Domestic Violence. Intimate Partner Violence. Bullying. Stalking. All are acts of violence and abuse. It doesn’t matter what it’s called. It is damaging, causing pain and injury with the impact being far-reaching. DV or IPV knows no socioeconomic status, age, race, marital status, sexual orientation, culture, social standing or gender. Abuse can come in many forms. It is often thought of as violent behavior such as slapping, kicking, hair pulling, biting, beating, stabbing and shooting. Stuff right out of the movies, right? As physical abuse can be seen in most areas of the U.S., other types of abuse are also experienced, which are often diminished, may be overlooked and can be illegal.
Abuse such as financial, emotional, psychological, verbal, sexual and digital are all very real, having severe implications. Witnessing abusive behavior can also have a strong impact. Activation of the Fight and Flight Response can be seen when an individual experiences or witnesses abuse. When under stress, neurobiological changes happen in our brains, activating physiological changes as part of our acute stress response. These changes can result in PTSD, depression, anxiety, dissociation, obsessive-compulsive traits, addiction and suicide for those affected directly and indirectly. Children watching their parents engaging in negative behaviors toward each other, can experience neurobiological and physiological changes, as well as receiving confusing and mixed messages and being modeled destructive behaviors as acceptable.
Abuse is progressive. The behaviors and actions of abuse increase and escalate, typically becoming more severe with time, if help isn’t sought. Abuse can be reciprocated, as well, with the individual who has been abused acting in violent ways toward their abuser, often as a way of defending themselves or in retaliation.
Is there anyone in your life that you feel controlled or abused by? Do you have someone in your life that
– controls or spends your money or uses your credit cards without your consent?
– forces you to have sex or perform sexual acts against your will, or insists on violent sex?
– uses porn, has emotional or sexual affairs against your wishes?
– won’t allow you to protect yourself against unwanted pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases?
– calls you negative names, diminishes or criticizes you?
– accuses you of cheating or acts unreasonably jealous?
– threatens, embarrasses, scares or intimidates you?
– prevents you from keeping a job, seeing friends or family or going to social events?
– spreads rumors about you or uses social media to slander you?
– tells you what to do and wear?
– uses social networking sites and technology to track you?
There is a path toward healing and safety, whether you are experiencing abuse now or have in the past. If abuse is part of your life now, there are a number of things you can do including reaching out for help, seeking a qualified professional that can assist you in setting boundaries and making healthy choices, contacting the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or www.thehotline.org or a local DV hotline or shelter, making a safety plan, and seeking safe housing for you and your family. There are many valuable resources in our area. Don’t hesitate to care for yourself today and seek out help, striving for a better and safer future.
LMFT, CATC, CCTP