Breaking the Cycle of Abuse
Domestic Violence Awareness Month
Domestic violence is a widespread issue that shatters families, relationships, and leaves victims in dangerous, sometimes life-threatening, situations. Every year in October, advocacy organizations and foundations come together to honor National Domestic Violence Awareness Month by spreading DV awareness and promoting prevention strategies. National DVAM also helps educate the general public on what domestic violence victims endure and how victims, survivors, and their families can seek help to escape violent partnerships and have healthy, secure relationships going forward.
Domestic violence, also known as intimate partner violence, is described as the attempt by one partner to exert power and control over the other partner in an intimate relationship or marriage. Abusers can use fear, guilt, shame, intimidation, manipulation, and other tactics to tear down their victims and eliminate any sense of safety, value, and respect. Emotional, psychological, physical, sexual, and verbal abuse are all forms of DV.
Because a number of abusive behaviors and patterns make up an abusive relationship, DV is often described as a repetitive cycle. According to the American psychologist Lenore E. Walker, there are several key phases representative of domestic violence within a partnership. The first phase in the cycle is Tensions Building, which describes a gradual escalation of tension from the pressures of daily life. Small verbal arguments, incidents of jealousy, mood swings, and aggravation characterize this stage.
The second phase is Acute Violence, where the abuser explodes and lashes out at his or her partner, whether it’s physically, psychologically, or emotionally. The victim may feel incredulous over the act, and then feel intense anxiety and powerlessness. The victim may also refrain from reaching out for help immediately following the abuse, leaving these cases of abuse unreported. The last phase of the cycle is the Reconciliation and Honeymoon phase, where the abuser makes excuses for abusive actions and apologizes in the form of gifts, promises, and loving behavior. The cycle begins again when small fights and other aggressive behaviors resume.
In the United States, more than 10 million adults experience domestic violence every year. While women in heterosexual relationships are more likely to be victims of domestic violence, unfortunately DV does not discriminate and can devastate individuals despite age, gender, sexuality, ethinic background, and economic status. Domestic violence can just as easily affect children, extended family members, and other partnerships as much as it does the victim.
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 1 in 15 children are exposed to DV every year. Unfortunately, DV often co-occurs with forms of child abuse, including neglect, maltreatment, and sexual abuse. In cases where a parent and child both have the same abuser, such as the partner and the child’s parent, the cycle of violence may be even more difficult to break and the abuse does not get reported. It is also common that, in cases of family violence and co-occurring abuse, the child grows up vulnerable and susceptible to abusive behaviors, such as grooming, outside of the home. These instances of abuse also commonly go unreported as it’s incredibly difficult to come to terms with abuse, both inside and outside of a household.
Men, women, children, and families are all affected by domestic violence and abuse. We have to do our part to raise awareness to the devastating situations DV victims have to go through, advocate for victims and survivors, and extend resources and services to victims in order to break the cycle of DV. A number of resources are available for abuse victims living in Georgia and beyond, including the National Domestic Violence Hotline, which offers a 24/7 hotline and online chat feature to connect victims with trained advocates. The Georgia Coalition Against Domestic Violence also provides hotlines, shelters, and other resources to support victims of DV.
Stand up for survivors during October’s DVAM. At Park Place Outreach, we continue to care for those who have been affected by violence and other troubling situations. We offer a 24-hour crisis line, counseling services, and other crisis intervention programs for individuals and families.