Family violence is any abuse that occurs among family members. Family violence involves physical, emotional/verbal, and sexual abuse.
Physical abuse can include hitting, kicking, pinching, tripping, or poking. Sexual abuse involves any sexual contact between an adult family member and a minor child. Sexual contact means exposing oneself, asking child for sexual favors, showing pornography to the child, inappropriate touching or inappropriate comments. Verbal abuse is much more subtle. Verbal abuse can include withholding affection, accusations, threats, or name calling.
Facts and Statistics
- According to the National Criminal Justice Reference Service, almost 10% of children saw family violence within the previous year.
- According to the NCJRS, 10% of children suffered abuse within the previous year.
The following facts are from Clark County Prosecuting Attorney:
- Battering tends to increase and get worse over time
- Witnessing violence makes children more likely to become violent
- Children who see abuse are more likely to become bullies.
- As much as 60% of spousal abusers also abuse their own children, nieces, nephews, or children of friends.
According to these facts, it is very important to recognize abuse among families. However, it is very difficult to recognize the signs of abuse. Victims or witnesses of abuse feel ashamed, embarrassed, or they may blame themselves for the abuse. Victims and witnesses also love the person who is doing the abuse, and so may not want to ask for help or involve authorities, for fear of getting the abuser in trouble. Therefore, it is important for people around victims to be able to recognize the signs of family abuse.
Signs of Abuse
- Not eating or overeating
- Poor attention span
- Poor grades
- Bad temper, becoming angry out of no where
- Using drugs or alcohol
- Visible injuries and bruising
- Skipping school
- Not wanting to go out
- Not taking care of self. I.e. not taking showers, not shaving, not wearing makeup, wearing clothes that cover the body
- Low self-esteem
- Apologizing too much
- Compulsive need to placate or please people
- Seems touchy or sensitive
- Doesn’t want to talk about a certain family member. Refuses to see certain family member, or sometimes seems overly eager to see certain family member
- Bullies others
- Sexuality that is inappropriate for the child’s age. This can include knowledge about sex that they should not have, provocative dressing, and violation of the personal boundaries of others.
Remember that these signs do not always indicate some type of abuse is going on. Some of these signs can also be symptoms of mental disorders, which is why it is so important to talk to the person you suspect is being abused.
But what if you’re the one being abused? How do you know if the relationship you’re in is healthy? If any of the following relationship red flags apply to you, you are being abused.
Relationship Red Flags
- He or she constantly yells at you
- They make you feel like you can’t do anything right
- Make you feel worthless
- Make you feel embarrassed around others
- Belittles your accomplishments while magnifying your mistakes
- Tells you your opinions are wrong
- Blames you for the abuse
- Doesn’t view you as a person. Among family members, they might view you as an extension of themselves
- They have an explosive or scary temper
- They hurt you emotionally or physically
- They threaten you, your belongings, your pets, or those you love
- They isolate you
- They call or text all the time, even if they know you’re at work or school
- They take your money, phone, or car
- You tell them to stop, and they will not
These relationship red flags make it easy to see why abusive relationships are so harmful. Many people wonder why someone would not leave a relationship if it is that obviously bad. Victims of abuse stay in the relationship because they get trapped in the cycle of abuse.
The cycle of abuse was created by Lenore E. Walker to explain the behavior of the abusers and the victims.
Cycle of Abuse
- Tension – Victim tries to do everything right, but nothing seems good enough. The abuser makes sarcastic comments, and acts passive aggressive. The abuser may roll their eyes, act angry without telling the victim what’s wrong. The victim fears what the abuser may do and will try and please the abuser. The victim will apologize frequently, do favors for the abuser, and alter their behavior. The victim will feel an urgent sense of stress and anxiety. The abuser will grow irritable and develop a short temper.
- Incident – The victim will endure verbal, physical, or sexual abuse.
- Reconciliation – The abuser apologizes. He or she may claim the abuse won’t happen again. Sometimes the abuser will blame the victim. “Why did you say that?” “Why did you do that?” “You just make me so mad sometimes.” The victim will apologize and promise to watch what he or she says or does. The victim will feel very self-conscious and have a poor self esteem in this stage of the cycle. The abuser will feel relieved.
- Honeymoon – There’s a reason this is called the “honeymoon” stage of the cycle. This is the longest phase in the cycle of abuse, which is why people become trapped in abusive relationships. The abuser will shower the victim with gifts, praise, compliments, and affection. The victim relaxes and begins to feel a surge in self esteem. The abuser is back to being his or her “old self” or seems changed. The abuser is kind, courteous, and loving during this phase. Further, the honeymoon stage becomes shorter the longer the relationship goes on, though this process may take years.
Due to the insidious nature of the cycle of abuse, it is important to prevent someone from becoming trapped in the cycle to begin with. Though it can be impossible to prevent someone from starting an abusive relationship, you can prevent them from continuing the relationship.
- Having a good support system with loving family and friends
- Call police when abuse is witnessed
- Take action if abuse is suspected
- Don’t judge or blame the victim
- Offer to talk, or take them to counseling
- Show them the cycle of abuse
By educating ourselves on recognizing the signs of abuse and abusive relationships, and by helping people get out of the cycle of abuse, we can prevent future instances of bullying and family violence.
Sources: http://kidshealth.org/teen/your_mind/families/family_abuse.html, http://www.helpguide.org/mental/domestic_violence_abuse_types_signs_causes_effects.htm, https://www.ncjrs.gov/spotlight/family_violence/facts.html, http://www.clarkprosecutor.org/html/domviol/facts.htm, http://www.centerforpreventionofabuse.org/prevent-domestic-violence.php