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Domestic violence and abuse: the “show of force” less discussed

COLUMBUS AFB, Miss. -- Do you think your spouse or intimate partner is abusive, or do you suspect someone you know is in an abusive relationship? Do you or someone you know ever feel afraid of your partner? Do they treat you so poorly that you are embarrassed of their behavior or actions? Does your partner have an unpredictable temper or ever act excessively jealous and possessive? Has your partner ever kept you from seeing friends or family or limited your access to finances, the phone, or the car? Do you constantly feel you need to hide bruises or wounds inflicted on you by your partner? 

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you might be in an abusive relationship or know someone who is. This article is a brief summary of the "cycle of violence" and the signs and symptoms of domestic violence and abuse. Recognizing the "red flags" of domestic violence is the first step to breaking the cycle of abuse. 

Domestic violence has been defined as a range of violent and abusive behaviors - patterns of behavior characterized by the misuse of power and control by one person over another who are or were in an intimate relationship. This pattern of abuse and violence can occur in any relationship and has profound consequences for the lives of children, individuals, families, and communities. This abuse may be physical, sexual, emotional and/or psychological, or even financial, and can happen in any relationship within all age ranges, ethnic backgrounds, and financial levels. The abuse may occur during a relationship, while the couple is parting ways, or after the relationship has ended. 

Despite what many individuals may believe, domestic violence and abuse are not due to the abuser's loss of control over their behavior. In fact, violence is a deliberate, conscious choice made by the abuser in order to take control over another individual. Here are just a few reasons why researchers believe their behaviors are not about anger or rage. The abuser does not batter other individuals in most cases. Their abuse and violence are targeted toward someone they are more likely to exert power over and maintain control of. If an abused partner is asked if the abuser stops the violence when the phone rings or someone comes to the door, most often the answer is yes. When the police arrive the abuser looks calm, cool, and collected and the individual being harmed is the one who is more likely to look unstable. Finally, the abuser very often escalates from pushing and shoving to hitting in places where others will not see the bruises and marks. If the abuser were "out of control" he or she would not be able to direct or limit where their kicks or punches land. 

Domestic violence and abuse are used for one purpose only: to gain and maintain total control over another individual. They may use tactics such as dominance, humiliation, isolation, threats, intimidation, and denial and blame to exert power over their partner. Domestic abuse falls into a common pattern, or cycle of violence. First, the abuser lashes out with aggressive or violent behavior. This initial abuse is a "show of force" designed to show the victim who is in charge. Secondly, there is guilt. After the abusive episode, the abuser feels guilty, but not due to their "show of force" to the victim, but the guilt is derived from their fear of getting caught and facing the consequences of their actions. Following the above phases, the abuser often rationalizes his behaviors and may verbalize excuses usually displacing the blame for his actions on to the victim ...anything to shift responsibility from him or her self. This is known as the rationalization phase. 

The next phase of the cycle of violence the abuser does everything he or she can do to regain control over the victim and keep them in the relationship. This phase is often called the "normalization" phase, and the abuser acts as if nothing has happened, and gives the victim false hopes that the abuser has the ability to change. Following the normalization of the abuser's behavior, he or she begins to fantasize or plan about how they will abuse the victim, because in most cases, they have been having repetitive thoughts about what the victim has done wrong and how they will make them suffer the consequences. This leads to the "set up" phase where the abuser sets the victim up, usually creating at situation where he or she can justify further abuse. Thus beginning the cycle once again. 

By recognizing the "red flags" of domestic violence and abuse, we can stop the cycle of violence before it has a chance to begin. Here are just a few common signs and symptoms of an abusive relationship. 

· Frequent injuries or excessive "accidents"
· Frequent or sudden absences from work or school
· Harassing phone calls from the partner at home or at work
· Personality changes. For example someone who is normally outgoing becomes withdrawn.
· Isolation from friends and or family
· Insufficient resources to live (money, credit cards, car)

If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship or if you are questioning if a relationship is abusive, there is help available. The Family Advocacy Program on base offers help to those in need or just have questions or concerns. If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship or you have questions about domestic violence act now. Call 434-2197 to end the cycle of violence.