Most people equate domestic violence with physical abuse, but I learned this was a treacherous myth. The narrow view of domestic violence could permit insidious and broad consequences of domestic abuse to go unnoticed. Several years ago, I witnessed a case of domestic abuse in my neighborhood involving a couple of average age. The man in the house was the domestic abuser, but he did not physically abuse the woman. On the contrary, he demonstrated emotional abuse because of his controlling behavior, maintaining an unjustified dominance over the woman and subjecting her to anxiety, despair, and feelings of being unappreciated. In essence, controlling behavior is a form of domestic abuse rarely admitted, but it is always pervasive and insidious. Coercive behavior among couples should be given the attention it deserves and handled effectively to protect vulnerable individuals from the systematic abuse of their rights and an assault on their dignity as individuals.
I noticed signs of abuse in the relationships after seeing that the woman went into a frenzy each time the man arrived home from his escapades. For example, he was verbally abusive and did not mind dressing her in front of neighbors, often leading to isolation by forbidding her from spending time with neighbors and friends. Besides, he was fond of monitoring her every move, checking her phone calls and messages, humiliation, and name-calling, all of which were accompanied by gas lighting. He would try to act friendly to her after every episode of abuse, often calling her sweet names and convincing her that all was well. It was evident from the start that the woman was experiencing subtle domestic abuse that was taking a toll on her confidence by denying her happiness and shrinking her social circles, limiting her life chances and quality of life.
At first, I was surprised to hear about the domestic violence case because the two appeared to get on well, and the woman did not show signs of resentment toward the man or physical abuse. I later learned that domestic violence could happen in several forms. Research shows that the goal of emotional abuse is to undermine a partner’s sense of self-worth by limiting their independence using abusive tactics (Dokkedahl, 2019). In most cases, people overlook emotional abuse because the victim attempts to conceal it to protect their dignity and relationship. At the same time, the abuser does not openly exhibit signs of a typical abuser. Accordingly, there is a need for society to be conscious of the tale-tell signs of abuse to enable the abused person to access help from professionals to eliminate the threats posed to their lives.
The abused person sought help after it became increasingly clear the emotional abuse could turn physical. The man became increasingly irritated, depicting signs of a mentally disturbed person. In response, the woman spoke to her neighbors, who encouraged her to document the abuse, keep a journal of the events, use technology to record instances that threatened her life, and seek professional assistance from a therapist. The advice was appropriate for the victim because research shows emotional abuse has long-term implications on mental health and could potentially lead to the loss of the sense of self, depression, substance abuse as a coping mechanism, anxiety, and chronic pain (Dye, 2019). Hence, it was beneficial that the woman took measures to protect her life from the subtle abuse she had endured.
I advise individuals caught in domestic abuse to speak out immediately and seek professional help to overcome the violence. I would begin by reassuring the victim that they are not the cause of the problem and are not to blame for any outcomes. Subsequently, I would encourage them to talk to a family counselor that could refer them to state organizations or non-governmental organizations dealing with domestic violence cases. In the state of Florida, the abused person could get help from the Florida Department of Children and Families, which provides a hotline and information regarding a local center for victims, and Partners in Prevention, a charitable organization that guarantees domestic violence survivors access to required health, family violence intervention, psychotherapy, and legal advice (Florida Family Policy Council, 2022). Accordingly, survivors should not suffer in silence but instead, seek timely interventions against abuse.
In essence, domestic abuse is a despicable practice that hurts millions of people and negates the quality of life of innocent people. Such individuals should be encouraged to speak against the vice and seek timely interventions. The risk of suffering long-term effects is real and should prompt survivors to seek help. Importantly, society should not condone violence because the adverse consequences of this disgraceful practice transcend individual homes by affecting other society members.
Dokkedahl, S. et al. (2019). The psychological subtype of intimate partner violence and its effect on mental health: protocol for a systematic review and meta-analysis. Systemic reviews, 8(198); 1-10, https://doi.org/10.1186/s13643-019-1118-1
Dye, H. L. (2019). Is emotional abuse as harmful as physical and/or sexual abuse? Journal of child & adolescent trauma, 13(4), 399–407. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40653-019-00292-y
Florida Family Council Policy. (2022). Get Help: Domestic Violence and Abuse. Florida Family Council Policy. https://www.flfamily.org/get-help/domestic-violence