While the layperson often reserves the word “trauma” only for wartime or the most flagrant and overt forms of abuse, clinicians today understand that even more subtle forms of dysfunction qualify as being traumatic.
Just some examples of trauma include:
• being exposed to any form of abuse, whether overt or covert
• growing up in a family, in which no one takes care of themselves (codependence)
• growing up in a family, in which one or more members is addicted
• having undue responsibility placed upon you, as a child (such as inordinate care for siblings and/or a parent)
• growing up in poverty
• experiencing bullying, intimidation and/or discrimination
• never having received adequate care, attention, nurturing or protection as a child – for any reason.
• actual or perceived abandonment
• actual or perceived rejection
• enduring illness or death, within one’s family
• growing up as the offspring of a trauma survivor
• having experienced even one moment during which one feared for primal safety
• not having gotten the bulk of one’s needs met, in any stage of formative development
“While the layperson often reserves the word “trauma” only for wartime or the most flagrant and overt forms of abuse, clinicians today understand that even more subtle forms of dysfunction qualify as being traumatic.”
Adult symptoms of trauma can have lifelong, debilitating effects on the sufferer.
• fear of being alone; attachment difficuly; abandonment issues; avoidance; fear of intimacy
• perfectionism; unduly critical on oneself and/or others; self-punishing
• codependence; lack of personal identity; instinctively knowing, doing and being what others need or want
• easily overwhelmed by one’s feelings; easily emotionally triggered
• pattern of abusive relationships; victimizing oneself after being victimized by others
• no sense of own power or right to set limits or say no; difficulty setting and maintaining boundaries
• guilt; shame; low self-esteem; feeling worthless; high appreciation of small favors by others
• inability to trust or trusting indiscriminately; inability to discern who is healthy/safe and who is not
• limited tolerance for happiness; reluctance to trust happiness
• depression; feelings of hopelessness; fear of people; isolated
• anxiety; panic attacks; nightmares; night terrors; startle response; hyper-vigilance; phobias
• anger issues: inability to recognize, own or express anger; rage; fear of rage; constant anger; misdirected anger
• control issues; needing to compensate for powerlessness with power; territoriality issues; fear of losing control;
• obsessive/compulsive behaviors (attempts to control things that don’t matter, just to control something)
• stress-related diseases; gastrointestinal problems
• addictions; compulsive behaviors
• poor or distorted body image; emotional eating; eating disorders
• dangerous risk-taking behavior (adrenaline addiction), or inability to take healthy risks
• self-destructiveness; self-hatred; self-injury (conscious or unconscious)
• suicidal thoughts; attempts; obsession (including passive suicide through poor self-care)
“ARCS shows abuse survivors and PTSD sufferers how to create a safe emotional sanctuary in which they can love their authentic self and live their ideal life.”
We believe that an excerpt from a recent interview with one of our founders is pertinent:
“You know, when I got to the absolute core of my healing work, I was in fetal position on the floor… and I knew how to walk myself through that kind of pain and, even, to appreciate the authenticity in that moment. And, when I got to the center of it, my biggest regret was, ‘How will I ever know who I was supposed to be, had this not happened to me?’… And, a small but powerful voice from within me answered back, ‘You have become exactly who you are supposed to be, because this happened to you.’ I haven’t looked back, since.”
How to Recognize the Pattern of Domestic Abuse
√ Calls you names, insults you, or puts you down
√ Prevents or discourages you from going to work or school or seeing family members or friends
√ Tries to control how you spend money, where you go, what medicines you take or what you wear
√ Acts jealous or possessive or constantly accuses you of being unfaithful
√ Gets angry when drinking alcohol or using drugs
√ Tries to control whether you can see a health care provider
√ Forces you to have sex or engage in sexual acts against your will
Why should one NOT suffer Domestic Abuse?
√ Harmful to Health
√ Cause Physical Injury
√ Cause Permanent or Temporary Trauma
√ Impair the Social Skills
Signs of Domestic Violence and How to Get Help
Domestic Violence Statistics
Domestic Abuse is an epidemic that remains insufficiently unaddressed due to limited resources. While both local and national organizations proffer their best efforts to provide comprehensive services such as crisis hotlines, domestic abuse counseling, legal advocacy and emergency shelters — the disparity between the amount of available help and the breadth of the problem is staggering. Domestic violence statistics show that approximately 33% of women and 25% of men have suffered some form of physical abuse by an intimate partner. To put this in perspective, approximately 20,000 calls are placed to domestic violence hotlines each day — and this reflects only the portion of sufferers who are actively seeking help.
Defining Domestic Violence and Domestic Abuse
Actually, conventional domestic violence statistics only document a small portion of cases because of underreporting — but, even more so, because society continuously fails to adequately define and recognize the pattern of domestic abuse. For example, “pushing, slapping and shoving” are often minimized as being “not bad enough” to qualify for domestic violence documentation, while underlying emotional abuse and attendant verbal abuse are often dismissed entirely.
To truly understand the nature and signs of domestic violence, it helps to view the problem along a continuum. Just as a victim of substance abuse may start with alcohol and marijuana, then progress to more powerful prescription medications or elicit “street drugs” such as heroin or cocaine — so victims of domestic abuse often start as the targets of emotional belittling and verbal “digs”, before abusers progress to more physicalized assaults.
Indeed, just as a pedophile will test and groom a child before proceeding to act, domestic violence abusers will often seek to advance from the stages of more intangible emotional and verbal aggression by “pushing, slapping and shoving”. This initial introduction to physical violence is often framed as being “playful” or a “mistake” in which the abuser simply “went too far” — when, in reality, it is a systematic test to determine the degree to which the victim will excuse the behavior. If the victim “buys into” the concept that the abuser is a benign, well-intended person who did not “mean to do it”, this is the abuser’s cue to know that they can continue with impunity.
So it’s vitally important that Domestic Abuse Counselors educate victims (and society) about the fact that the more extreme, physical violations reserved for traditional domestic violence statistics find their origins in the preceding emotional and verbal patterns. When victims can understand the signs of domestic violence along a continuum, they can identify the issue and leave the abuser earlier.
Domestic Abuse Signs: Emotional and Verbal
The core condition of domestic abuse is characterized by an abuser deferring accountability for their actions onto the victim — and the victim being and/or becoming conditioned to accept responsibility that is not their own. Essentially, domestic violence abusers both perceive and portray themselves as victims because nothing is ever “their fault”, and this is actually the foremost domestic abuse sign that trained Domestic Abuse Counselors look for when seeking to accurately discern who is occupying the “abuser role” within a toxic relationship.
Just one of the facets that makes domestic violence so viscous, is that abusers are systematic and strategic in the erosion of the victim’s self-esteem. They will often “call you names”, “put you down”, and otherwise insult and belittle the victim into falsely believing that they somehow deserve to be mistreated is of paramount importance, in securing the abuser’s pathological need to feel powerful through harming another.
Domestic Abusers project and expect consummate perfectionism because this serves their agenda to always be able to blame their victims — so micro-critiquing and scathing udgement are always in play. No matter what the victim does, it will never be “good enough”. One of our Domestic Abuse Counselors at ARCS who is, herself, a recovering domestic violence victim often quips, “You could walk on water and a narcissist (pathological abuser) will criticize you, for your feet being wet.”
One of the surest domestic abuse signs can be found within the victim, themselves. If someone’s words or behavior often lead you to doubt who you are, mistrust your sense of reality, minimize your feelings or question your worth — you’re being abused. Domestic violence abusers will persistently empty emotionally manipulative tactics such as dismissing a victim’s feelings and invalidating a victim’s perception (gaslighting) to keep them consistently “off balance”. The more that an abuser can disrupt a victim’s sense of internal equilibrium, the more powerful and satisfied they feel.
Substance addictions and relationship addiction tends to run concurrently, in both abusers and victims because of their likely history of trauma. In fact, it is often this shared history that ends victims to mistakenly assume that the abuser is merely a wounded victim, like hemselves — rather than a pathological narcissist with a drive to feel powerful at their expense.
Certainly, not every abuser is an alcoholic or addict — but substance abuse does co-occur with domestic abuse at disproportionately high rates. Furthermore, being intoxicated reduces inhibition, making way for abusers to get exceedingly angry and violent when drinking alcohol or using drugs. Conveniently, this also provides them with a “ready made” excuse for their behavior on the following day
Whereas victims engage in relationships with healthy intentions, seeking love and connection — pathological abusers seek only power. Their controlling strategies can range from subtle and covert, such as possessiveness which they often reframe as “love”, to more aggressive measures like overt threats and assaults.
For example, abusers might act jealous, possessive, or constantly accuse you of being unfaithful. They may attempt to control how you spend money, where you go, what you wear, what medicines you take, or whether you can see a health care provider.
In all cases, controlling measures involve isolating the victim from any supportive resources, so an abuser will inevitably discourage or prevent you from going to work, attending school, and seeing family members or friends. Finally, abusers have a complete lack of tolerance for any boundaries that the victim may try to set — in more covert cases this can present as “pressing” to move faster in the relationship that you may enjoy, and in the most overt cases this can take the form of physical violence, rape, or otherwise forcing victims to engage in sexual acts against their will.
“Intermittent Conditioning” means combining a positive stimulus like attentiveness or affection with a negative stimulus like shaming or punching. Longstanding study has been done on intermittent conditioning, to the point that it is now readily recognized as the core component required for successful “brainwashing”. Essentially, intermittent conditioning pits one’s survival instinct (providing a core need) against developing one’s tolerance for abuse.
Intermittent conditioning, by its very nature, confuses victims — making them reticent to leave because the abuser actually is “nice”, on some occasions. Thus, it is through the pathological abuser’s intrinsic “knack” for intermittent conditioning that victims quite literally become trained to accept abuse as part and parcel of what they must endure in order to also get their most basic needs met by the abuser.
While most domestic abuse victims come from childhood histories that have already predisposed them to intermittent conditioning, all human beings are subject to this “breaking down of the psyche” if exposed to it for any prolonged period. Therefore, the only true boundary that a victim can successfully set with an abuser — is to gather the resources and information required to leave.
How Domestic Abuse Counseling Can Help
Much like a road map, when someone can see the early Domestic Abuse Signs — it’s time to reach out for professional domestic abuse help.
Of course, there are logical reasons for which someone should not suffer domestic abuse, including the obvious facts that it is harmful to health, can cause physical injury, can cause emotional trauma (which has the same effect on the brain as physical injury) and can impair social and relational skills — but, just like substance addiction, logic does not suffice to motivate relationship addiction recovery because the provenance of all forms of abuse can be found in untreated low self-esteem and a fundamental lack of understanding about exactly how abuse overwhelms the psyche.
Awareness is power, and qualified domestic abuse help can educate victims about how abusers operate — so that victims are no longer deceived by the relentless onslaught of mind bending” maneuvers that truly characterize the foundational principles of domestic violence. Furthermore, domestic abuse programs can offer the loving attention and impart the emotional tools required to fortify self-esteem.
ARCS specialized Domestic Abuse Counseling offers supportive online learning environments in which victims can cultivate all of the information, resources and resilience needed to heal. Our online video lessons teach victims how to move from “surviving to thriving” as they learn to set appropriate internal boundaries about what is and is not their responsibility — and when such internal boundaries are bolstered by the loving encouragement of their counselor and peer supports, victims find themselves ready to establish the external boundary of safely exiting toxic relationships.
Here is another important domestic violence statistic: The primary variable that distinguishes individuals who are able to “get out” and “stay out” of domestic abuse — is the cultivation of healthy and qualified support systems. Essentially, victims must acquire the knowledge, skills and confidence required to build an emotional bridge out of their “relationship” and into safety.
So if you even suspect that you might be the victim of emotional, verbal or any other form of abuse — reach out for domestic abuse help, immediately