Domestic violence can happen to absolutely anyone, no matter your social status, financial situation, gender identity, or racial background. Sadly, it’s also incredibly common. It’s estimated that 30% of women and 10% of men have experienced intimate partner violence.
In honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, we’re shedding light on the signs of abuse, how it can impact mental health, and ways to seek support if you’ve been affected by this type of abuse.
Understanding domestic violence
Domestic violence encompasses any physical, sexual, or psychological violence aimed at obtaining power and control over another person. And yes, this kind of behavior can be seen in all types of relationships, not just between romantic partners.
Oftentimes, domestic violence isn’t present in the beginning of a relationship. An abuser may use tactics like emotional manipulation and control to lower the self-esteem of their partner, creating an imbalance within the relationship. As the abuser gains power over time, things begin to shift in an unhealthy way.
Many people who have experienced domestic violence describe feeling guilty, embarrassed, and fearful as their partner begins to shift their behaviors. This can be a really lonely and confusing place to be, but there is hope in finding support and leaving behind an abusive relationship.
The cycle of abuse
The beginning of a relationship often feels like a honeymoon. The dopamine is flowing and the partnership seems safe and secure. But, over time, the tension may begin to build as the communication breaks down. A person may feel as though they’re walking on eggshells, just trying to keep the peace.
This is when an episode of abuse typically happens. It may involve physical, sexual, and/or emotional violence. After the episode, the partner may apologize and promise they will never do it again. This promise can lead to the start of another honeymoon phase, also described as the calm before the storm, until the cycle continues and tension inevitably builds again. You can see how this formula can make it so difficult to fully comprehend and escape an abusive relationship.
How domestic violence impacts mental health
Understandably, experiencing domestic violence can take a huge toll on a person’s mental health. This type of abuse can leave one to question if they have done something wrong to warrant the abuse, even though abuse is never acceptable.
Survivors are more likely to feel depressed, anxious, exhibit symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, and cope with substances. Other warning signs of abuse include changes in sleep habits, social isolation, low self-esteem, and loss of interest in daily activities.
How to seek support
If you are in immediate danger, call 9-1-1. For anonymous, confidential help, 24/7, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE) or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY). You can also search their resource database.
If you’ve experienced domestic violence, know that you’re not alone. As therapists, we’ve helped many clients navigate the healing process after experiencing this type of trauma. There are resources, support groups, therapists, friends, family, and our team at Sanvello eager to help you heal.
By Emilie Butler LMHC, Sanvello Therapist
Emilie is a licensed counselor in Florida, Ohio, and North Carolina. She has been working in the mental health field for over 18 years and has a wide array of experience, allowing her to grow her skills and knowledge base. She has extensive experience working in individual counseling, as well as school-based counseling, family counseling, couples counseling, crisis counseling, case management, and hospital settings with both adults and children/adolescents. She comes to the counseling session with a very person-centered approach and her goal is to help clients achieve their goals.
By Alexa Moubarak, LCSW, CCTP, Sanvello Therapist
Alexa utilizes a holistic approach to support her clients’ mental, emotional, and somatic needs. She specializes in providing trauma-informed services to survivors who struggle with the aftermath of trauma including depression, PTSD, anxiety, and chronic illness. Through integrative treatments, Alexa supports her clients’ healing by incorporating evidence-based interventions that target both the mind and body. Alexa is a Certified Mental Health Integrative Medicine Provider (CMHIMP) and a Certified Clinical Trauma Professional (CCTP).
When she’s not seeing clients, Alexa enjoys crafting candles, studying history, traveling, and walking her hound, Leroy.