After living with domestic violence your self esteem and self-confidence may be low. Women may leave and return a number of times before they are able to leave permanently. It is important to realise that leaving does not always mean you will immediately become safe. In fact you may be in the greatest danger from your partner’s abuse at the time of separation. Any attempt to leave should be planned with the safety of you and your children in mind. It is important to remember that whilst the challenges may seem overwhelming, many women have been able to leave abusive relationships and go on to have safe, healthy, happy fulfilling lives for themselves and their children.
For many women leaving a relationship does not mean the end to the violence and abuse. The violence may escalate and can take on different forms. It is important to understand that whilst you can take steps to avoid violence, you cannot stop the violence. The only person who can do that is the person who is violent.
If you have decided to leave or have already done so, it is important that you have a safety plan to assist you and your children to be and stay safe. If you have left it is always important to review your safety plan and ensure that it is still relevant to you and your circumstances. For your safety plan to work it is vital you don’t let your partner see the plan, but it is a good idea to talk about it with someone you trust that is close to you. Your partner may have a sense that something has changed, or may be about to change. It is important that you attempt to keep to your usual routines and activities.
Power and Control
Domestic violence generally occurs as a pattern of behaviours that are linked by power and control. This means that one person in the relationship intentionally and deliberately rules by fear, suppresses the others free will, intimidates, coerces and threatens to or actually does harm to the other, as a way and means to control or have power over them.
The cycle of violence
Many people who experience domestic violence describe the abuse that they endured as happening in a cycle, meaning that there seems to be a pattern that occurs.
Not all women experience the cycle of violence in the same way and a cycle can take place in a day, a week or over months. Some people may experience some stages of the cycle or not at all.
The Build-up phase: Tensions escalate, abuse increases and behaviour is often volatile and unpredictable.
Stand over phase: The perpetrators behaviour escalates. You may feel frightened, that you are walking on egg shells and that anything you do will only worsen the situation.
Explosion: The explosion stage marks the peak of the violence or violent episode.
Remorse phase: The perpetrator may feel ashamed or remorseful about what they have done. They may retreat from the relationship and/or attempt to justify their actions.
Pursuit phase: In this stage the perpetrator may promise that they will never be violent again. They may become attentive, making promises to change or seek help, give gifts and seek your commitment to the relationship and to them. They may try to rationalise their behaviour, blame work or other stress, or offer to make changes or stop using drugs or alcohol.
Honeymoon phase: Both the victim and perpetrator in the relationship may now be in denial about the abuse and may have re-committed to the relationship. They may both choose not to consider the possibility that violence may occur again. After some time the honeymoon phase will end and the cycle will begin again.