Have you been Abused?

Abuse, in any form, does not appear to be a onetime story. It is repetitive and often becomes a toxic engagement between a perpetrator and a victim.

Prevalence

A study by the United Nations found that, in Pakistan, 50% of married women have experienced sexual abuse and, 90% have been subject to psychological abuse[1]. Studies by the Pakistan Nation Women's Division and Zakar et al. have confirmed these high statistics of domestic violence in Pakistani households. It was also seen that, 42% of women accept violence as part of their fate; 33% feel helpless to stand up to it, 19% protested against it and only 4% ever take any action against it[2].

In a study by Zakar et al., of the 373 married women of reproductive age interviewed in Pakistani hospitals, 60.8% reported themselves as current victims of severe psychological violence, with 15% having been victims in the past. The percentage of women who were going through some form of psychological abuse, at the time of the study, far surpassed the percentages of women currently going through sexual (27.3%) and physical (21.7%) violence. Moreover, more than half of these participants, specifically 54%, reported being currently in a poor state of mental health[3].

The cycle of abuse: [4]

The above cycle indicates how abuse moves in a circular, repetitive pattern, that returns back to the first stage to only affect the victim all over again. The cycle starts with tension building. This is the stage where any event, incident can trigger the abuser. The shift in the victimizer’s behavior indicates anger, following the trigger, which results in increased levels of anxiety for the victim. As the aura between the two changes, the victim sometimes tries to control the situation through different means such as leaving the room, calming the abuser or the like. If the situation is controlled the cycle ends, however, at times it moves onto the next stage.

If the anger is not controlled, the abuse occurs. The abuse can be verbal, where a comment, insult, threat, slight or the like are used to emotionally hurt the victim. Verbal abuse is often hailed while screaming and involves the use of derogatory terms while arguing with or blaming the victim. The abuse can be physical, where aggression is shown by hitting or beating the victim, which is also emotionally damaging.

After the incident is over, the abuser reacts in different ways to address the situation. One way includes feelings of remorse towards the incident that are followed by apologies and the promise to never engage in the behavior again. A second way includes giving excuses or blaming an external factor such as stress for acting out which is done in order to avoid the blame. Another reaction is to make the victim see their mistake in the whole incident and make them realize and accept that they are the reason for the abuse. Hence, averting the blame once again. A fourth reaction is denying the incident as an abuse whereas the fifth is undermining the seriousness of the incident. The latter two reactions should be considered as the most serious offenses committed by an abuser, as this indicates no sense of responsibility, shame or remorse for the act.

The last stage indicates the calm before the next wave of abuse. This stage follows the reconciliation as either the abuser is made to consciously understand the impact of their actions or they unconsciously feel guilty about their behavior. The victim also moves forward from the incident during this time and sometimes even forgets about the abuse, with hopes that the future would be free of such incidences. However, this phase only lasts until the next trigger, which is unexpected but lingering around the corner.

Traits of an Abusive Person

An abuser can be of any age, gender, socio-economic class or ethnicity. However, such a person usually has the following habits and traits:

  1. Excessively jealous
  2. Charming
  3. Manipulative
  4. Controlling
  5. Plays the victim
  6. Narcissistic
  7. Inconsistent and has mood swings
  8. Critical of you
  9. Acts out when angry and might break or throw objects
  10. Disconnects you and makes you completely dependent on him/her
  11. Hypersensitive
  12. Vicious and cruel
  13. Insincerely repentant
  14. Withholds money or expenses
  15. Denies his/her own behavior

Traits of Victims

Undoubtedly, it is important to know the traits of an abuser, but, it is equally imperative to know and be able to identify the traits of a victim as well. Research suggests that both men and women of younger age are more vulnerable to emotional abuse. Here are their main traits:

  1. Have a low self-esteem.
  2. Tend to be anxious and insecure
  3. Have a submissive personality
  4. Are emotionally and financially dependent on others
  5. Are excessively tolerant and accommodating
  6. Do not maintain healthy boundaries
  7. Have a self-blaming attitude
  8. Do not stand up for their rights
  9. Are non-assertive and have a hard time saying ‘no’

Being a victim of abuse impacts psychological and physical health. The number of women choosing to stay in abusive relationships is appalling and the reason is the Battered Women Syndrome. Battered women syndrome is described as the mental state of a woman who feels she is stuck in a relationship and feels compelled to stay. Similar to the cycle of abuse previously mentioned, it is a vicious repeat play in which a woman feels she cannot leave the relationship. Under this syndrome, a woman sees two sides of her partner, a loving passionate side and then an abusive side. The frequent switches a man makes between the extreme polarities leaves a woman confused, helpless and emotionally tangled. Hence, many women choose stay even when they realize that the relationship is unhealthy. Here, it cannot be ignored that many men face abusive relationships also and often undergo the same helplessness. You might not have heard of the Battered Men Syndrome, which is defined in the exact same manner as above, with the focus on a man choosing to stay in a toxic relationship with a violent and abusive woman. If you are a victim of abuse and wish to attain help, connect with us.

Why does the victim stay in an abusive space then? It appears emotionally draining, it appears as if the victim is being humiliated, threatened, hurt and in despair, but why do they not leave? The reason is the dominating power that the perpetrator has. It might seem easy to an observer, but for a victim it requires the courage to deal with someone who has power over them, someone who has control and someone who makes them feel anxious.  In order to not feel anxious, a victim feels that giving in is the best solution for tackling abuse. Giving in and submitting is common in all forms of abuses.

Individuals who suffer abuse continually juggle with many questions. How does I leave a relationship that cannot be undone? How do I quit my relationship with my mother, father, sibling or relatives? How do I give up on a relationship in which I am so emotionally involved? When is the right time to leave my spouse- should I leave them because they slapped me once, or give them a second chance? Where will I go if I leave my spouse? And the most difficult question to answer is: what will others think or say about me? It is not that easy or simple but the way out of the cycle of abuse is not impossible.

Ways to Handle Abuse

Regardless of the type of abuse under discussion, the first step is for the victim to understand that it is not their fault. It is important for you to distance yourself and not take the responsibility for the incidents. Look at the event as it should be observed rather than how the perpetrator would like it to be observed. Who started this? Was it you? Since it was the perpetrator who started it, so why take the blame for everything that went wrong?

The second important step to managing abuse is communication. Finding someone with whom the incident can be shared without feeling ashamed or humiliated always leads to two things 1) makes you feel lighter and 2) opens a door for a different perspective to a suffocating situation. Talking to another person and confiding in someone actually leads to discovering that many people suffer from abuse in one form or another but do not share it. To an alarming rate, abuse is common and widespread.

Another technique of handling abuse is creating awareness. Particularly for children, it is important to educate them about their bodies and about appropriate behavior. What is acceptable and what is not, children tend to be very perceptive. An early awareness towards abuse can help one tackle abuse effectively. However, for parents it is important to know that keeping your child emotionally close and healthy is one of the best means of protecting them from any sort of abuse. Similarly, in marital relationships, the couple needs to be aware of their own rights and the rights of their partner. It is also healthy to know what differentiates acceptable from unacceptable behavior.

If you are an abuser and find yourself being physically and verbally abusive towards others, what causes that behavior? What makes you want to harm your spouse or hurt them? Do you find yourself displacing your anger on your children? Being abusive in a relationship is not a trait, it is a form of burden that you carry, which is unloaded onto the wrong individual. It can be changed with the right support. Connect with us.

If you are a victim, step up and speak up. It is time you realize that you can manage this. You can tackle this. Do you want to know how to be assertive? Do you wish to know how to beat that anxiety and stand up for yourself? Do you wish to understand how to deal with an abusive parent without being disrespectful towards them? We are here to answer all of your questions.


[1]Niaz, U. (2004). Women’s mental health in Pakistan. World Psychiatry, 3(1), 60–62. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1414670/

[2]Nasrullah, Muazzam; Haqqi, Sobia; Cummings, Kristin (2009). "The epidemiological patterns of honour killing of women in Pakistan". European Journal of Public Health. 19: 193–197.

[3]Zakar, Rubeena; Zakar, Muhammad; Mikolajczyk, Rafael; Kraemer, Alexander (2013). "Spousal Violence Against Women and Its Association With Women’s Mental Health in Pakistan". Health Care for Women International. 34: 795–813

[4] Walker, Lenore E. (1979) The Battered Woman. New York: Harper and Row.


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