Laine Moriarty’s best-selling novel Big Little Lies and HBO’s TV adaptation are pop culture’s newest sensation, and the storyline has accomplished more than thrilling fans with mystery and suspense. Moriarty’s work has brought the realities of domestic violence for the forefront of people’s attention.
(Small spoiler alert! Skip this paragraph if necessary.) One of the main characters, Celeste, has everything she could have ever dreamed about in life: friends, beauty, money, children, romance, and more. She is the envy of every woman in town, but she is also living with a secret: her husband is violent.
Many victims of domestic violence know how appearances can be deceiving. Life inside the home is not always what it seems. Leaving an abusive relationship is not as simple as it seems. Celeste illustrates the tension as she contemplates, “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.” Finding safety often takes the support of friends, family, and a skilled therapist.
Thriveworks Pflugerville offers therapy for domestic violence victims. Our counselors understand the challenges of domestic violence and have helped many clients find safety.
An Abusive Cycle
The particular context of abuse is unique to each couple’s circumstances, but domestic violence usually following a general abusive cycle:
The Honeymoon Phase: Violent relationships rarely begin with abusive behavior. In fact, they usually begin quite the opposite—as a fairytale, too good to be true. Unfortunately, relationships that seem too good to be true usually are. The honeymoon phase is what can make domestic violence so bewildering and traumatic.
The Tension Building Phase: After the honeymoon phase, tension will become a part of daily interactions. The violent partner may begin blaming the victim for any inconvenience in life. The victim may start to shield the violent partner from stress, try to please the violent partner, and/or fulfill excessive demands in hope of diffusing the tension and preventing the violence.
The Abusive Phase: The violence, however, is never the victim’s fault, and therefore, the victim can never appease the perpetrator enough. The violence may come in a variety of forms, including sexual, physical, and emotional abuse.
The abusive cycle can take minutes, hours, days, or possibly years. Once the abuse has been perpetrated, the couple often returns to the honeymoon phase, during which, the perpetrator may convince the victim that the violence will not continue. The violent partner may promise, “that was the last time…it will never happen again…this isn’t us.” However, the abusive cycle will almost inevitably continue without substantial intervention.
Seriousness of Domestic Abuse
The home should be a safe place, but domestic abuse turns it into a place where physical, sexual, and/or verbal violence can erupt at any moment. Living in such an environment has significant and long-term effects because it can change a person’s brain. Abuse engages the body’s natural fight-or-flight response, and the brain releases stress hormones, cortisol and adrenalin.
Dr. Nadine Burke Harris describes how the fight-or-flight system “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.” The victims of domestic violence often live with physical injuries from the abuse, but they also face the long-term effects of living in a high-stress, toxic environment.
One victim described living with domestic violence, “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.”
Is This a Violent Relationship?
Domestic violence can begin in subtle ways that are escalated. Often, the first signs of domestic abuse are about control—one partner trying to dominate or manipulate what the other wears, says, feels, thinks, does, and on and on. The following are common warning signs of domestic abuse:
- Using derogatory names
- Discouraging you from spending time with friends or family
- Subtly putting down
- Forcing you into sex or sexual acts where you feel uncomfortable or have said, “no.”
- Threatening you
- Hurting you, your kids, or your pets
- Attempting to take away agency, the ability to make decisions—such as how to spend money, where to go, what to wear, and more
- Discouraging you from working or going to school
- Blaming you for their behavior
Help for Domestic Violence Victims
The counselors at Thriveworks Pflugerville understand what it takes to support a victim of domestic violence. They know the pitfalls and dangers that victims face and how to lead them to safety.
We want to be your advocate from the first time you reach out for help. When you call our office, a person will answer and help you make an appointment. We have session available at convenient hours, and we work with many insurance companies. New clients often see their therapist the next day.
Are you caught in an abusive cycle? Know that there is help. Call Thriveworks Pflugerville, TX today.