Domestic violence plays with victims' minds, making
it tough to break the cycle
By Megan Sonderegger
December 11, 2006 | "He hit me, I can't believe he
hit me," is all Karen Leishman could say, her fingers
trailing absentmindedly over her cheek, the cheek which
had been brutally beaten only a year before. The memory
of abuse haunted her face and she spoke sadly, reopening
the stitches of her emotional wound.
"It had only happened once, and it wasn't going to
At least that is what Leishman told herself after
her former boyfriend battered her face, causing her
to fall onto the hard linoleum floor of her kitchen,
and then proceeded to hover over her, repeatedly calling
her a bitch.
"You'd think you'd be mad that somebody hit you. People
always think why doesn't that stupid girl just get out,
but it's not like that. They play with your mind."
Many women experience the emotional and physical effects
of life in constant abusive fear. According to Family
Violence Prevention, 3 million women are physically
abused by their boyfriend or spouse, a statistic that
does not include emotional abuse, and one in every three
women has been abused at some point in her life. In
alone, studies have shown one in every 10 women has
experienced physical or emotional abuse from an intimate
partner, and 40 percent of women have reported to be
abused at some point in their life. These extreme percentages
show a rising average of abuse in relationships, particularily
"I would daresay the statistics are even higher, but
many people won't accept reality and they don't envision
their relationships as being abusive, so they aren't
willing to step forward," said Keeley Mendenhall, support
group facilitator for Community Abuse Prevention Services
Mendenhall says there is a distinct cycle of abuse,
and most women can look for warning signs to prevent
abuse from occuring through continued relationships.
She said the cycle begins with a charming stage in which
the abuser "wins over" his partner. After doing so,
the abuser slowly begins to isolate his partner from
her friends and her family members, tension rises and
the woman feels like "she is walking on eggshells to
please her abuser." And then there is an explosion,
where the abuse actually takes place. Mendenhall said
women should watch for clear signs during the first
phases to prevent the explosion stage from occuring.
According to domestic
violence warning signs, some of these signs include
personality changes, isolation from work and social
duties, self blame, fear of conflict and low self esteem.
Annette Gittins, mobile crisis team coordinator for
CAPSA, agrees these warning signs can allow prevention,
and she feels the biggest warning sign in abuse is isolation.
She said an abuser will cause a woman to be isolated
from society in order to have complete control over
her. She said this isolation causes a woman to rely
on the abuser completely and base her emotions and feelings
on what he says or does.
"You become so worried about what your abuser thinks
that you're reality becomes skewed," Gittins said. "He
makes you feel as if you're imagining being abused,
and you begin to think you're the crazy one."
Gittins said family and friends who see this isolation
occurring in their loved ones should not allow them
to be isolated. She said they should make every effort
to be social and supportive with the one being abused.
She said the longer the abuse occurs, the more control
the abuser has over his partner and the more dangerous
the abuser becomes.
Leishman agrees with this research. She said the first
step she took to getting out of her abusive relationship
was telling her friend what was wrong. She said she
began to feel afraid and turned to her friend for support.
Through this, she realized how skewed her perception
was and how much control her partner had over her.
"I realized the longer I was with him, the harder
it would be to leave and the more dangerous it would
be to leave. I needed to end it."
Brandy Farmer, another victim of abuse, agreed with
Leishman and said her biggest step for ending the abuse
was to get help. She said she realized she was being
abused when she read an article in the newspaper on
signs of domestic violence. She said she hid the article
in a stack of printer paper so her spouse could not
find it and then began looking for resources of escape.
"All you need to do is tell one person," Farmer said.
"That is the biggest step."
Gittins agrees with Farmer. She said an abuser's power
comes through isolation, and destroying that isolation
limits his control over his victim. She said the importance
of supportive family and friends comes into play when
the victim finally decided to escape. She encourages
women in abusive situations to seek help and reach out
to those around them.
"Power and abuse thrives on secrecy and loyalty to
the abuser," Gittins said, "Just tell someone, one person,
and you can shift your reliance to someone who will
Although Leishman's experience is one she said she'll
never forget, she said she feels it gives her the ability
to help other women in abusive relationships. She said
she advises anyone who is experiencing any warning signs
to leave the situation before it becomes worse and to
get help as soon as possible."
"There is no justification for abuse. There is black
and there is white. There is no gray in an abusive situation;
it's just wrong. Don't become a victim."
For more information on domestic violence warnings
signs, support groups of those who are victims of abuse,
or information on how to leave an abusive situation,
contact 1-800-799-SAFE or visit one of these websites:
Abuse for Everyone or Domestic
Violence Blog page.