Jul 18, 2010
The Cycle of Violence
Lenore walker in her pioneering book on domestic violence entitled “The battered woman” coined the phrase ‘the cycle of violence’ and described its four phases. The tension building phase is characterized by minor anger outbursts, and the presence of a cold-war between the spouses. Even when there is no communication, the tension is almost palpable and the spouse knows that explosion could take place at any moment. It is just like the ‘calm before the storm!’ This is followed by Explosion phase where the violent incident occurs. There is utter chaos- abusive language, a lot of yelling and screaming and then come the punches, kicks, branding, and belting which in some cases crosses all limits to include scorching, stabbing or murder.
The third phase is called the honey moon or making up phase in which the abuser usually apologizes, makes promises that he is never going to be violent again, blames the woman for instigating him and for exaggerating the impact, etc. He brings her flowers, gifts, sentimental cards and uses all tactics to convince her that it is not going to occur again. This is followed by the Calm stage in which there is no violence or abuse for a few days and the woman believes her spouse is really sorry and has changed and there is no need for her to fret and fume. Unfortunately, this stage is short lived and the climate changes again, there is tension often without any advance notice and thus, the cycle continues.
This is called a cycle of violence because it happens repeatedly in an abusive relationship. However, all abuse does not fall into a cyclical pattern; in some cases, there is only the tension building and violence phase and no honey moon.
Remember, children are watching
Dhiraj, an eighth grader pushed his father down the stairs when his father was trying to strangle his mother with his bare hands. Due to the impact, his father had a skull fracture and died later that day at a local hospital. “I didn’t really mean to kill him” said Dhiraj, “I have watched helplessly as he pushed, punched and kicked my mother ever since I was three years old. He used to start for silly reasons by using foul language and a bunch of obscenities which would soon lead to kicking, pulling her by her hair and belting her until she bled or fainted.”
Dhiraj is one of the millions of children who are robbed of their childhood joys because they grow up in violent homes. Domestic violence or violence that occurs between spouses in a number of homes has a long-lasting effect on young minds. A number of children either witness a parent being violated verbally, emotionally or physically on a daily basis or are directly traumatized by violence. While some just become silent spectators of violations, others get entrapped into the vicious cycle when the violent outbursts spill over and include them. When the spouse does not react, many abusers divert their attention and lash out on their own children.
There are many children who toss and turn in bed all night wondering if they will see their mothers alive the next morning. Sometimes children are locked up in a room before the outbreak but many abusers don’t even care if their young ones are watching them lash out. Jeethu, a five-year-old, was once caught by his grandma beating his three-year-old sister and pulling her by her hair when they were ‘playing house.’ When asked what he was doing, he candidly replied, “I am the Dad. She’s my wife; this is what dads do!” At age five Jeethu has been taught by his parents what is expected of him when he grows up.
There are thousands of women who, by not taking action against violence in their homes put their lives and the lives of their children in danger. Unless women realize that violence is a crime, they are not going to admit the same. Mrs. Pinto for example mustered courage and filed for a divorce after 17-years of marriage. She justified her long silence and said “I just did it to keep my family intact. I did it for my children.” But her 16-year old son says “Mummy, don’t feel bad but you did not do us a favor, living with him under the same roof was nothing but hell day after day. You should have done it years ago.” Growing up in households where constant arguments, verbal abuse or physical violence are a day to day occurrence is painful to say the least. Studies indicate that children prefer to have one parent instead of having two who are at each other’s throats.
There is one theory that postulates that children exposed to violence grow up to be violent themselves but this is not always true. Although incidence of violence is relatively higher among those who have violent role models in the home, not everyone who witnesses violence becomes an abuser when he or she grows up. Additionally, the impact of violence is not the same on all children. While some female children with violent fathers tend to believe that violence is a norm for all families and has to be endured silently, some others may develop hatred or mistrust towards men in general. Children who witness violence are more likely to act out in schools, bully classmates, become sullen and withdrawn, suffer from nightmares or wet their beds compared to those who do not. All said and done, it is commendable that majority of children are endowed with tremendous resilience- they bounce right back and take life head on even when life treats them unfairly.
• When violence erupts, professional help needs to be sought right away; violence cannot and should not be tolerated. Women need to be educated that domestic violence is a crime. Both the abuser and the abused need help. Early attention and intervention can help save marriages and save lives.
• If you are a woman in an abusive relationship, talk to someone- friends, family or others who care. Don’t suffer in silence; Violence is not something that can be or should be endured for years.
• Safety first: Make sure the person’s life is not in danger. If it is, take her to a sheltered place away from the abuser. There are safe places for women in distress. Do not put yourself or your children at risk. Regrets will not bring broken limbs or lost lives back.
• ‘An Order of Protection’ or ‘a restraining order’ can be obtained from a magistrate against the violator when there’s a threat. Punishment for violating an order of protection ranges from a fine of Rs. 20,000 or a prison term of 1 year. The Domestic Violence Act has many economic and legal provisions for safeguarding the rights of women who are violated. Even the female members of a family can be convicted under this act for torture of any kind.
• Separation or divorce is not the only option for people in abusive relationships but it is the last resort. Divorce is bad no doubt, but murder is worse!
• Physical violence is not the only form of abuse. It is just the tip of an iceberg. Psychological (emotional) and verbal abuse which is difficult to define is equally (if not more) injurious to family well-being than physical abuse.
• Many women are mustering courage to say ‘enough is enough’ thanks to increased awareness, education and employment. If you can, support these women and encourage them, don’t persecute them. Most women give their abusive partners ample opportunities to change and when they see no light at the end of the tunnel, they decide to call it quits.
• We have collectively swept this issue under the rug and it is time to stop one human being from abusing another. Violators come in both genders, it is a human problem. It is not fair (for animals) to equate violators with animals. Animals don’t play mind games like we do.
• When two people complement each other, relationship works. When one tries to control, dominate, intimidate, torture or emotionally black mail the other, it doesn’t. It is wise to address personal complexes before getting into relationships.
• If alcoholism or psychiatric illness is the cause of violence, professional attention is needed to address the primary problem first. In some cases (not most) violence may be triggered by a bout of alcoholism or mental breakdown.
• We somehow seem to have double standards when it comes to the two genders. One has to learn to put the foot down but it does not mean that you have to stand on someone else’s foot.
Patience, understanding, gentleness, and love are virtues required of both genders- male and female. We have developed an easy way out - ‘blaming the victim’ instead of holding the perpetrator responsible for violence in our homes.
Remember, love should not hurt, if it does, it is just not love!
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