The best-selling novel and HBO’s sensational adaptation, Big Little Lies, have kept both viewers and readers on the edge of their seats, trying to decipher this murder mystery. Laine Moriarty’s plot has accomplished more than excellent entertainment: it has highlighted the realities of domestic violence.
(Spoiler alert! Skip ahead if necessary.)
One of the main characters, Celeste White, appears to have it all—money, friends, children, romance, beauty, and comfort. Everyone envies her. However, a dark secret haunts Celeste, and her life is not as it appears. Celeste’s seemingly perfect husband is violent with her.
Survivors of domestic violence can explain how appearances are sometimes just that—appearances. What happens privately in a relationship can look very different from the couple’s public presentation. Domestic violence can happen in any relationship, in any socio-economic class, in any education level, and in any race. Escaping the violence is also much harder that it appears.
The counselors at Thriveworks Virginia Beach know the dangers of domestic violence and understand how to support their clients who are in a harmful relationship.
The Seriousness of Domestic Abuse
Home should be a place of safety, but many people experience the opposite. They would rather be anywhere but home. Domestic violence can transform a home into a warzone of physical, verbal, and/or sexual abuse.
Living in such an environment can have long-term, serious health effects. People who live in a violent home suffer with the direct injuries from the violence, but they also have long-term health problems. When people feel a threat, the brain releases stress hormones that allow people to respond to danger. These hormones were never intended to be released too often, and if they are released frequently because of a toxic environment, then people’s health will suffer.
One victim illustrates the feeling, “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.”
A Cycle of Violence
This victim’s experience is common and describes what therapist call the cycle of violence. The particular circumstances of each case of domestic violence are unique, but they all follow a general pattern. The cycle may take a few minutes, or it could take years. However, it almost always involves these stages:
The Honeymoon Phase: People are almost never violent all the time. Good behavior, romantic gestures, promises for the future, extravagant gifts, tearful apologies, and more can all be a part of domestic violence. These often confuse victims so that they never know which partner they are dealing with – the sweet one or the violent one.
The Tension Building Phase: Inevitably, the violent partner may feel they have atoned for their violence so the niceties get dropped. As the tension builds, victims may do everything in their power to prevent the impending harm: give into ridiculous demands, appeasing their partner, shielding their partner from anything that could trigger the violence. Victims, however, cannot pacify their partners out of the abuse.
The Abusive Phase: Domestic violence is never deserved or the victim’s fault. It is a choice a violent partner makes and sole responsibility for that choice rests on the perpetrator’s shoulders. The abuse may be sexual, physical, emotional, or a combination of all three. Whatever form it takes, domestic violence is illegal.
Red Flags of an Abusive Relationship
Because domestic violence follows a fairly predictable pattern, there are also fairly reliable warning signs that a relationship is abusive or that it will become abusive. Seemingly out-of-place behaviors that could easily be minimized and ignored could be the signs of domestic violence. Many of the red flags for an abusive relationship relate to control: a partner may want to control the other—what they wear, think, say, feel, do, and more.
If you are in a relationship with someone who displays these behaviors, it may be time to get help:
- Prohibiting (or showing agitation when) you spend time with family or friends
- Subtly putting you down or feeling threatened by your talents/abilities
- Using derogatory names (even in “jest”)
- Threatening you and/or other people
- Blaming/criticizing you and/or other people for their behavior
- Harming you, your kids, or your pets
- Prohibiting you or discouraging you from going to school or working
- Compelling you into sex or sexual acts when you have said, “no,” or where you feel uncomfortable
- Trying to minimize or take away agency, the ability to make decisions—such as what to wear, how to spend money, where to go, and more
Counseling for Domestic Violence
Do you recognize any of the behaviors on the list of red flags? Has your partner behaved in those ways? If so, know that what you have experienced is not a normal or healthy relationship. The abuse is not your fault, but you are strong enough to make a change. And Thriveworks Virginia Beach can help you make those necessary changes to be safe.
When you call our office, we will prioritize your care. It’s why a person will help schedule your appointment. It’s why we offer weekend and evening sessions. It’s why we work with most insurance plans. We want to see our clients receive the care they need. Call today to get started.