The murder-mystery, Big Little Lies, has kept audiences in suspense and constantly guessing who died and who-dun-it? Liane Moriarty’s best-seller and its HBO adaptation have become a phenomenon because of their rich characters, witty banter, and intriguing plot. But there is another reason people have deeply connected with this storyline: it sheds light on the common but hidden reality of domestic violence.
(Small Spoiler Ahead!)
Celeste White is a mother to kindergarten-age twin boys, and she is the envy of the school. Smart, beautiful, and rich, Celeste appears to have it all. She has a gorgeous home, beautiful children, and a perfect husband. But Celeste’s life is not enviable, and as she admits at the end of the novel, domestic violence can happen to anyone. Celeste’s husband is violent toward her.
People who have come out of a violent relationship know how domestic violence occurs in every socio-economic status, race, and education level. They also know how a relationship appears may be drastically different than how it really is. The confusion victims face is overwhelming, as Celeste admits, “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.”
Leaving a violent relationship is also harder than it seems. Escaping often takes the support of family, friends, and a professional therapist.
Thriveworks Richmond provides therapy for victims of domestic violence. Our therapists have helped many people find safety and heal from the abuse.
The Pattern of Domestic Abuse
In almost every case of domestic abuse, the details vary but a similar pattern emerges:
The Honeymoon Phase: Times of peace and maybe even happiness often account for what makes domestic violence so disorienting. Victims genuinely love their violent partner and feel like this time is the real relationship. Violent partners often use the honeymoon phase to promise that the violence will never happen again. However, the pattern rarely stops without significant intervention.
The Tension Building Phase: Tension almost always returns to the relationship and builds until the violent partner chooses to abuse. Many victims describe this time as walking through a mine field. They may try to appease the violent partner, give into absurd demands, or shield their partner from anything that may trigger the violence. However, these attempts are almost never successful.
The Abusive Phase: Harming another person is always a choice, and at some point, the violent partner will choose to harm. The abuse may be physical, emotional, and/or sexual. It is never the fault of the victim, but responsibility lies solely with the violent partner. Most forms of domestic violence are also illegal.
One women outlines her experiences living in this pattern of domestic abuse, “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.” This stress has long-term and detrimental effects upon a victim’s health.
Possible Warning Signs for Violent Relationships
This pattern for domestic abuse is usually escalated over time—each cycle is more caustic than the one before. Thus, at the beginning of a relationship, concerning behavior may seem not that bad. People often dismiss possible warning signs for violence because they are subtle. However, it is important to remember that these behaviors may intensify with time.
The red flags that follow center on control. When one partner dominates or wants to dominate what the other says, thinks, wears, feels, does, buys, and on and on, these are signs that the relationship is at best unhealthy and at worst may be or become violent.
Think about how your significant other behaves. Do you recognize anything from the list in your partner’s behavior?
- Blaming you or others for their behavior
- Using derogatory names for you or other people
- Showing irritation that you spend time with family or family
- Belittle you (even as a “joke”)
- Harming you, your kids, or your pets
- Coercing you into sexual acts that make you uncomfortable.
- Intimidating, scaring, or threatening you or others
- Limiting your agency (i.e., your 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
Victims of Domestic Violence: Counseling and Support
As you read through the list, did you recognize any behaviors? If your partner exhibits these or similar behaviors, it may be time to reach out for counseling and support. The counselors at Thriveworks understand the dangerous dynamics of domestic violence and what it takes to be safe.
Living in a violent environment is chaotic, so finding support should be easy. When you call our office, a person will answer and help you. First-time clients may even see their counselor the next day. We work with many insurance providers, and we offer weekend and evening appointments.
We want our clients to receive the support they need. Call Thriveworks Richmond today.