After the Abuse – Psychology Essay
Standing before the minister, gazing into each other’s eyes with fingers entwined, the bride echoes the line “for better or for worse,” and ‘till death do us part.” It is not until it is too late that she
realizes that the “till death do us part” is slowly being beaten out of her. If you are one of the survivors of abuse by someone you love as I am, survival comes at a cost to mental and physical health. Many survivors of abuse suffer the same symptoms as people who have survived an event such as a terrorist attack, assault, natural disaster, or as a soldier returning home, and many suffer in silence. There are many who believe that once an abused spouse or significant other leaves the relationship, everything will be fine. With so much already written concerning intimate partner violence, we should be surprised by this belief, but we are not. The reality is that not everyone comes through the abuse unscathed. Most people do manage to cope with life’s stressful events, such as a car wreck, death of a loved one, or an illness; however, the life of a woman repeatedly abused is changed, even if we cannot see it. Post-traumatic Stress Disorder is a real, life-altering medical diagnosis that can negatively influence lives and families for years.
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental-health condition experienced after an emotional trauma, characterized by both an emotional and physical suffering, through flashbacks or nightmares; it affects routine everyday life and health issues (National 1, par. 3). PTSD alters the body’s response to stress by affecting stress hormones and neurotransmitters. Previous exposure to trauma may increase the risk, which suggests that this kind of a reaction may be a
learned response (“Medical” 1, par. 4). This disorder can manifest itself months or years after the abuse and affect the person’s ability to function at home or at work, to form new relationships, or to lead productive lives. The ongoing stress may result in chronic pain and victims of domestic violence are more likely to have arthritis, neck pain and migraine headaches. The September 2006 Harvard Women’s Health Watch reports over forty-seven percent of battered women are depressed, sixty-three percent suffered post-traumatic stress disorder, and almost eight percent committed suicide (“Recognizing” 7, par 1). Unfortunately, for some, the victim leaves one abusive relationship only to rebound into another, and the cycle continues.
Twenty to thirty percent of women in America are physically abused during their adult life (Berkowitz 1, par. 2) with an estimated four million women seriously injured, and at ten times greater risk to be murdered by an intimate partner (Berkowitz 1, par. 3). In 2001, over one hundred thousand men were documented as suffering nonfatal injuries with four-hundred-forty deaths attributed to domestic violence (Pisano 4). Though the numbers of women for that same year was close to six-hundred-thousand nonfatal injuries, with over twelve-hundred fatalities, men are victims also and should not be forgotten (Pisano 4). Statistics concerning male abuse victims are sketchy, as the majority of men do not report abuse from an intimate partner.
What causes men, in most cases, to engage in acts of physical or emotional abuse against someone they profess to love? Abuse, emotional and physical, is the abuser’s need to control and “on gaining and maintaining power over his partner through fear and intimidation” (“Recognizing” 1, par. 7). The abusive partner may use many different methods to actively control his partner from intimidation, criticizing her, what to wear, where she can go, or whom she can see, isolation from family, friends, and co-workers by limiting contact or removing her physically from contact with them. The isolation of an abuse victim from family, friends, and co-workers cuts her off from the people and services that could help her (Recognizing 1, par. 9). If there is no contact outside of the home, there is no one for her to talk to or ask for help, or so the abuser believes, giving the abuser even more control over his victim’s life. And over time, the woman herself may begin to doubt herself and believe the horrible things he says and may feel an obligation to keep herself and those around her convinced that everything is just fine (“Recognizing” 1, par. 6). This is yet another way to control the victim and continue the abuse, all the while leaving the impression of the perfect relationship for family and friends to see.
Earlier in America’s history, women “were viewed as property of men, much like children or slaves, and could be physically punished for not obeying orders” (Prah 1, par. 2). Even with the changes in laws and education concerning violence against women, in 1964 a young woman in New York City was repeatedly stabbed while neighbors ignored her screams. Witnesses later said they did not want to get involved because they thought it was a man beating his wife and felt it was not any of their business (Prah 1, par 6). The first women’s-rights convention was held in New York in 1848, and by the 1870s, wife beating was becoming unacceptable, at least legally, with Maryland being the first state to outlaw wife beating in 1883. However, it was not until the 1960s and the women’s movement of the 1970s that Americans began to change the way they viewed domestic violence (Prah 1, par 4).
Regardless of how many laws are passed, the problem will not magically disappear. The cycle of “domestic violence follows a recognizable pattern titled Walker’s Cycle of Violence Theory” (Berkowitz 396, par. 9). The phases included in this cycle are tension building, acute battering, and the honeymoon phase. The tension-building phase, the first step, includes “verbal criticism and a lack of predictability” that may cause the victim to suffer “headache and abdominal pain” caused by the stress (Berkowitz 396, par. 9). The second phase involves the destruction of property, physical injuries or trauma to the victim, and often at this, the battering phase, neighbors or the victim themselves calls the police. The third phase is called the honeymoon phase because the batterer apologizes, asks for forgiveness, and promises that it will never happen again; unfortunately, the cycle repeats itself and the violence continues unless there is intervention. The victim may believe, or more appropriately, wants to believe the abuse will stop, but the violence persists (Berkowitz 396, par. 9).
Have you ever seen someone lift up his or her arm to wave and the person beside him flinches or cringes? Perhaps she is a survivor of abuse or worse, still a victim. The physical abuse may end when the victim leaves, but many suffer for months or years from the symptoms of post-traumatic stress. Unfortunately, there are batterers that follow their victim to continue the abuse whether physical or verbal, in an effort to keep the control and fear alive. The abuse victim varies from the highly educated, affluent, career driven, homemakers, mothers, or daughters. What does not appear to vary from all of the reports and journal articles written is the description of the abuser. There have been countless articles, television specials, and movies made about abusive relationships and what they should show us is that it can happen to anyone. However, with the help and support of family, friends, professionals, and time, there is life after abuse; you just have to decide whether to keep living as a victim, or to live.
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“Medical Encyclopedia: Post-traumatic stress disorder.” Medline Plus. 4 Oct. 2006. U.S. National Library of Medicine. 17 Oct. 2006
National Mental Health Information Center. “Answers in the Aftermath.” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 2005. 9 Oct. 2006
Pisano, Marina. “No One to Turn to Battered Woman Found Little Help, Even From Church.” San Antonio Express-News. 15 Feb. 2005. eLibrary. Gulf Coast Community College Lib., Panama City, FL 9 Oct. 2006
Prah, Pamela M. “Domestic Violence.” CQ Researcher 16.1 (2006): 1-24. CQ Researcher Online. CQ Press. Gulf Coast Community College Lib., Panama City, FL 18 Oct. 2006
“Recognizing Domestic Partner Abuse.” Harvard Women’s Health Watch 14.1 (2006): 6-7. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Gulf Coast Community College Lib., Panama City, FL 20 Oct 2006.
Corry, Charles E. “Domestic Violence Is Not a Serious Problem.” Domestic Violence. Ed. David M. Haugen. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 2005. Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center. Thomson Gale. Gulf Coast Community College Lib., FL 17 Oct. 2006
Kilpatrick, Dean G. “A Special Section on Complex Trauma and A Few Thoughts About the Need for More Rigorous Research on Treatment Efficacy, Effectiveness, and Safety.” Journal of Traumatic Stress 18.5 (2005): 379-84. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Gulf Coast Community College Lib., Panama City, FL 9 Oct 2006.
Vaknin, Sam Dr. Malignant Love. 7th Ed. Macedonia: Narcissus Publications, 2006. 4 Oct. 2006
Young, Cathy. “Feminist Dogma on Partner Abuse.” The Boston Globe. 10 Nov. 2004. eLibrary. Gulf Coast Community College Lib., Panama City, FL 9 Oct. 2006
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