Susan Leavy, a licensed marriage and family therapist explained what an abusive relationship is like and what can one do to prevent the cycle of abuse or help a victim at the intimate partner violence prevention seminar on Monday, April 9.
According to Leavy, toxic relationships involve stalking, obsessive behavior such as constantly calling and wanting to know where their partner is, what they are doing and even making them feel guilty if they do not go along with their unhealthy behavior.
“Another way to say jealousy is I own you. You may not talk to anybody or be with anybody I don’t approve of because I own you,” she said.
The abuser isolates their partner from their friends and family and are the ones who see everything the victim is blind to.
This tactic is used so that the victim has no one to talk to or have anyone to make them realize how abusive their partner really is.
She then went on about the cycle of abuse and how it starts with jealousy.
The abusive partner forbids and even questions their partner when they talk to the opposite sex or someone other than them.
“The actual physical abuse doesn’t start until there’s quite a bit of verbal abuse,” she added.
Verbal abuse is done to keep the victim minimized. It can be in the form of name calling and insults.
The abuser tears their partner down emotionally and does it so often that the victim starts believing what is being said to them is true.
According to Leavy, verbal abuse is used by toxic partners to make the other person feel like they do not have the personal resources to make their life work.
She compared being in a abusive relationship to a fly getting caught in a spider web.
Just like a fly tries freeing itself from the spider web, it eventually becomes even more stuck. As for an abusive relationship, with time it becomes harder and harder to escape.
The victim usually endures the abuse instead of leaving because they love their partner and if there are children involved, they continue to stick around because they believe their kids do not notice the abuse.
Children notice everything. Even if they do not see the abuse they can hear it and feel the tension.
According to Leavy, mothers always seem to get the blame for incidents like these no matter what their partner did to them.
In her experience, the kids are always mad at their mom. They are angry at them for not leaving and also upset at them for leaving.
Children do not have respect for the partner that stayed with the abuser according to Leavy.
Usually, abusive relationships lead boys to normalize the idea that women are subservient and for girls to believe they must tolerate any and all abuse because that is what their mother portrayed to them as acceptable.
In heterosexual abusive relationships, it is common for the female to wind up dead.
“Between 2003 and 2014, in only 18 states there were a little over 10,000 deaths of women, 55 percent of them were intimate partner related,” said Leavy.
In some cases, the father murders their children then commits suicide because they believe this is the best way to get back at their wife for leaving them.
Women who are pregnant are more at risk when in an abusive relationship because this means the abusive partner has to split his attention and his wife will love somebody more than she loves him, and he cannot risk it.
15 percent of women were either pregnant or had just given birth when they were murdered by their intimate partner.
33 percent of people had just argued before a homicide occurred, and 54 percent were violent deaths involving guns.
Given that there are only four shelters in Orange County, it is understandable that sanctuary cannot be provided for all the people who need it.
From personal experience, Leavy recalls working at battered women shelters, that women often do not seek shelter in their own community.
This is due to their fear that their abuser will find them and possibly harm them once again.
The cycle of violence has three phases.
The tension building phase is where the the victim tries to do everything right to prevent getting the abuser upset.
This is then followed by the explosion phase, where the abuser verbally and physically abuses the partner.
The honeymoon phase is what the victim waits for because it is the only time where they have any power in the house at all. The abuser apologizes and tries to make it up.
In the beginning the abuser apologizes for exploding on their partner but if the victim tolerates the abuse for too long, the time between the tension building phase and explosion phase shortens and eventually the honeymoon phase disappears.
To help a victim, one can do so by listening, having patience and being careful when giving them resources.
Resources cannot be a handout, card, email or text because if the abuser finds any of these items this can put the victim’s life at risk.
A tip for conversating with a victim is to not speak negatively about their partner. It is likely that they will defend them and probably won’t accept the help after that.
When asked how they can help a victim from their abuser, psychology major Maria Jose Chaj said to “encourage them to love themselves enough.” While sociology major Damone Rance shared a personal experience and said, “A gang of us just went over and moved her out.”
Leavy warned, “If there is not an intervention, somebody is going to die. Somebody is going to be one of those statistics because he now has no control over himself”.
Resources to help victims of intimate violence can be found at https://ncadv.org/resources.