Domestic violence is often only thought of to be physical with a partner. However, it can be many types of different abuse that are not so easy to detect such as also emotional, mental, social, spiritual and financial abuse and it can be within any type of family relationship. It is about a person exerting their power and control over another. Physical abuse can involve someone being hurt and/or their property. It often starts out slowly but gets worse over time. In my personal experience with domestic violence the abuse started off with him punching his phone and doors and throwing stuff at me which eventually led to choking, smacking, holding me down, suffocating, whacking, hair pulling, slapping, holding hand over my mouth to stop me screaming for help, breaking my property – my car, laptops and phones and driving recklessly…to the point I really feared for my life. He would not allow me to leave the house and used threats to keep me there saying that if I called the Police he would ‘bash me up so that he would have something to go jail for’. He often blamed me for his violence which is commonly what happens. He would have a lot of remorse the next day but still say ‘I know how I react is not okay but all my actions are just reactions to something you have done’. Very often what I had done was based on a false accusation or assumption. He would actually be doing or about to do the very thing he was accusing me of which is where accusation comes from. He was trying to put me on the back foot to take my power away and allow him to do whatever he wanted to do and feel like he now had a right to do it. I didn’t see that this is what was happening until after I left him for the last time.
Emotional abuse is much harder to recognise but can have a huge effect on self-esteem and self-worth. It might not be noticeable at first but can be even more damaging than physical abuse. Where do I even begin with this?! It started off with name calling and accusations saying things like ‘you are just like all women, you are a liar, you are a c*** etc’…you get the drift here. He would use other women against me and get on the phone to them whilst I was upset and say nasty things about me which only upset me more. He would post things on facebook about us which would be hidden from me. He would tell me what I should and shouldn’t be doing both in my personal life and in my business. There were constant threats to my business and ‘ruining me’. The list could really go on… There was social abuse where I felt I had to disconnect myself from friends just to keep the peace. He would also go through my phone and block my male contacts and friends on facebook without me knowing. Spiritual abuse is where you feel like you are not allowed to have your own beliefs or opinions and are constantly told you are wrong and financial abuse where you are kept financially dependent on the other person. They may not let you work or control all the money.
My self-worth and self-esteem was basically shot, I was a shadow of my former motivated, bubbly self and I had stopped moving forward in my purpose and passion. I felt so lost. I was lacking sleep and I was living in fear constantly thinking how I was going to get out of this situation. It was mentally and emotionally draining and I was losing work and clients because of the lack of sleep and my work tools being smashed by him. When he was emotionally and physical abusing me and keeping me trapped I felt like I just didn’t want to be here anymore. I would be such an emotional wreck and feelings of wanting to kill myself would come up and I started to self-harm. When I asked him to leave and he did, he would then use other women against me and I would crumble and want him back. I still felt a lot for him and I knew he was only reacting out of his pain and insecurities. He was reacting this way from this place of insecurity and trying to gain some sense of security. It was a pattern where it would start late at night and then by the morning he would be very remorseful and sorry and he would really hate himself for what he had done. When he felt the remorse and promised to not hurt me again, I believed him. But soon enough it would happen and it would get worse. As much as I wanted to leave and stay away, there was a lot of fear for me around being alone and feeling rejected and abandoned without him.
It is possible for behavior reform, but I had to say enough was enough and leave. It was hard because I did love him. He could be an amazing, deeply loving and caring man but when he went into reaction and control it would destroy me. So I moved out and we went our separate ways. During this time is when he chose to do anger management and counselling and it really helped him to understand why he was reacting in that way and gave him tools to manage it. He really got to feel empathy towards me as he placed himself in my position. It made a huge difference in our relationship at the time. It is possible as long as the perpetrator continues to do the work and uses the tools they are given to manage their reactions. We did get back together to try and again and it did last another couple of months however I was still in a lot of fear and pain over what had happened and could not give myself fully to the relationship. I didn’t even want to let people know that we were trying again because I felt so much shame about it and I just didn’t feel safe anymore. I needed to be on my own to get back to myself again. I think there needs to be a time period apart where both people can work on getting 100% back to who they are. Their needs to be work from both sides around self-esteem, self-worth and self-love. The reactions are being caused from fear and a lack of these.
RED FLAGS AND SIGNS
Looking back I can actually see many red flags going into the relationship but chose to ignore them because he seemed so loving. Below is a list of what to look out for:-
Watch how they speak about their ex-partner. Are they still in blame and anger?
Watch how they talk to other people and if they lie to others even if it is just white lies as they lead to bigger lies
Blaming you or other people for things that happen to them
Childhood experiences of violence
Previous violent behaviour and any previous domestic violence
Get attached really quickly – shower you with love, affection and attention and want to spend all their time with you
Jokingly tease you a lot / say you are being too sensitive / stressed out
Judge others a lot and make accusations of people
Judging and accusing you and making a lot of assumptions
Calling you names
Uses drugs or alcohol
Check up on you constantly
Accuses you of being interested in someone else or cheating
Checking your facebook and phone etc.
Sometimes it can be hard to know if someone is in a DV Relationship. For me, it took a close friend to say ‘I recognise what is going on, this is a DV cycle’. It hadn’t dawned on me that it was and when I realised I cried because I could not believe I had allowed for this to happen. I had started to disconnect from a lot of people and even stopped calling my family because I didn’t want to talk about the relationship. I felt like the only way I could talk to anyone was over the phone or in person when he wasn’t around because he would also be checking my texts and facebook so it was difficult for me to tell anyone what was going on. He would always want to be with me which made it hard to get away.
To know if someone is in a domestic violence situation look out for these signs:-
Disconnecting from you or talking to you a lot less and only contacting you when things are bad
in the relationship. They may also might not contact you or talk about what is really going on because their partner is watching / controlling what they do
They might hide or lie about the relationship if they have told you what has happened as they feel ashamed to still be with the person.
Their behaviour changes such as they used to be on facebook all the time and now they are barely on facebook
Trusting your intuition when you feel something is off.
Noticing a pattern in the relationship where they leave and then go back, they seem to always be on and off.
WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP
I was really blessed that I had two very close friends who were there for me the whole way through. Part of the pattern of DV is that the victim will lose friends because their friends are tired of seeing them go through this and only reach out to them when things get bad. It really starts to take a toll on their friendships. But this is when they really need support so be there as much as you can. Offer them a place to stay whenever they need it. Give them the number for DV Connect 1800 811 811 which is a 24 hour support hotline. Reach out to someone who has been through it before such as myself.
ARE YOU IN A DV RELATIONSHIP?
If you are reading this and feel that you are in a DV Relationship and want to be able to leave please feel free to contact me for guidance and support. My biggest piece of advice is that once you get out, stay out. Don’t go back because you will regret it. Nothing will change until the other person seeks help. It took me seven times of leaving and going back before I left for good. You will be okay, you will let go and come to a place of acceptance and peace and you will know that you deserve better. There will be someone better for you who can treat you how you deserve. Whilst you are in that relationship it’s really hard to see this, but what is on the other side is where you get to feel relief, freedom and be yourself again, a fuller, more loving version of you. I offer a free 15 min coaching call, which you can access here. I would love to hear from you and you will be met with empathy and understanding. You can also watch the episode on Soul TV on this topic and will hear from two other experts and can sign up via this link – Soul TV.