(Small spoiler alert: skip to the next section if necessary.) The thrilling HBO series and best-selling novel, Big Little Lies, has kept fans on their edge of their seats, trying to figure out this murder mystery. Laine Moriarty’s storyline has also captured the world’s attention because it highlights a serious but often secret reality: domestic violence. Big Little Lies follows the daily drama in the lives of several elementary school mothers. One of the mothers, Celeste White, is the envy of all. She has a dreamy life: children, money, romance, friends, beauty, comfort, and more. But her life is not a dream—it’s a nightmare. Celeste keeps a deep secret: her husband hits her.
Like Celeste, many people who live with domestic violence understand how the appearance of a relationship can be so very different than the reality—how partners can be so charming one moment and then verbally, physically, or sexually attack the next. Celeste illustrates the confusion victims feel, wondering, “I don’t know why I stay. I don’t know why I deserve this. I don’t know why you do this, why we do this, why this keeps happening.” Escaping a confusing, violent relationship is hard, but with the support of family, friends, and an experienced counselor, many victims of domestic violence find a way to safety.
The counselors at Thriveworks Charleston offer therapy for victims of domestic violence and abuse. We know the dangers of domestic violence and how to support clients in finding a place of safety. If you need domestic abuse counseling, reach out to Thriveworks Charleston today. We’ll provide you with the help and support you need.
The Cycle of Abuse: 3 Phases
The particular details of abuse may vary from situation to situation, but domestic violence almost always adheres to a predictable cycle:
- The Honeymoon Phase: This is a peaceful time in the relationship and one of the reasons domestic violence can be so disorienting. The honeymoon phase can be too good to be true with gifts and romance that can make anyone believe it is a perfect relationship.
- The Tension Building Phase: As violent partners show increasing irritation, their victims may begin to appease them—all in hopes of preventing the impending violence.
- The Abusive Phase: The abuse may come in the form of verbal, sexual, or physical violence. It is never the victim’s fault, and it is often illegal.
What Are the Effects of Domestic Abuse?
A person’s home should be the safest place in the world, but it often is not. Domestic abuse turns homes into war zone where sexual, physical, and/or emotional violence could break out at any time. Living in this war zone has immediate and long-term detrimental health effects.
When the body feels a threat, it engages its flight-or-fight response, and the brain releases stress hormones that allow people to either engage the threat or run away from it. However, living with domestic violence means this response, which is normally only used rarely, is engaged regularly, if not all the time. Dr. Nadine Burke Harris describes how the brain’s flight-or-fight response “is wonderful if you’re in a forest and there’s a bear. But the problem is what happens when the bear comes home every night, and this system is activated over and over and over again, and it goes from being adaptive, or life-saving, to maladaptive, or health-damaging.”
One survivor illustrates the process, “He would be alternately kind and then fly off the handle for no reason. I always lived in fear of his temper. It was very stressful.” Thus, victims of domestic violence face the immediate injuries they receive from the abuse which can be severe in and of themselves. But victims often have long-term effects on their health from the stressful environment the violence creates.
Am I In an Abusive Relationship?
Domestic abuse can begin with seemingly odd behaviors that are then escalated. Often, these odd behaviors focus on control wherein one partners want to control what the other feels, says, does, thinks, wears, buys, and on, and on, and on. These controlling behaviors are not healthy and may signal that a relationship is abusive:
- Showing irritation that you spend time with family or friends
- Calling you or others derogatory names
- Belittling you
- Threatening you or others
- Intimidating you into sex or sexual acts that make you uncomfortable or that you do not want.
- Harming you, your kids, or your pets
- Limiting your agency (i.e., your ability to make decisions—such as how to spend money, where to go, what to wear, and more)
- Blaming you or others for their behavior
- Discouraging you from going to school or working
Schedule Domestic Abuse Counseling at Thriveworks Charleston
Do you recognize any of the listed behaviors? Has your partner made you feel uncomfortable, intimidated, or scared? Has your partner harmed you? If so, know that Thriveworks Charleston is ready to support you. We offer therapy for domestic violence victims and have helped many people escape the cycle of abuse.
We know that living with a violent partner creates enough difficulty, so reaching out for help should be easy. Our office has done our best to make the process of scheduling therapy as easy as possible. When you call, a person will answer and help you schedule your appointment. We work with many insurance companies, and we offer after-hour appointments.
Nothing should stand in the way of our clients receiving the help they need. Call Thriveworks Charleston today. We are ready to help!