Abuse and Abusive Behavior

Abuse is treating someone with violence, disrespect, cruelty, harm, or force.  When someone treats their partner, children or even employees in any of these ways, it’s abuse. Abusiveness in a relationship can be physical, sexual, financial, emotional or it could be all of these.

Abusive behaviour can take many forms. It includes violence, aggression, making threats, controlling, putting them down, attacking verbally, controlling and tracking others money,  putting pressure on someone to have sex,  act in a certain way that they don’t feel comfortable with. Also, It can be an act of jealousy as well.

If you think of times when your partner has been scared of you or recollect times when you’ve stopped them doing something that they wanted to do then you could be being abusive. Abusive behaviour can become a pattern and can become worse over time.


Now, let me tell you a story to understand an abusive relationship

 Years ago, a well-groomed young lady with a smile, looking very tired entered my room. She was a  wife of a rich famous man in the town and a mother of two. Contrary to what I heard, she was abused physically, emotionally and sexually by her husband since marriage. Even though the lady was well-educated and employed in the early days of marriage, she had to leave her job. On top of that, he spent her savings and left her empty-handed. And also, she was controlled and accountable for every single penny that she spent on her basic needs.


Types of Abuse

This is one form of domestic violence; ultimate control and dominance from the perpetrator (abuser).  Unfortunately, it can happen to anyone, can be a spouse, girlfriend, boyfriend. The abuse can also be encountered by a parent, child, sibling, etc. To clarify, violence isn’t always physical, it can be emotional as well. Exploiting other’s vulnerability, insecurity, or demeaning others character resulting in dependency and weakness of the victim. Moreover, continuous exposure to abuse affects self-esteem and confidence. Another crooked move is that perpetrator disconnects the abusive from the social circle to ensure the abusive does not receive support from outside.

Despite being able to provide, the abuser chooses not to. The victim is denied proper medical treatment. Besides, the victim is accountable for food, shelter, clothes. In other words, anything that the victim does is to blame and felt guilty and responsible. Finance is the area that the abuser chose to control and manipulate. Here the abuser controls, restrict, withhold and even make the victim pay for the money spent. At the same time, the victim is refused to earn. 

To know more about abuse, verbal abuse is the most common. The batterer threatens, blames, criticize and even humiliates the victim in social situations. There is no ‘fair game’ for abusers, therefore the victim gets confused and eventually blame themselves.

The next is sexual abuse. The person controls, forces or even exploits sex without the victim’s consent in physical or verbally abusive behaviour. Involuntary prostitution, insulting, name-calling are a few patterns of the batterer. Even after a heated argument or fight the abuser forces sex as an act of punishment, arrogance, or acting normal.

So back to the story. I asked my client the reason to stay in the relationship and she tearfully said that he threatens to kill himself if she leaves, (another trump card that the abusers play). On the other hand, she needs a father figure for her kids in this dysfunctional family. But apart from all these reasons, there is no support from her family or friends to come out of this abusiveness. One of the reasons that the family refuses to separate is his mere reputation in society. The divorce would turn out to be a dark shadow that may carve her family. Although, there was a helpless dependency and self-worthlessness that was reflecting throughout our conversation, which is an after-effect of being in an abusive relationship.


What should one keep in mind when getting out of an abusive relationship?

  • No matter what, nobody is allowed to harm others. None is perfect. Therefore, no flaws are tools to hurt.
  • Step out of an abusive relationship as soon you realize you’re walking on eggshells, always fearful and losing insight into what’s happening. Feeling guilty and responsible for the abuser’s behaviour.  Sometimes, it reaches a point where the victim excuses the abuser’s behaviour.
  • Recognize that being in an abusive environment is unhealthy and love is not a feeling of fear.
  • Break the myth of living with a partner for a parental figure. it causes more damage than good. A chaotic environment has a heavy impact on growing children.
  • While thinking of moving on, the feeling of fear, confusion, anger, or numbness may occur, it’s fine. To feel guilty or shameful are also part of the process.
  • You may have thoughts of failure, self-doubting, exhaustion, loneliness while planning to come out of an abusive environment
  • Know that abusive relationship harms psychological and physical health such as anxiety, depression, eating disorders, substance abuse, and also experience physical symptoms like chronic pains, respiratory, and stomach problems and low immunity.
  • Post-traumatic Stress Disorder is another highly reported psychological condition among children and victims exposed to violence.
  • Self-respect is not something to be compromised or looked down upon. Feeling safe and valued is the basic to continue in a relationship


How Can You Get Out of an Abusive Relationship?

  • Know that you have the right to be safe. You have the right to be treated with respect. PIn this down, it is the first step.

  • Confide in someone you know. Tell a parent, trusted adult, health provider, or friend what you’re going through so they can help. Many adults know how to help in this situation. An adult might be able to get you to safety faster than a peer can.

  • Get help and support from experts. Going through abuse can leave you feeling confused, scared, or exhausted. Find a therapist to help you get your emotional strength back. They can help you sort through the many emotions you might be dealing with.

  • Get advice from someone at a helpline too. Learn more about how to get out of an abusive relationship safely. The helpline advisors also can talk to you about other things that might help you move forward.


How Can I Deal With the Emotions I Have?

  • Learn how partner abuse affects people. Partner abuse not only causes harm you see — things like bruises, sprains, or marks. But it also can cause deep emotional hurt that you cant see. Deep emotional stress that makes you feel unsafe is called trauma.

  • Notice how relationship abuse has affected you. Abuse can leave you feel shaken or scared. You might feel angry, sad, anxious, or depressed because of what you’ve been through. It’s natural to have many different emotions after going through abuse. Sometimes the deep stress lasts after the abuse has ended. Notice what it’s been like for you.

  • Get help from a Psychotherapist. There is therapy to help people deal with this deep stress. It is called trauma therapy. It is a type of talk therapy that counsellors and therapists use. It helps people who have been through trauma — like abuse. Find a therapist to work with.

  • Learn to cope, and share your story. Trauma therapy can help you feel safe and supported. In therapy, you can learn coping skills and have support. This helps you face difficult memories, tell your story, and find healing. Find the words to talk about what you’ve been through.

  • Move forward toward healthier relationships. Sharing your story with a therapist can ease the emotional hurt of partner abuse. It also can help you find your inner strength and move toward healthy relationships that add to your wellbeing.

Now, have you ever thought of victims not leaving the relationship, even in the hard times? Well, these are some reasons for survivors to get stuck in the relationship:

Isolation: from friends, family, community support, resources, as abusers often attempt to cut off survivors from support networks as a control mechanism; this often includes monitoring of a survivors texts, emails, and social media accounts.

Children: fear for their safety if the abuser has threatened to hurt them if they leave, custody concerns, child abuse that has occurred as a result of trying to leave in the past.

Fear: of retaliation; of being killed; of the abuser hurting loved ones; of being stalked; of not being believed; of unsupervised visits with the abuser putting children at risk.

Physical harm that occurred after trying to leave or after having called the police, or after having sought medical attention.

Threats: the abusive partner may threaten to commit suicide or hurt their partner/children, other loved ones and/or pets, threaten to “out” their partner to family or coworkers, etc.

Economic necessity: the abusive partner may control the finances or be the sole source of finances for the family; the abusive partner may have destroyed the survivor’s financial independence.

Homelessness: the abusive partner may threaten to kick the survivor and possibly their children out of their living situation. the batterer may have control over the survivor’s living situation.

Lack of resources or information about available resources, such as lack of transportation to services or lack of access to the internet to find services or lack of resources in the survivor’s language.

Shelters are full and there is nowhere to safely go

Culture/ religion/ family pressures; it is important to note that all cultures have both traditions of resistance to relationship abuse as well as a form of acceptance of it.  Culture cannot excuse relationship abuse—though abusers may use “culture” as a way to justify their choice to abuse.  Abuse is not inherent or natural to any culture or group — it is always a choice.

Hope/belief that partner will change, often resulting from manipulative tactics by the abuser. A connection to partner’s well-being: fear that partner will be arrested, imprisoned, deported etc. which may have consequences for retaliation, finances, and children.

Shame or belief that the abuse is their fault, largely because of societal victim-blaming

One of the Center’s main goals is to eliminate barriers and increase survivors’ access to safety, resources and support. Victim-blaming attitudes are one of these barriers and place victim/survivors in greater danger.