Family Violence: It’s my fault.
Women often feel that it is their fault that their partner acts abusively toward them. This impacts the way they feel about themselves and what they do or don’t do about it.
The prevalence of family violence in Australian households is wide-spread and many people experience it every day. Abuse may be of a physical, sexual, emotional, social, spiritual or economic nature. Some examples include;
- Verbal abuse
- Controlling access to money
- Intimidation, threats or physical abuse
- Forcing engagement in sexual activity against their will
- Monitoring daily activities by checking phone records or the odometer readings on the car
- Humiliation and diminishing self-confidence
A common pattern over time is that;
- The abuse may increase in severity
- The type of abuse may change
- The abuse may become more frequent
People who are abused often think that it happens because of something they have done. Therefore if only they could act differently the abuse would stop. If I have dinner ready on time or if I keep the kids quiet then this wouldn’t happen to me. Often the partner leads the woman to believe it is her fault, accusing and berating her for what she has done that causes him to act abusively towards her. Even though the woman may doubt that she is not at fault she questions herself when the abuse happens over and over. The emotional nature of an intimate relationship compounds this difficulty as there are often mixed emotions such as love and hate, hope and despair, which are confusing. These factors lead to self doubt, self blame and a sense of powerlessness.
As a result, women often find it difficult to acknowledge what is happening and to seek assistance. They often get into a pattern of trying harder to please the partner and working hard to ensure they don’t upset him. When this doesn’t work they blame themselves and wonder what they are doing wrong for the abuse to continue. They often feel guilty about their behaviour and work hard at hiding what is happening to them even though they are deeply distressed, fearful and unhappy. They may go to great lengths to hide any physical injuries they may have incurred and minimize the impact of their distress to themselves or others who may notice.
Over time it becomes apparent that it doesn’t matter how hard they try, the abuse continues. Hence they take responsibility for the abuse they are experiencing. The victim takes the blame for the abuser.
However, physical violence is never justified. There is no reason or excuse for anyone who abusers another and then blames them for it! Acting violently towards another is not the inevitable result of provocation or any other problem a person may be experiencing (substance abuse, being tired and having a bad day, or a bad childhood etc.) Individuals are responsible for their own behaviour. Physical and sexual violence and the threat of such violence are criminal offences.
Relationship violence affects many people from all socioeconomic, religious and racial groups. It can happen to men as well as women, and those in same-sex relationships. It is an ongoing pattern of abusive behaviour where a person seeks to control another. It is an indicator of a lack of respect for the other. As a result, the abused person’s confidence is undermined and this makes it difficult for them to leave the relationship or to speak up about what is happening to them.
In some situations the pattern of violence may continue over a long period of time. For many people it is not until there is an extreme experience of violence that results in a hospitalisation or where there is police involvement that they do something about it.
Experiencing abuse in a relationship jeopardises general health and wellbeing, creates a sense of hopelessness and increases the likelihood of mental illness, depression and anxiety. Children are adversely impacted by abuse in adult relationships and are often also the target of abuse. They need to be protected from direct abuse and from witnessing abuse. Personal safety and ensuring a safe environment for children in the relationship are key factors to consider when contemplating how to best manage a difficult abusive relationship.
It is not your fault! The first step is to acknowledge what is happening and trust another with your story.
There are options available to assist people impacted by violence in relationships.
Finding someone you trust to support you such as your GP or a professional working in a school or community health centre.
Counselling can be beneficial in helping the abused person to talk about what is happening, consider what options are available, and to provide information about available resources.
Crisis services are available such as the Women’s Domestic Violence Crisis Service or Life Line.
For immediate assistance contact:
- Emergency services 000
- Life Line 131114
- Women’s Domestic Violence Crisis Service
- free call 1800 015 188