How it Actually Feels to Be in a Violent Relationship

The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence has reported that a woman is assaulted every 9 seconds in America. However, thousands of cases each year go unreported. Unreported abuse is largely due to the fact that most abuse comes from a loved one.


What’s more, 1 in 3 women report that they have been abused by an intimate partner in their lifetime. These victims are left feeling unappreciated, hurt, and confused. What’s more, many abusive relationships do include other aspects other than the abuse. It is not uncommon for violent relationships to come and go in waves or cycles of happiness, which is why many victims feel unjustified in leaving the situation.


How Does a Relationship Become Violent?


You’ve probably heard of “the honeymoon phase” of a relationship, which means both parties are completely enthralled with each other and their relationship. As a result, tension that starts to bubble under the surface is often ignored. The abuser may start to nitpick tiny issues about the relationship and turn them into much larger problems.


The tension building phase may last for some time. It is common for abusers to hold in their frustration and anger as well as lash out at any small mistake their partner makes. The victim may feel like they are walking on eggshells or trying to balance on a tight rope just to get through the day.


Eventually, the tension will come to a head and the abuse will take place. An explosion of (what feels like justified) anger and frustration will become too much for the abuser and they will lash out. Regularly, the abuser will then feel guilt and will profusely apologize to the victim, which essentially starts the cycle over from the beginning of the honeymoon phase.


How Does it Feel From Inside the Relationship?


Sadly, myself and many women in my life have been abused in some way or another. Whether that be emotional abuse or physical abuse, millions of women are going home to an abusive relationship tonight.


When you’re in a relationship, it looks much different to you than it does to those on the outside. Victims may feel responsible for the problems in the relationship, possibly because their abuser tells them so. As much as they would like to relieve themselves from the worry, regret, and responsibility of the situation, it’s just not always possible to rid yourself of these feelings overnight.


It’s also quite common for victims to feel that they should help their partner or try to “fix” the abuser. Someone who abuses their partner often times is aware that they are suffering from untreated mental illness. Frequently, untreated mental illness leads to substance abuse. In turn,  addiction can be a catalyst to violent behavior.

These people obviously need help themselves, but do not have a reason to seek professional help. They may not feel that they have a responsibility to seek treatment because they can use their partner as a punching bag instead (literally or figuratively). As a result, it becomes the job of the victim to fill multiple roles; friend, partner, family member, caregiver and more.  


Think about it this way, any relationship takes immense time, effort, and love in order to help it grow into a long lasting one. Violent and abusive relationships work exactly the same. The victim entered the relationship hoping that it would last. They were most likely unaware that they would be treated this way. So, they put their heart and soul into the foundation of the relationship with their abuser. Many times we don’t want to give up hope that we can have a healthy relationship or that our partner will change. Unfortunately, that type of dedication is hard to just throw away, even if you know you are not being treated right. That is why they need your help.


How Can You Help?


Telling someone in a violent relationship to call the police or to stand up to their abuser may not be the answer, even though there are good intentions behind it. Standing up to a violent partner can result in a much harsher encounter with possibly deadly consequences.


In addition, if there is evidence of wrongdoing, yes, someone can be charged with an offense if the police are called. However, every situation is vastly different. Police may or may not be able to charge someone depending on the circumstances, which could leave the victim in a very scary situation. Ergo, it may not be the best idea to intervene into the situation. An agitated abuser may strike out at the smallest of details.


Offering viable solutions, such as a place for your loved one to stay, can undoubtedly save them from their nightmare. Chances are, they feel trapped, ashamed, and afraid and don’t know how to get out of the situation.


Be supportive of your loved one’s health and happiness. No one wants to be insulted or put down for their choices. Someone who is in a violent relationship already knows that it is frightening and unsafe, but there are larger reasons why they are unable to simply leave the situation. People who are in an abusive relationship truly need love and support. They are most likely only receiving stress and abuse inside of their relationship. So, knowing that there are people in their life that care about their wellbeing and are willing to fight for their safety can save someone’s life.


Disclaimer: This post was written by a Feministing Community user and does not necessarily reflect the views of any Feministing columnist, editor, or executive director.

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