Domestic violence is:
“a pattern of abusive behaviour in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner.”
Domestic violence can happen to anyone regardless of age and sex. It is not limited to physical abuse only; it can also be verbal, emotional, psychological, financial and sexual.
Domestic violence involves a range of behaviours which can include physical and sexual violence; using coercion and threats; using intimidation; using emotional abuse, using isolation; minimizing, denying and blaming; using children; using male privilege; and using economic abuse. These forms of abuse do not occur in isolation from each other, but rather occur simultaneously.
Why does it happen?
The goal of abusers’ behaviour is to exert control over their partners. They believe it is their right to rule every detail and movement of their partner. The various forms of abuse, the different behaviours, are all used as tactics of control. Read more about the The Power and Control Wheel theory which is a popular concept that explains why abuse takes place.
Another popular theory is the Cycle of Violence theory. It says that domestic abuse follows a certain pattern. This does not only apply to husbands but can also apply to your in-laws and own family.
- Abuse – Your abuser shows aggression towards you verbally, physically or sexually. He wants to show you he is in control and he owns you.
- Guilt – Having abused you – your abuser now feels guilty out of fear that you will tell someone and he will get into trouble with his/your family. He is less worried about mistreating you and more about what others will say.
- Excuses – Your abuser tries to rationalise his abusive behaviour by making up excuses in his mind so he can blame you for his actions. This is so he doesn’t have to shoulder responsibility for what he did.
- “Normal” behavior — The abuser realises the way he treats you is not right. Now, he does everything he can to make sure he can control you to prevent you from leaving him. You will find him acting completely normal, as if nothing has happened and he may even go out of his way to be nice and kind to you. This is to give you the false hope that he feels bad about what happened and he has changed. Do not be fooled by this act. A good way to tell if he has really changed is to see if he acts abusive towards you again. If he does, then you know it was an act.
- Fantasy and planning – Your abuser gets pleasure when he thinks about abusing you again. He makes you ‘walk on eggshells’, watching your every move, or perhaps having his family spy on you. He wants to find excuses to make you pay so he can complete his fantasy about hurting you.
- Set-up – This is where your abuser deliberately sets you up. He makes a plan, creating a scene to make you do something he can later punish you for. He wants to make sure he can convince you later on that ‘it was your fault’.
Whether you are newly married or in a long-established relationship, it is understandable that the ‘normal behaviour’ (apologies, gifts, loving gestures) between the instances of abuse may make it harder to leave. You might feel pressured because everybody tells you how great your husband is, or you don’t want to bring shame to your family. Whatever the reason, remember: men who abuse like abusing. They can stop whenever they want. You may think you can change him but the reality is that if you stay, you may be putting yourself in grave danger.
Am I In An Abusive Relationship?
See the points below to see if you are in an abusive relationship. Please note that all points need not apply to your situation for it to be abusive. e.g. A relationship where your partner checks your mobile phone and stops you from meeting your friends is an abusive relationship even if he never raises a hand to you.
- feel afraid of your husband much of the time?
- avoid doing or talking about certain topics because you are afraid of making your husband angry?
- feel that you can’t do anything right and meet the standards your husband or in-laws have set?
- believe that you deserve to be hurt or mistreated and abused?
- think that you’re the one who must be at fault all the time?
- feel helpless or emotionally numb?
- cry most days and nights?
Does your husband/in-laws…?
- humiliate you by calling you names or scream at you?
- criticize you constantly and make you feel down?
- treat you so badly that you feel ashamed to talk about it to your family or friends?
- ignore, belittle you for having opinions and put down your accomplishments (studies, work etc)?
- blame you for making him act abusive towards you? e.g. ‘You provoked me!’
- treat you as his property or sex object, rather than as an individual?
- act excessively jealous and possessive even if you are talking to a male cousin, friend?
- control where you go and what you do?
- tell you to ask permission before leaving the house?
- ask your mother-in-law to tell him if you call someone or try to leave the house?
- keep you from seeing your friends or family?
- force you to close down your Facebook account or delete friends from it?
- take over your phone and read your messages?
- limit your access to money, phone, or car?
- demand to know all your passwords for all email accounts?
- ask you to close your bank account?
- force you to leave your job?
- force you to discontinue your education?
- curse you?
- force you to have sex instead of asking you whether you want to have sex?
- make frequent, harassing phone calls to you?
- threaten that he will commit suicide if you leave? Your in-laws may be hinting you the same thing?
- threaten you to do as he says or he will take your children away or harm them?
- threaten you to do as he says or he will harm your family and friends?
- hurt you, or say he will hurt or kill you? Slaps you? Kicks you? Pulls your hair? Pushes you?
- have an unpredictable temper that scares you?
Why Is This Happening to Me?
No one deserves to live through this pain. It is not your fault. God, destiny or culture do not put you into an abusive relationship; families and husbands do. There is no reason why domestic violence exists in our society. It can be said that it’s a combination of factors such as attitudes towards gender and gender roles in society, the personality of the abuser, circumstances of the woman and the response of community to domestic violence. We do know, however, that domestic violence happens because of the desire of the abuser (whether it is your parents, husband, sibling or in-laws) to exert control and power over you.
Despite popular belief, abusers are not out of control. If they were truly incapable of controlling themselves or their ‘anger’, most abusers would not choose to hit women in places where other people cannot see them. They also wouldn’t try to maintain a good and normal relationship with your family so your family doesn’t believe you when you tell them how he treats you.
To get out of this situation, it is important to realise that your marriage is abusive and that there are ways to deal with this. While leaving the house/separating/filing for divorce is one way to get out of an abusive relationship, it is not the only one. There are many other ways; marriage and family counselling, getting psychological help for your abuser because he sure does need it, getting your and his family to talk to him about his behaviour, etc. If nothing else works, then stepping out of the relationship is the way to go.
Forms of Abuse
Emotional & Verbal Abuse:
Verbal abuse involves yelling, name-calling, blaming, and shaming. Emotional abuse involves isolation, intimidation, threats, religious blackmail, making you feel guilty and controlling behaviour.
It is comforting to think that only the obviously battered and assaulted women are the ones who experience domestic abuse. The reality is far from it: not all domestically violent relationships involve physical assault. However, almost all of them do have elements of emotional and verbal abuse which is no less abuse than physical assault. Abusers often get away with emotional and verbal abuse because it is not visible and even when it is, you or other people may attribute it to anger, bad mood, stress or just plain regret.
Abusers emotionally and verbally abuse you to destroy your self-worth and confidence, making you feel like you have to depend on him for everything. You may feel like there is no way out and that you could do nothing without him. This is not the case. Use this website to inform yourself and if possible, find a way out.
Sexual Abuse: Your Husband Does Not Have the Right to Rape You.
Sexual abuse involves: unwanted kissing, touching, rough or violent sexual activity, rape or attempted rape, using sexual insults, pinching nipples, refusing to use condoms or restricting access to birth control.
It is not your duty as a wife to have sex with your husband or allow your husband to have sex with you when you don’t want to. Any situation that makes you uncomfortable or sexually degraded is a form of sexual abuse. You have every right to say no at any point of the intercourse and in a healthy relationship, your partner would stop because they would not want to make you feel uncomfortable. Research has shown that women who experience physical and sexual violence by their husbands are at a higher risk of being seriously injured or even killed. Click here to read more about sexual health and contraception.
Physical abuse involves: punching; slapping; hitting; biting; pinching; kicking; pulling hair out; pushing; shoving; burning and strangling.
You may have been told by your partner, his family, friends or in-laws how your husband’s behaviour is a spur of the moment (‘I can’t control it!’; ‘It’s just his temper talking!’). This is far from truth. If you think about the various kinds of situations you find yourself in, you may find instances of where your husband changes his behaviour to suit himself:
– not hitting you where people can see it
– behaving politely in front of your family so they don’t believe what you say
Nobody has the right to hurt you. You are not your husband’s property and he DOES NOT own you. You do not deserve to be hurt. Abusers want total control over you. Do not give it to them.
Please seek medical help if you are hurt. Click here to read more about it.
- Keeping a tight control over your bank accounts or pocket money
- Withholding money or bank cards
- Making you beg/ask for money
- Making you account for every penny you spend
- Forcing you to close your bank account or shifting to a joint bank account
- Limiting your access to basic things like (food, clothes, medications, and shelter).
- Asking you to stop working or harassing you at work so you lose the job (making you take days off, calling you constantly, making you cry)
- Stealing your money.
- Being humiliated by your husband because he keeps telling you he brings home most of the money.