Are you in a relationship that is causing you grief? I believe that most of us, especially those of us who have mental health disorders, feel guilt in situations where we have no business whatsoever feeling guilt. It's all too easy to just look at our behaviour, the situation and ourselves and say "This is happening, so I must be guilty somehow! I'm so ashamed".
In order to take back control of yourself, you need to understand what is going through the head of your partner. It's all about control.
Relationship abuse is a pattern of abusive and coercive behaviour used to maintain power and control over you. An abusive relationship means more than just being hit by the person who claims to love or care about you. Abuse covers all sorts of things - emotional, psychological, financial, sexual or physical - and can include threats, isolation and intimidation. Emotional abuse is difficult to name or even talk about. Victims often wonder if it's serious because it isn't visible, like bruises or broken bones. Emotionally-abused survivors state that one of the biggest problems they face is that others seldom take it seriously. The problem is: do nothing and the abuse is likely to increase.
If you're the victim you may well be confused, afraid, angry and/or trapped. All normal responses. You may also blame yourself for what is happening. But, it's not your fault! Dating abuse is not caused by alcohol, drugs, stress, anger or provocation. It's always someone's choice to be abusive.
Some people even blame the innocent victim as a way of distancing themselves from what's happening in front of their eyes. They think that by labelling or accusing the victim, she can be seen as different from oneself. People re-assure themselves by thinking "because I am not like her, this would never happen to me."
It's often a vicious circle. By blaming the victim, it only serves to marginalize the victim and make it harder for her to come forward and report the abuse. If she knows that you or society blames her for the abuse, she will not feel safe coming forward and talking to someone who can help.
Victim-blaming attitudes also reinforce what her abuser has been saying all along: that it is her fault this is happening to her. It is NOT her fault; it is the abuser's choice. By engaging in victim-blaming attitudes, society allows the abuser to perpetrate violence against his/her partner and avoid accountability.
How often have you heard people say: "There are possibilities for a happy relationship if both parties are willing to change." Or even: "Why is my friend still in the relationship? Why doesn't she simply leave?" The reality is that there are many barriers to finding safety from an abusive relationship. Leaving can sometimes be dangerous and there are many factors that an abusive partner can use to keep the victim from leaving the relationship. Understanding these issues can better assist someone to help a victim out of an abusive relationship.
Remember, abuse is a conscious choice made by the abuser. Abusers have a choice in how they react to their partner's actions. Ask yourself: why didn't the abuser walk away from whatever was bothering him, talking through the problem, respectfully explaining why an action is frustrating, or breaking-up the relationship?
Additionally, the rules on what "provokes" abuse keep on changing. Abuse is not about individual actions that incite the abuser to hurt their partner, but rather about the abuser's feelings of entitlement and desire to control their partner.
And, when friends and family remain neutral about the abuse, or by saying that both people need to change, they are actively colluding with the abusive partner and make it less likely that the survivor will seek support.
What can the victim do about it?
Challenge victim-blaming statements immediately you hear them
Do not agree with the abusers' excuses for why they abuse
Know that it's not your fault
Hold abusers accountable for their actions
Learn how to develop a personal safety plan for yourself if you need to leave suddenly and where you can go safely for help
For friends and family: if you are aware of abusive behaviour and do not speak out against it, your silence communicates implicitly that you see nothing unacceptable taking place.
Foreign cultural practices
In some cases, particularly prevalent in some newly-immigrant families arriving in the UK, cultural and religious practices have for centuries condoned abuse against women in order to maintain the ‘power' and ‘control' of the husband over the wife.
Remember: do not make excuses on behalf of the perpetrator. Abusive behaviour against another person is illegal in the UK.