It’s 2019 and domestic violence has made its mark on our society in ways never before. Women have been victimized, murdered and humiliated by their partners for centuries. However, in the last 15 years domestic violence has made headlines. Unfortunately, some of this was motivated by some untimely and tragic deaths of women who were murdered by their partners. Society is more confident in taking a stand and speaking up about domestic violence. People are acutely aware that it occurs in high percentages and that there is assistance one may receive. People have started to realize and understand that even “nice” people can assault or harm their partners and still be kind to others. However, please do not be mistaken, most women still hide behind the shame, blame and fear that their partners, families, upbringing or society may have instilled; and it takes them time to seek help and say ‘yes I am a victim of domestic violence’.
Some of the questions that still remain for me are; how readily is this help available? Do people know what domestic violence truly encompasses? How many people are aware that violence isn’t just about physical abuse? Moreover, what are we willing to do, as individuals and as a society to help victims of domestic/intimate partner violence?
Some of these questions I continue to ponder after having worked with survivors and victims, of both domestic violence and sexual assault for 17 years. At times I’m encouraged by what people do and how they help those who are suffering or have suffered through domestic violence. However, I’m often astonished by the blatant disregard or denial for the violence that occurs before some people. There may be some resistance due to their own trauma, their own conditioning and upbringing, perhaps they don’t believe they can be of help, or they may fear retribution. Conceivably, some may feel that this woman deserves to be treated in this manner, as it may be no different than what they experienced.
Over the years I’ve often heard victims share that when they first disclose their partner is abusive, the first question the family will often ask is; is he hitting you? If the answer is ‘no’ the family members will often say then I’m not sure what’s wrong. They’ll go onto state that some arguing and fighting is “normal” in relationships. When a victim shares that their partner is emotionally and mentally abusive ex; makes degrading comments, insults the victim, is controlling, monitors all money given and spent, monitors food consumption; families will often suggest that the victim should try to change the behaviour of their partner, or question if they perhaps did something that upset him. The fact is that this behaviour and form of domestic violence is often more detrimental to a partner, but is easier to conceal than physical abuse.
Those who experience emotional, mental, sexual, financial and spiritual abuse are also suffering through domestic violence. Domestic violence is about power and control. Domestic violence is not always seen and is not always heard. Abuse does not know color, education, class, status or religion.
There are three stages to the cycle of violence: Tension building phase: tension builds over common issues like money, children or jobs. Verbal abuse begins. Acute battering stage: When the tension peaks, the physical violence begins. It is typically triggered by the presence of an external event or by the abuser’s emotional state— and not by the victim’s behavior. The honeymoon phase: Where the abuser is ashamed of his behavior. He expresses remorse, tries to minimize the abuse and may blame the partner. He will attempt to convince the partner and even the families that the abuse will not happen again.
The average woman in a domestic violent relationship will attempt to leave and go back to her partner 7 times before she is able to leave for the final time.
- Half of all women in Canada have experienced at least one incident of physical or sexual violence since the age of 16. (Canadian Women’s Foundation)
- 67% of Canadians say they have personally known at least one woman who has experienced physical or sexual abuse. (Canadian Women’s Foundation)
As a reader today, I’d like you to think about my next statement; if you were told every day that you are stupid, worthless, and deserve nothing; your self-worth, self-esteem and confidence would diminish. Over time you would begin to believe that perhaps this in fact is your worth and these statements are true! So, let’s not continue to question or judge women in violent relationships and why they didn’t leave. Let’s support women in the best way possible, by offering them emotional, moral support, guidance and resources. Let’s lift them up, so they feel supported and cared for again. One person at a time, one woman at a time, the change our society needs can start with you.
Nimi Chauhan (Author)
Nimi Chauhan is a mediator and a community activist. She has been working in the field of domestic violence, sexual assault and suicide for the last 18 years. Nimi has served various positions with community agencies and has served on numerous boards varying from community policing, national parole board, addictions and recovery, youth gang violence as well as political bodies. She is also the founder of Sahara Services.