Reasons why it may be so hard to leave
- She is afraid of what the abuser will do if she leaves. The person who is abusive may have threatened to harm her, her relatives, or the children, pets or property. They may threaten to commit suicide if she talks about leaving. Many victims find that the abuse continues or gets worse after they leave.
- She still loves her partner, because he or she is not abusive all of the time.
- She has a commitment to the relationship or a belief that marriage is forever, for ‘better or worse’.
- She hopes her partner will change. Sometimes the abusive person might promise to change. She might think that if the abuser stops drinking, the abuse will stop.
- She thinks the abuse is her fault.
- She feels she should stay ‘for the sake of the children’, and that it is best that children live with both parents. Her partner may have threatened to take or harm the children.
- A lack of confidence. The person who is abusive will have deliberately tried to break down their partner’s confidence, and make her feel like she is stupid, hopeless, and responsible for the abuse. She may feel powerless and unable to make decisions.
- Isolation and loneliness. The person who is abusive may have tried to cut her off from contact with family or friends. She might be afraid of coping on her own. If English is not her first language she might feel particularly isolated.
- Pressure to stay from family, her community or church. She might fear rejection from her community or family if she leaves.
- She may feel that she can’t get away from her partner because they live in a rural area, or because they have the same friends, or are part of the same ethnic, Aboriginal or religious community.
- She doesn’t have the means to survive if the relationship ends. She might not have anywhere to live, or access to money, or transport, particularly if she lives in an isolated area. She may be dependent upon her partner’s income. If she has a disability, she may depend upon the abuser for assistance.
What is domestic violence and family abuse?
Domestic Violence is a set of behaviours where the intention is to harm, hurt or hinder an intimate partner or family member using threats, harassment and intimidation either physically, emotionally, psychologically, financialy, socially or spiritually.
What might start out as natural conflict in a relationship, escalates to insults, isolation, injuries and a loss of self esteem. The behaviours are repeated and insidious, disguised as compromising and compensating usually accompanied by a breakdown in communication.
You may experience fear, a loss of identity, feeling crazy, easily angered, physically sick or cope by using drugs or alcohol. In some situations you may also feel like the abuser, adapting your behaviour to ‘play their game’.
The types of behaviour that constitute abuse are on a spectrum, and cross the boundary of respect into disrespect. This includes lying to deceive or hide and omitting information to manage or manipulate the outcome of a situation or conversation that gives them an advantage or control over you.
Controlling behaviours are known as coercive, and it might feel like you are obligated, guilted, bargained or blackmailed into doing something you wouldn’t normally or naturally do in that situation. It’s a method of communication that compells you to respond, instil fear to stop you or change your natural response. It casts doubt in your ability to make decision and leaves you feeling insecure and unworthy. It is a combination of words and actions intended to cause you harm if you don’t comply or hinder your next choice.
CIVIL, CRIMINAL AND FAMILY
Domestic and Family Violence sits in between the Civil, Criminal and Family Law jursidictions. There are various laws that protect you from violent or abusive behaviour in a public place, yet victims of abuse can often submit or protect their abuser because he is not like that all the time and they do not want the relationship to end. They just want the violence and abuse to stop.
The Domestic Violence space is often a space of crisis, following an incident that has become unsafe for the victim and any children they might have. The escalated conflict has become uncomfortable, unmanageable and unpredictable instill anxiety and fear into the hearts and minds of victims. Explosive rage, blaming, threats to leave or intense disruptions to normal family routines in particular in the presence alcohol or drugs being used can create life long trauma for children of the partnership and the partner.
This dynamic also makes things more complicated because Family tolerance thresholds are much higher than the expectations of a stranger, even though this disrespect is a sign the relationship is breaking down. Sarcasm, demands and unreasonable expectations are not communication styles conducive to romance, intimacy or love. In fact, many families tolerate disrespectful behaviour as it is often the only place to safely express frustration, disgust or sadness : emotions derived from anger.
The family unit is the hub of communities and there are many organisations that support strategies and policy aimed at reducing Family Violence and Abuse. Advocacy, Agency and Action taking services guide, support and represent what is in yours or your Childrens’ best interests.
As mentioned victims of DFV are disempowered in moments where conflict becomes controlling and frightening. They learn how to avoid, manage and manipulate conversations and situations so the abuse and violence do not return. As time goes by, the threshold of abuse is stretched and it’s during this period of time that the victim is compared to the frog in boiling water. The luke warm phase suggests the ‘simmering away’, making it feel like a compromise.
As the water heats ups, the frog acclimatizes to the circumstances, finding more ways to cope and different pathways to take to avoid the conflict. Finally, the water is so hot, that the frog is powerless to jump out.
Confusion, loss of perspective and compromised values are experienced by victims of abuse who may have also engaged in similar behaviour and therefore less likely to report to avoid being accused or held accountable for the very behaviour they are reporting.
Upon abuse and violence becoming the intolerable deal breaking behaviour, victims often seek protection, calling the Police to intervene, leaving the home or engaging a lawyer to act on their behalf.
As you can see the arena is wide and deep. Laywers, Police and Courts are responsible for enforcing legislation that stops this behaviour and holds the perpetrator accountable for their actions. It is an extreme response to a difficult and complex system. That’s why it’s important to be able to identify the issues and concerns, understand the process of finding a peaceful resolution and navigate a system that is complicated and costly.
Upstream Investigations provides primary prevention, pre court intervention and post application investigation services to help those disempowered or misidentified.
We know the current system is not always working, Police are over subscribed and under resourced, courts are backlogged and blinded by the crisis. That is why we are building an arena that provides alternative pathways that navigate away from violence, protect you from further abuse and allows you to find healthy and happyr relationships.
The current system allows any person to apply for a protection order without a police investigation as they have fears for their safety. Acts of violence and incidents of abuse should be reported to the Police for further investigation, but they cannot resolve the ongoing conflict triggered by issues and concerns of the relationship.
His infidelity, her overspending, lies, manipulation and the silent treatment are not illegal, but it is disrespectful. Counselors and Relationship Coaches can help you find different coping strategies or communication styles to express yourself once you identify those issues and concerns.
That’s where we drop in. As trained and trauma informed practitioners, Upstream Investigations works through your story to identify the issues and concerns. We then assess and make recommendations based on your personal circumstances and provide you with the options and opportunities to make the situation better and safer. Our primary goal is about protection followed closely by seeking justice, a fair, equitable and objective investigation will help you identify the role you place in the conflict. Enabler or Rescuer.
Relationships are complex, placing obligations and value on you as an individual and your worth as partner or member of your tribe. Our process embeds self respect, self belief, self confidence and self awareness into the hearts and minds of our clients so they walk away feeling there is hope and direction.
We want to build an arena where it is safe for women to say no and chase their dreams, where men can express their emotions and feel connected, but more importantly, where children feel safe, secure and loved by the people that are closest to them.
Apprehended fear is anxiety. The thoughts and feelings that you may be hurt. Don’t wait until it’s too late. You can control what you do. There are natural consequences for others who make choices that don’t align with yours. Let them, and let them go.
Choose the arena that solves the problem and creates opportunities for happiness.
I found this podcast by the ANZMH with Amy Mouafi, a specialist in Domestic Violence and Public Policy that shares a great insight into the landscape and ecosystem.