When we hear about abusive relationships the first question we ask is “why do they stay in these horrible relationships?” The answer to that question is much more complex than most of us understand. Domestic violence is so multifaceted and studies show that many medical and mental health professionals do not even understand the issue well. Professionals ignore the signs or do not even know what the signs are. One very important aspect of abusive relationships to understand is does the individual being abused have self-determination?
You might be asking yourself what does self-determination have to do with being physically or verbally abused by your romantic partner? The answer is it has a lot to do with it. Self-determination can be simply defined as the freedom we have to make our own decisions. The very nature of abusive relationships robs individuals of their sense of freedom and choice. Abusive relationships are often characterized by the abusers need for power and control over their victim. Many times, these abusers are aware that gaining power over someone else is a slow gradual process that needs to be done in a way that they will not even notice is happening. This slow gradual process is usually what people miss in trying to understand abusive relationships.
Today, scholars have termed and defined domestic violence in different ways made up of different patterns and typologies. One newer term is “intimate terrorism” which is the type of abusive relationship that really robs the victim of their ability to use self-determination. This type of violence is made up of willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, and/or other abusive behavior as part of a systematic and gradual pattern of power and control perpetrated by one intimate partner against another. It includes physical violence, sexual violence, psychological violence, and emotional abuse.
It is very hard for individuals to recognize that they are in this type of relationship because of many reasons. One main reason is self-blame. It is not uncommon to see that victims of severe abuse feel responsible for the abuse that occurred to them. This blame is often because the abuser will say things like “well if you wouldn’t expect me to be perfect I would not get so angry” or they would say “ I didn’t mean to hit you, I will never do it again, I need you here to help me change and be a better person”. At one point it can get so scary that a victims no longer feels that there is a way out. They just think of surviving because of threats to their life and the life of their children. These threats cause such deep fear that freedom and choice feel out of reach. At this point, self-determination seems like a far away idea too difficult to attain.
Violence in intimate relationships does not always look the same. But intimate terrorism is a high risk situations that impacts millions of people. So next time try to fight against the question “why do you stay” and replace it with “how can I help you?” if you need an advocate perhaps look for care management services and/or counseling services. Just know that you are not alone. At RK Care Group we take a stand against abuse and are able to help you get through this. For more information call us at (305)900-7203 or check out or website Rkcaregroup.com.