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ABUSE: WHAT IS IT?

    Domestic violence (also called intimate partner violence (IPV), domestic abuse or relationship abuse) is a pattern of behaviors used by one partner to maintain power and control over another partner in an intimate or marital relationship. It is considered a crime in the US.


     Domestic violence does not discriminate. Anyone of any race, age, sexual orientation, religion or gender can be a victim – or perpetrator – of domestic violence. It can happen to people who are married, living together or who are dating. It affects people of all socioeconomic backgrounds and education levels. Although men and people of all genders can experience abuse at the hands of their abuser, domestic violence , especially in the South Asian community is inflicted on women primarily by their husbands or partners as well as in-law family members. Domestic violence has been primarily conceptualized as violence against women both in research and policy.

    

     One out of every four women in the South Asian community is a victim of domestic violence perpetrated by her husband. This is one of the most serious problems being faced in our community. There are some cultural factors and practices in our community that contribute to increased occurrence and risk of domestic violence. Some of them include distinct and sometimes strict gender roles, conditions of marriage, dowry, structure of family, family over self values, lack of financial independence for women, patriarchy, and considering women as second class citizens.


DIFFERENT TYPES OF ABUSE:

     

     Abuse can be inflicted by perpetrators in both obvious and subtle ways. In fact, much of the abuse starts as subtle and gets worse without interventions. One of the definitions of abuse is: “treating a person with cruelty or violence especially repeatedly and regularly.” Such abuse creates psychological and emotional wounds that may last a lifetime if left unidentified or untreated. Abuse can lead to a person developing trauma across generations. Some of the effects of abuse include sleep disruptions, mood changes, dreadful feelings, headaches, tension in muscles, confusion, and even loss of self-esteem.


Types of domestic violence include: 

  1. Physical Abuse perpetrated against the victim by pushing, shoving, punching, kicking, slapping, pulling hair, biting, or even strangling/choking.
  2.  Emotional Abuse consists of the perpetrator calling the victim bad names, insults, derogatory terms, acting out of jealousy, manipulating, humiliating and degrading a person, and threatening. 
  3. Sexual Abuse occurs when the abuser forces the victim to have sex, or compelling a person to dress more sexually than they wish to or forcing them to watch pornographic images/videos or forcing them to flirt with their male friends or engage in any sexual or inappropriate touching without consent. 
  4. Economic or Financial Abuse looks like abusers denying access to victims of their bank accounts or credit cards or preventing the victims from going to a job or limiting access to health insurance or legally joint assets.

*Note that these are only a few examples. There are many more forms of DV.

THE IMPACT OF ABUSE ON INDIVIDUALS:

     As mentioned above, the impact of domestic violence may be long-term, affecting emotional adjustment, physical health, mental health and subsequent relationships. Abuse does not only impact the victim negatively but also their family and the effects can be generational. Many of the abusers have mentioned in research that they grew up in abusive and dysfunctional households themselves developing anger and control issues. Even though abuse is inexcusable, it's important to note that healthy relationships start from our own homes and how we watch our parents behave or misbehave with each other.


     Some of the concerns that individuals who have experienced abuse report include feelings of inadequacy, self doubt, confusion, low self-esteem, hurt, depression, anxiety, insomnia, self-blame, panic, and trauma. Some report unexplained body aches and pains, tensions, as well as stiffness in their muscles. Feelings of shame, embarrassment, illicit drug use, social withdrawal, and even suicidal ideation.


      Research has well established the link between abused children and their delayed development as well as women who have been physically and sexually abused as children, have a higher chance or partaking in risky activities and situations.


     Victims of domestic violence have also reported greater risk of health conditions like asthma, arthritis, heart disease, and chronic pain. They find themselves trapped in a cycle of abuse and may be prone to not recognizing the signs of unhealthy relationships given their past. They may have difficulty trusting others which can limit their help-seeking efforts and opportunities of support.


      Needless to say, abuse impacts us in numerous ways physically, emotionally, sexually, financially, psychologically, and spiritually. Many victims report losing their faith in their religion and their family as a result of abuse. The underlying factors in abuse are the misuse of perceived power and control by the abuser through both subtle and obvious ways. Abuse is a crime and the victims need not suffer in silence. Help is available and so is a better life ahead. 

HELP AVAILABLE TO SUPPORT INDIVIDUALS AND FAMILIES:

     These are some other organizations, in addition to Raksha, helping individuals, families, and communities break free from the cycle of abuse and thrive. Many community churches and other religious places offer free support groups for victims of domestic violence as well.


1-800-799-7233 National Domestic Violence Hotline

1-800-334-2836 Georgia Coalition Against Domestic Violence


Article contributors: Fatima Wasim Ph.D. NCC LPC (Clinical Director of Counseling Services)

Anjali Guntar M.A (Advocacy Services Manager)