October: Domestic Violence Awareness Month (part 2)


Janelle Fortin

Stalking is a serious crime.  Former and current intimate partners often use stalking to terrorize their victims.  1 in 10 women and 1 in 50 men have experienced stalking by an intimate partner during their lifetime.

Abuse in later life comprises financial, physical, sexual, and emotional abuse, abandonment and neglect.  Perpetrators are people with whom the victim has an expectation of trust, particularly spouses, intimate partners, adult children, grandchildren, other family members, and non-related caregivers.  Perpetrators typically, but not exclusively, abuse older adults in their places of residence.  Every year, approximately 4 million older Americans are victims of physical, psychological and/or other forms of abuse and neglect.  Older adults who require assistance with daily life activities are at increased risk of being emotionally abused or financially exploited.  Approximately 50% of older adults with dementia are mistreated or abused.

Abuse in later life has a devastating impact on victims and can result in the loss of independence, security, life savings, health, dignity, and can be deadly.  Research indicates that older adult victims of abuse have shorter lifespans than their peers who do not experience violence.  Abuse in later life can cause both physical and psychological harm. Psychological harms associated with abuse in later life include depression, stress, helplessness, alienation, guilt, shame, fear, and anxiety.  Elder abuse may include using emotional tactics such as embarrassment and humiliation; controlling behavior (restricting access to telephone, transportation, and other resources); damaging or destroying property; social isolation and disregarding or trivializing needs.

An abusers main objective in intimate relationships is to dominate and control their victim.  They are manipulative and clever and will use a myriad of tactics to gain and maintain control over their partner, often in cycles that consist of periods of good times and peace and periods of abuse.  The cycle often starts to repeat, commonly becoming more and more intense as time goes on.  Each relationship is different and not every relationship follows the exact pattern.  Some abusers may cycle rapidly, others over longer stretches of time.  Regardless, abusers purposefully use numerous tactics of abuse to instill fear in the victim and maintain control over them. 

The overreaching strategy used by abusers is referred to as coercive control.  Coercive control includes a combination of abusive tactics such as isolation, degradation, micromanagement, manipulation, stalking, physical abuse, sexual coercion, threats and punishment.  An abuser may use some of these tactics or vary when they use them, but combined and used over time, they are effective in establishing dominance over their victim.  A dominant and controlling partner may initially present at the onset of a relationship as wonderful, loving, and attentive.  They may be charming, successful, well-liked and are often very romantic and interested in their partner’s interests and desires.  They may want to be with them all the time, attentive and charming with their partner’s friends and family, supportive and kind.  However, over time, these behaviors start to change.  The attention that may have initially felt exciting and flattering starts to feel isolating and controlling. 

The victimized person may start to feel isolated from friends and family because their partner dominates so much of their time.  The abuser may start to object to their partner’s time spent with others or make it so difficult to do things independently of them that the victim stops doing so.  Prolonged exposure to this type of treatment combined with periods of loving and desired behaviors by the controlling partner can lead to the victimized person feeling trapped, silenced, and lacking self-esteem.  If the victimized person tries to assert them self, the abuser often ramps up the abuse and may become more and more controlling and abusive.  Soon, the victimized person may come to fear the abuser for various valid reasons and may feel they are unable to escape or leave.  It is important to note that a victimized person may not be able to get away from their abuser because the abuser will not let them do so.

Abusive tactics used to establish dominance and control over a partner by an abuser include, but are not limited to the following.  An abuser may: • Be extremely jealous and/or exhibit possessiveness • Try to convince others they are the true victim in the relationship • Blame the victim for causing them to abuse them • Be unpredictable • Be cruel to animals • Be physically, verbally, emotionally, or psychologically abusive • Be extremely controlling • Be rigid in their beliefs about roles of women and men in relationships • Be particularly interested in guns or weapons • Be forceful with sex or disrespectful to their partner’s wishes around sex • Be vigilant about their partner’s every move • Blame their partner for anything bad that happens • Have a bad temper or are easily angered • Come from a violent household • Sabotage birth control methods or refuse to honor agreed upon protection methods • Sabotage or obstruct their partner’s ability to work or attend school • Control all the finances in the relationship • Abuse of other family members, children, or pets. 

Forms of Domestic Violence include: • Battery – a pattern of abusive behavior that a person fearful of their physical and/or sexual safety; control; intimidation; coercion. • Isolation – forcing a partner to account for their time and whereabouts and/or making a partner tell with whom they have visited; telling a partner that you exist for them only – you do not get to be a separate, autonomous person. • Emotional Abuse – playing on a partner’s insecurities; giving mixed messages; constant insults and degradation; telling a partner who they are or should be. • Financial Abuse – controlling all monetary resources; exploiting a partner’s social security number or credit; not allowing a partner access to money or financial documentation. • Threat of Control of the Children - a partner must submit to the abuser’s needs, wants or desires or something will happen to the children; threat of taking the kids away.

Support domestic and sexual violence education, prevention and intervention programs in your community.  If you or someone you know is the victim of domestic abuse, or if you need someone to talk to contact the Family Crisis Center, Inc. at 605-472-0508.

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