Intimate Partner Violence

In my previous article I had raised a query: Do victims of marital violence undergo similar experiences regardless of their gender? When I use the term ‘abuse’, I include all forms of abuse - psychological, emotional, sexual, and physical.

I had mentioned how it is the victim (male or female) who feels the need to hold on to the abusive relationship - sometimes, seemingly for themselves and sometimes for the sake of their children. It is the victim who decides to protect the dignity of the family and therefore tries to hide their own suffering; it is the victim who feels a great sense of shame. They feel humiliated that other people would come to know about the violence happening in the confines of their homes. They are not ashamed of their partner’s deplorable actions; rather they feel ashamed of themselves!!I it is the victim who tries to protect their spouse’s reputation from their own family members, including their children.

For the outsider, the questions can range from, “Why are you tolerating it? Why not just leave? Why do you not tell other people?” to, “Do you like to suffer?”because to the outsider, the victim’s behaviour defies logic.

So why does the victim behave so?

One thing that I have noticed is that the victim often has experienced sudden, overwhelming expressions of love from their abusive spouses. These can include needless, meaningless, and often undeserving compliments and false support when the abused partner receives constructive suggestions or even well-intended criticism from well-wishers. Typically, the victim would be made to feel super-special, extremely loved, and may thus be gradually convinced that no one loves them more than the abuser. This isolates the victims from the people who truly love and respect them, from those people who are often the ones who genuinely. The victims, thereby, end up separated from the very people who may be in a position to help them realize that their partner is being controlling, vindictive and abusive.

Often the abusive partner would insist on taking over their chores, duties, and errands. These may be simple tasks or acts, but the victim ends up feeling important and pampered. Once the attachment and dependence are fixed, the abusive spouse starts withdrawing emotionally and later proceeds to taunt the partner for not being able to carry out ordinary work. The victims yearn for the ‘phenomenal’ love they had experienced in the past, and even though they now receive it sporadically- if at all, they continue to hold on to the relationship in the hope of it re-emerging in the future.

The abuser makes the partner feel that they are undervalued and rejected by others. The victim, therefore, feels that other than this one person, no one (including their own parents and siblings) truly understands or loves them. Thus, the abuser starts to cut off the spouse from their loved ones and well-wishers. Classically, the abusive spouse would distance the victims from their friends too and surround them with their own followers – generally people as manipulative and as toxic. This further makes the abused partner feel insignificant and devalued.

This is an extremely traumatic and confusing stage for the victims as they cannot comprehend what is happening or why. They believe they have failed in some way and the memory of the love and excessive support they had received in the past spurs them to strive harder for their abusive partner’s affection and validation.

Gaslighting is a common evil and manipulative technique employed by the abuser. They deliberately distort, and twist facts, their own words, or even an event, making the victims doubt themselves, their thoughts and at worst, their own sanity.

Gradually the victims lose confidence in themselves and feel extremely helpless, lonely, worthless, unwanted, and with nowhere to go. They continue in their journey to regain the ‘love’, ‘respect’, and ‘trust’ that their manipulating spouse supposedly had for them, never realizing that the abuser’s show of love – ‘the love bombing’ – was merely a means to control their naïve partner. The victim now would seem habituated to pain, and a possible masochist. The victim may even appear to be unwilling to make changes for the better. However, the saddest outcome often is that to society, the victim appears to be the abuser and the abusers project themselves as the ultimate victim.

Our next segment shall deal with how to get out of such a toxic relationship.

Although I have referred to several research papers and news items, I would like to state that these are primarily my observations and understandings based on interactions with my clients, and hence are primarily subjective in nature.

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