HelpGuide.org defines physical abuse in a relationship as:
“The use of physical force against a partner in a relationship in a way that endangers or injures that person.”
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If you are in a physically abusive relationship that can put you into serious injury, then you need to report it to the police right away in order to protect yourself so that you can avoid further injury to yourself. Before we tell you about the causes of physical abuse, we need you to be sure that your relationship is a physically abusive one.
How to identify physical abuse in a relationship
According to the Centre of Relationship Abuse Awareness,
“When we refer to physical abuse, we are not talking about self-defense. Self-defense, or reactive violence, is a response to violence being committed against a person. The result of reactive violence does not create a system of dominance or control in the relationship.
Sometimes people ask if a one time incident (i.e. throwing an object once) is always domestic violence. Contextualizing the incident in the relationship and looking at other forms of controlling behavior will help to determine if this is something that could escalate. However, a one-time incident can be a warning sign that future abuse could occur. In addition, a one-time incident may have the same effect of causing fear, limiting behavior, and long-term negative impact as continuing physical abuse. Contact a hotline if you have questions or concerns.”
To identify physical abuse, you should know that physical abuse consists of all kinds of violent behavior. This could include hitting, biting, punching, shaking, grabbing, forcing sex, kicking, burning, shoving etc. According to reports, physical abusers can also resort to using weapons to abuse their partners. Also, the Adults and Children Together Against Violence states that physical abuse does not only include actual harm, but also threat of causing harm.
The former U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop in his findings states, “Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women between the ages of 15 to 44”.
In a relationship, abuse can take different forms; it can be physical, mental, emotional and sexual. It can also be a combination of these that effect the mental stability of the abused. Among these, emotional abuse has no physical marks or signs, and so hides in plain sight.
According to HealthyPlace,
“The effects of physical abuse are obvious – a black eye, a cut or a bruise – but the effects of emotional abuse may be harder to spot. Emotionally abusive husbands or wives can affect mood, sex drive, work, school and other areas of life. Make no mistake about it; the effects of emotional abuse can be just as severe as those from physical abuse.
And perhaps even worse is the fact that victims of emotional abuse tend to blame themselves and minimize their abuse, saying that it was “only” emotional and “at least he/she didn’t hit me.” But minimizing adult emotional abuse won’t help and it won’t hide its devastating effects.”
To understand emotional abuse better, read this example given by Psychology Today:
“Mary constantly criticizes Tim in hopes that by putting him down she will be able to control his behavior. She belittles him when they are alone and she puts him down in front of others. When he tries to speak up for himself, or call her on her behavior, she attempts to make him feel like he is crazy, like everyone knows he’s crazy and like no one would ever take him seriously (Gaslighting). She blames him for her unhappiness frequently, holding him responsible for how she feels. She takes little to no responsibility for her own choices and behavior. She uses a double-standard when it comes to her own behavior, not holding herself accountable when she does the same exact things for which she criticizes him. She calls him stupid, inept, dumb and other like names frequently. When he speaks to her relatives or friends, she rolls her eyes in an attempt to manipulate them into disrespecting him. She treats him with disdain, even disgust frequently. She threatens to leave him or to stop speaking to him frequently. And she refuses to show him affection, giving affection only when he does exactly what she wants. She is especially cold, even non-verbal, when she is mad at him. Sometimes she goes days or even weeks without speaking to him. Mary also goes to other family members and friends of Tim’s to talk to them about Tim, thus isolating Tim from those who would be supportive and could let him know that he is being abused. Mary is showing a distinct pattern of emotional abuse that comes at Tim from several different directions.”
Physical abuse, on the other hand, has plenty of signs that you can use to identify in abuse in the relationship. These include:
- Restraint or grip markings
- Black eyes
- Unusual pattern of injury
- Repeated trips to the emergency room
While these are the visible signs of physical abuse, the less obvious signs include:
- Social isolation or withdrawal
- Vague medical complaints such as chronic headaches, fatigue or stomach pain
- Pelvic pain; vaginal or urinary tract infections
- Unwanted pregnancy; lack of prenatal care
- Sexual problems
- Anxiety, including panic attacks and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Abuse of alcohol or other drugs
Causes of physical abuse in a relationship
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Let us now have a look at the causes of physical abuse in a relationship.
1. The need for control
The first cause of any sort of abuse especially physical and emotional, comes from the need to control people. The people who need to control others usually suffer from low self-esteem. They could also be jealous individuals who find it hard to be supportive for their partners. The abuser could also be a victim of an upbringing that sees men are superior to women, and the set up that justifies assertion of powder by the strong over the weak.
The abused could also be an individual of a low self-esteem who does not find the abuse being catered to them as wrong; he or she feels that they deserve to be treated that way, and that’s where the real problem lies. This also prevents them from reporting the abuse to the police or other family members.
2. Learned behaviors
The next cause involves learned behaviors. People who have grown up in an abuse environment or have been subject to abuse for a long period of time at the hands of a trusted person, say parents or siblings, tend to repeat the cycle of violence when they get into an adult relationship. They might either take on the role of the abuser or the abused, but they will, in most cases, perpetuate the cycle.
According to Dr. Toby Goldsmith,
“children who witness or are the victims of violence may learn to believe that violence is a reasonable way to resolve conflict.”
3. Substance abuse
Violent behaviors in a relationship can also be caused by substance, such as, drug and/or alcohol abuse. The Tennessee Association of Alcohol, Drug & other Addiction Services states,
“Violent men are more likely to abuse alcohol than nonviolent men. Estimates of alcohol and drug abuse by violent men ranges from 52 to 85 percent– rates three times those of nonviolent men.”
The abuse of drugs and alcohol strains relationships because they tend to go beyond the abuse of substance to physical abuse. It inhibits proper decision making, and causes people to get violent or justify use of violence to resolve a conflict or express a feeling of disdain.
That is all we have on today’s post on What Causes Physical Abuse In A Relationship. Did you find this helpful? Do you have any suggestions for us, and/or questions for our experts? If yes, then let us know in the comment section below.
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