What is domestic violence? A series on Dr. Bradley's sourcebook (part 8) Dynamics of the Abusive Relationship
Dynamics of the Abusive Relationship
Just as it's impossible to make progress while working with sweeping generalization in any other area of cultural studies, the same concept applies to domestic violence. Although with that context in mind, researchers have identified “certain risk factors that help predict which homes are more likely to become violent” (Bradley 30). Again, I cannot stress enough that these are purely risk factors which were identified through extensive research and study, and are by no means a perfect formula in predicting violence in the home. Dr. Bradley suggests that those in violent relationships can fight about the same trivial topics non-violent relationships do, there is no sense of boundary which those in a non-violent relationship are aware of (Bradley 30). Scientists have tried to develop a series of possible red flags might predict who those people are, and showcase their inability to establish boundaries before any harm takes place. Some of these include, “The man saw hit father hit his mother. The man in unemployed. The man uses illegal drugs at least once a year. The couple cohabits but is not married. Either person uses severe violence toward children in the home” (Bradley 31). The list goes on but for the sake of space those examples should suffice. Some of these traits would not be observable until one was already living with a potential beater, but once revealed they should not be taken lightly. These again are to be seen as possible red flags and are by no means absolute considering the violent relationship is usually a complex one.
Dr. Bradley notes that violent behavior can take place at any stage within a marriage, but newly established marriages seem to be at a higher risk than others (Bradley 32). Usually, abusive behavior does not start with physical confrontation, but instead with verbal or psychological abuse. The abuser might call his/her partner degrading insults or continually put them down, in an attempt to make the victim believe they are worthless and the cause of al the problems. Dr. Bradley states that control or isolation often comes next, where the abuser insists on knowing ever move of the victim- who they’re with, what they’re doing, when they will be home (32). Many times abusers will use the guise of loving you so much that they need to know what is going on at all times. This verbal abuse can escalate over time, where the abuser will “project his or her own failures on to the victim” (Bradley 32). The abuser also encourages the victim to abuse drugs or alcohol so that they are even less independent.
In addition to continual and escalating verbal abuse, the victim is also usually financially restricted in some way or another. Many times abusers will insist on controlling all aspects of the finances and not give money to the victim for necessities like new clothes or a haircut. Similar to putting the victim down with numerous insults, the abuser seeks to isolate the victim even further from others by dictating what he/she can do via the finances. It’s also often reported that victims are urged to quit their jobs and sell their cars, two more strategies which increase the dependency the victim has to the abuser (33). After the tremendous amount of verbal insults and psychological abuse the victim is put through, they are usually shells of their former selves without a trace of self-confidence. At this point there usually hasn’t been any physical abuse yet, but the victim is left in such a dependent state that they don’t believe they can leave the relationship by the time the physical abuse starts. It is hard for someone who has never been a part of that toxic relationship to imagine how someone can get to the point where they stay with someone who physical beats them, but the fact is they don’t see themselves as worthy of anything else (33). And the most unsettling thing about domestic abuse is that anyone can quickly find themselves within a relationship that is showing signs of being potential abusive.
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Berry, Dawn Bradley. The Domestic Violence Sourcebook. Contemporary, 2001