Big Little Lies has captured many people’s attention with its hilariously accurate portrayal of modern kindergarten parents that wraps them up into a suspense-filled murder-mystery. Liane Moriarty’s novel and HBO’s adaption have also opened the door for a much-needed and very serious social conversation about domestic violence.
(Small spoilers ahead!)
One of the main characters seems to have everything in life. Celeste White is the envy of all. She has money, romance, comfort, children, education, friends, and the perfect husband. Celeste’s husband curates his Facebook page with perfect photos from their wonderful family life, but he edits out one particular part of his family life—he hits Celeste.
Celeste experiences the conflicting emotions that many victims of domestic violence feel. She often wonders, “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.”
Celeste’s experiences are not unique. In the novel, Celeste admits that anyone can be the victim of domestic violence. Approximately 25 percent of women and 8 percent of men will face violence from their partner. Leaving such relationships is a huge challenge full of conflicting emotions and danger of further violence. Often, people need professional support to escape and heal from violent relationships.
If your partner has harmed you or threatened to harm you, know that help is available at Thriveworks Georgetown. Our counselors know what it takes to help their clients find safety.
Short-Term and Long-Term Danger
One woman reflected upon her experience of domestic violence, explaining, “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.”
The constant stress that this woman experienced is a common but very harmful phenomenon. Living in a home where violence occurs means that there is also the constant threat of violence. When the brain senses a threat, it releases stress hormones that allow people to respond appropriately with either fight or flight. These hormones are life-saving in small doses, but they are harmful when released constantly.
Dr. Nadine Burke Harris explains that these hormones, cortisol and adrenalin, are “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.”
People who live in a violent environment, therefore, have the short-term danger of injuries and harm from the violence, but they also face the long-term detriment to their health from the stress.
A Recurrent, Escalating Cycle
Domestic violence follows a cycle, in nearly every case. This cycle can take moments to complete and begin again, but it can also take years. The cycle almost always escalates, with each iteration more caustic than the previous. The cycle is also recurrent: the violent partner may promise that “it will never happen again,” but it will repeat and repeat and repeat without significant intervention.
The Honeymoon Phase: Even the worst cases of domestic violence have times of peace. These seemingly good times often confuse victims into believing that things will change… It will be different next time or … they are very sorry for their actions. Unfortunately, these times are usually just the quiet before the storm.
The Tension Building Phase: At some point, the violent partner will demand more and more from the victim. Many victims describe the tension-building phase as walking on egg shells: they do everything in their power to prevent the impending violence. The violent partner leads them to believe that somehow the violence is their fault, and therefore, their actions can prevent it. However, violent is never the victim’s fault. Violence is always a choice.
The Abusive Phase: At some point, the violent partner will choose to act violently. This may be in the form of emotional, physical, or sexual violence. Many times, it is a combination of the three. The responsibility for the violence lies solely on the partner who chose to act violently. No one ever deserves violence.
Ending the Cycle and Recovering from Domestic Violence
Have you experienced the cycle of domestic violence? Know that the counselors at Thriveworks Georgetown understand the combat zone you have lived in. We know the risks of leaving and the path to recover from the trauma. Our counselors have helped many people find the safety they deserve.
We want to make scheduling therapy as easy as possible so we work with many insurance providers. Our counselors offer convenient appointment times, and first-time clients often see their counselor within 24-hours. When you call our office, a person will answer and help you make your appointment.
Know that the violence is not your fault. Help is available. Call Thriveworks Georgetown TX today.