prior to your abuser’s return.

If you have a friend or relative who’s being abused, consider reporting it. If you have a choice between having them safe and angry with you or in harm’s way, choose safety.

A creature of habit
A late friend once told me an interesting story about rats. When serving in the United States Marine Corps in Africa, he and some friends became bored. In their free time, they began to play a game to put these large rats out of their comfort zone. They realized rats would run back into the same hole from which they came when frightened by humans, even if another hole was closer. They began to block the holes and frighten the rats to see their reaction.

I believe humans are the same way. When hassled we rely on what we know. Sure abusers seem regretful after they’re violent, but they’re capable of repeat offenses once inconvenienced. Their actions almost seem to fall under Isaac Newton’s first law of motion. Unless there is psychological assistance or physical interference, they are likely to continue. Think of this when they ask for a second chance.

This injury is real <br><em>iStock photo by Rich Legg</em>
This injury is real
Photo by Legg
A proper withdrawal
For a victim of relationship violence, leaving is more difficult than a nation’s withdrawal from a combat zone. Even so, I’ve been told that getting away is easy compared to staying away.

When speaking with long-term victims (five years or more) of relationship abuse, I learned a few things that make staying away more feasible:

– Making it difficult to return
Whether by distance, moving in with protective relatives, or taking refuge in a “safe house,” you have to make it hard to return. When having “second thoughts,” the difficulty may help you remain strong.

– Changing contact information so that he or she can’t find you
If they can’t call you, they can’t entice you to come back.

– Finding support from someone who understands
A person who has experienced what you’re enduring can provide motivation during times of weakness. Find someone successful at what you hope to accomplish.

– Making changes that make you feel like a different (stronger) person
Many people are criticized for physical or personal changes they make following a break up from an abuser. Change is difficult, but if it bolsters strength and independence, it can help former victims succeed in staying away.

Senator Dianne Feinstein once said, “Domestic violence causes far more pain than the visible marks of bruises and scars.” I hope this information helps those in need of assistance find safety at home, where everyone should feel secure.


3 responses on “Love Hurts: Theories on Relationship Violence

  1. Another compelling article, full of helpful advice. And the scars on your arm were particularly notable, since it seems hard to believe that anyone would really choose to physically attack you if they were wise…


  2. Hi Mark,

    Thanks for the comment. My “ex” had no fear when she was angry. That battery was actually during a break up so I didn’t have to deal with it any further. Many juvenile or female abusers know that their larger victims will not retaliate.


  3. John Robert Taylor, I want to hang with you next time I’m in Vegas! Very good article; lots of good information. It’s so true that abusers “test the water” to see if you’ll be a good victim. Nice people tend to think the best of people, and they tend to forgive small lies and other transgressions. An abuser plays on this. You buy one small abusive act? Next time, you’ll probably buy a slightly bigger abusive act, and on and on. That’s how they groom you. They suck you in. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard a woman say, “Well, I would NEVER stand for that!” and then found herself in a situation in which she soon “stood for” much, much worse, I’d be rich. I would add that not all abuse is physical; those who suffer from emotional abuse at the hands of a partner will also exhibit many of the characteristics as a victim of physical abuse (sudden timidity; withdrawing from friends/family; depression; etc.). I can only add a quote from Maya Angelou and a response to that quote from Oprah Winfrey, both of which I continue to abide by to this day: Maya Angelou: “When people show you who they are, believe them.” Oprah: “Believe them THE FIRST TIME.”

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