“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 from Big Little Lies
Author Liane Moriarty has the world’s attention with her best-seller Big Little Lies and its HBO adaptation. The plotline has kept fans on the edge of their seats, but it is also making the way for an important social conversation about domestic violence.
(Small Spoiler Ahead!)
Celeste White is the mom all the other kindergarten moms want to be. She is smart, drop-dead gorgeous, and wealthy beyond measure. Celeste has beautiful children and a successful, doting husband. Her life, however, is not what it appears. Celeste’s husband hits her.
Celeste, like many other victims of domestic violence, knows that the private reality of a relationship can be drastically different than the public presentation. Escaping a violent relationship takes support from family, friends, and often, a professional who understands the dynamics of domestic abuse.
Thriveworks Manassas, VA has therapists and psychologists who know the dangers and pitfalls of domestic violence, and they have guided many clients as they find safety and heal from domestic abuse.
An Abusive Cycle
Domestic violence almost always follows the same cycle, even if particular circumstances vary from relationship to relationship:Î
The Honeymoon Phase: Relationships rarely begin with abuse. Even after abuse has occurred, there are often times of peace, possibly even happiness. Some victims describe the beginning of the relationship or these honeymoon phases as too good to be true. Victims often feel deep confusion because they genuinely love their violent partner and enjoy these good times.
The Tension Building Phase: The honeymoon phase rarely lasts as daily life fills with tension. Victims of domestic violence may try to appease their partners, taking responsibility to shield them from stress. Victims often hope that they can avoid the abuse through perfect behavior.
The Abusive Phase: Violent partners often try to blame their victims for triggering the abuse, but reality is, harming another person is always a choice. The harm may come in the form of physical, verbal, and/or sexual violence, and it is never the victim’s fault.
Each phase can take years, days, hours, or just minutes. It is a recurring cycle, and it rarely ends without substantial intervention. The cycle also escalates, with each repetition more violent than the previous.
Domestic Violence: Long- and Short-Term Effects
Home should be a safe place—in theory. However, far too many face the reality of a verbally, physically, or sexually violent home. Living in a violent environment has severe health effects because the brain’s natural flight-or-fight response repeatedly releases stress hormones, cortisol and adrenalin.
Dr. Nadine Burke Harris describes how these hormones 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.”
Thus, victims of domestic violence have injuries from the violence itself, but they also incur long-term health problems from living with the constant threat of violence. One victim described the experience, saying, “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.”
Violent Relationships: Control as a Warning Sign
Because the abusive cycle escalates, a violent relationship may first show signs of trouble that are subtle. These behaviors usually attempt to control or dominate, and they may grow more controlling and then violent over time.
These are warning signs that a relationship is violent or may become violent:
- Using demeaning names for you (even as a “joke”)
- Discouraging you from spending time with family or friends
- Subtly (or overtly) belittling you
- Threatening or scaring you
- Harming you, your kids, or your pets
- Discouraging you from working or going to school
- Attempting to take away agency—your ability to make decisions (For example, how you spend money, where you go, what you wear, and more)
- Blaming you or other people for their behavior
- Forcing you into sex or sexual acts where you feel uncomfortable or have said, “no.”
Prince William Counseling for Domestic Violence Victims at Thriveworks Manassas
The counselors and psychologists at Thriveworks Manassas in Prince William have helped many clients navigate the dangers of a violent relationship and reach safety. Our office is ready to support victims of domestic violence.
From the first time you call Thriveworks Manassas, VA we want to be your advocate. It’s why a person will answer your call and help you. It’s why you may be able to see your therapist the next day. It’s why we offer weekend and evening sessions and work with most insurance providers.
If you are not safe in your own home, seeking help may be the first step toward the safety you deserve. Call Thriveworks Manassas in Prince William County, VA. We want to help.