Domestic violence is not just about its physical and sexual dimensions, on the contrary. In addition to these serious forms of possible violence within the couple, we should not forget its psychological facets, often invisible to those around them, and creating serious damage, slowly, subtly … and insidiously.
A takeover with devastating effects
There is no consensus on one single definition, but everyone agrees that domestic violence is a takeover of the partner. In a couple, this domination can take several dimensions. Physical and sexual violence, which receives the most media coverage, with its share of beatings, pushes and marks that we too often try to cover up. It is also important to remember that being subjected to actions that someone does not want is also an important form of domination.
Apart from the more visible aspects of violence, there are also those of a psychological nature. They are often concealed in words or actions that may seem trivial, but which cause great harm, and more by repeating themselves. Denigration and devaluation (“You’ll never be able”), discredit (“You don’t know what you’re talking about”), insults or humiliations (“I no longer want you because you have gained weight” ) are good examples. And it all starts with camouflaged threats that, little by little, create a climate of fear.
The cycle of violence can often take shape in a context where the person is isolated, especially by denigrating family and friends, pushing them apart, important protective factors for psychological balance. All of this crumbles and the person becomes convinced that the other is right: he has no value. In a context of isolation, feelings of fear and loss of self-confidence develop, or intensify.
When violence creeps in in the couple
To this is often added the guilt felt by the victim. The perpetrator finds justifications for his behavior, and the victim goes to great lengths to understand it, even going so far as to apologize, and apologize to herself. To the abuser, the source of his violence always seems external: a demanding job, unruly children, the victim herself, never her own person. And just as the perpetrator does not see the violence in him, he does not see why he should seek help.
Why stay when should we leave?
Many victims postpone the moment of departure and break-up, first of all because they do not recognize the manipulation and domination they undergo: the victims do not have the impression of being abused, do not do not understand, or do not perceive this phenomenon which can manifest itself in a very subtle and gradual way. We must not forget that with psychological abuse, cognitive biases are built: these are errors of thought, but which we end up taking for realities. The victim can thus become convinced that they are responsible for this situation, or that they do not deserve better.
In addition, the perpetrator may express regret, promise not to do it again, seek treatment, or even raise the prospect of suicide in some cases. When the victim comes to her aid and there is a recurrence, the perpetrator blames the victim: she made every effort to make things better, but she failed. Finally, it should not be forgotten that the hope for lasting change is too often accompanied by an uncontrollable fear of reprisals.
Remain vigilant … and ask for help
Being locked in the circle of emotional abuse may echo the fable of the frog. Place it in cool water, and gradually raise the temperature. She will never try to jump, as she gets used to the change in temperature. Until the moment when she tries to flee because she feels her end coming: she will not have the strength or the capacity. Recognize the temperature of the water, for ourselves and for others: it is about our mental health and our psychological safety.