This is another guest post by former Senator Davida Morris, a follow up to her earlier post on domestic violence.
‘A Reply to Mike’
I decided to break down my response to Mike’s questions into two parts.
This part will deal with domestic violence in and of itself to give a better understanding of what goes on in these kind of relationships and why people act as they do, providing answers to his questions which are highlighted.
Domestic Violence (DV) is a “pattern of unwanted behaviour(s) using power and control by one person over an intimate partner”.
Understand, DV is not just about hitting a person, or verbally abusing them, and rarely does it manifest on its own.
There is financial abuse – controlling their partner’s money; social abuse – controlling who they see.
The website lists eight different forms of abuse altogether.
To what extent do women fail to react because of ‘love’?
The most detrimental form of abuse in my opinion is emotional abuse – behaviours (verbal or nonverbal) that are designed to control and undermine the emotional well-being and sense of worth of another person.
By breaking down who the victim is, they can be made to believe that they deserve such treatment.
The victim is grateful for the ‘love’ they receive because they don’t believe that they are worthy of anything better.
The bruises of physical abuse can heal in a few weeks but emotional scars take much longer to heal and require work to overcome. Without any support to counteract the negative messages they have received the victim is more likely to stay with their partner.
It must be fairly obvious early on that the relationship has changed to something that is not liked?
Most perpetrators of domestic violence don’t come out the gate swinging and punching.
They woo, they show caring, they show love.
That is how you draw a person in.
It’s once they have their partner where they want them, living with them, married to them, isolated from others, that they begin to change.
Some will take the view that this change is temporary, and/or that ‘he’ will return to normal at some point?
Abuse in a DV situation ins’t a constant thing.
It can be intermittent.
If it was happening all the time, every day, then the victim would be more likely to leave, but as this is not the case there is time for victims to justify in their minds what has occurred.
The cycle of abuse is this:
- The ‘honeymoon’ period where everything is great.
- Tension building, where things are less than ideal.
- Things get progressively worse until the explosion or abuse happens to be followed by the honeymoon period where perpetrator apologises and they ‘make up’, all is lovey dovey and wonderful, until…
The honeymoon period is the ‘normal’ victims attempt to maintain.
There is a kind of glossing over the bad.
With the breaking down of self-esteem the ‘he didn’t mean it’ and the ‘it’s my fault, I made him mad’ comes in because in the victim’s the honeymoon period is the ‘real’ part of their relationship.
Why does it take 32 incidents before someone reacts?
While I’m not sure why 32 is the ‘magic’ number for victims to leave a DV situation there are so many reasons why people stay.
- They are economically dependent on their partner.
- Religious beliefs.
- They stay for the kids.
- They don’t believe they are capable of living on their own.
- They think they will never find another relationship.
- They were brought up in an abusive home and feel like this is normal.
- They are afraid due to threats by their partner.
- Abuse escalates after a failed attempt to leave.
- Cultural expectations.
Where on the continuum of the 32 does it kick in that ‘he ain’t going to change – this is permanent’?
I think the answer to that lies in circumstance.
There needs to be some catalyst for change.
It could be that they saw a television show where abuse is depicted and it clicks.
It could be they have someone supportive in their life who sees what’s going on and refuses to allow them to stay in the relationship, or one day, as they contemplate their life and what it has become, they decide they really have had enough.
Or, and I truly hope this doesn’t happen too often, they get beaten so badly they realise that their relationship just ins’t right.
A person who has been beaten physically and mentally is more likely to leave if there is someone in their life who can provide them with a feasible alternative.
That’s what the Centre Against Abuse provides.
That is why it is so needed.
That is why we as a community need to ensure that it does not close its doors.
They have questionnaires to help people determine if they are in an abusive relationship or if a person is an abuser.
There are great resources there, as well as safety plans, guidelines for work and how to support a person in an abusive relationship.
For the months of September, starting today (September 6th), the Dress for Success thrift store in St George’s will be selling brand new and used clothing between the hours of 10am and 3pm.
All proceeds will go to the Centre Against Abuse, and I encourage people to go by and take a look, or make a donation.
Bermuda cannot afford to lose this very real and very needed service.