Wife Beater Shirt Optional: There is no dress code for domestic violence

Wife Beater Shirt Optional: There is no dress code for domestic violence

by Ph.D. LMHC Streyffeler


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781504388214
Publisher: Balboa Press
Publication date: 10/20/2017
Pages: 154
Sales rank: 696,564
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.36(d)

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What Is Domestic Violence?

Just because you can't get arrested for it does not mean it's not domestic violence — or that it does not count!

Domestic violence isn't always fully understood, and its definitions and perceptions vary. Many believe that such relationships must include physical violence, involvement of law enforcement, and/or an arrest. This is not true. Although some do, many do not. Understanding the true dynamics of domestic violence includes understanding both the clinical and legal definitions. Legal definitions of domestic violence vary by state. In the state of Florida, where I live, domestic violence is legally defined as "any assault, aggravated assault, battery, aggravated battery, sexual assault, sexual battery, stalking, aggravated stalking, kidnapping, false imprisonment, or any criminal offense resulting in physical injury or the death of one family or household member by another family or household member" [Section 741.28(2), Florida Statutes (2017)]. Just because some types of abuse are legal doesn't mean they are ethical or healthy. Nor does it mean these behaviors don't count as domestic violence.

It's also important to remember that even when people are arrested for domestic violence, they are not always convicted. That doesn't mean that the violence didn't happen or doesn't matter or didn't count. Sometimes there just isn't enough evidence to prove it happened. And sometimes the victim refuses to press charges out fear, love, or self-blame. Sadly, the legal system isn't always the justice system. Also, victims are often afraid to testify against their partners and don't show up in court. The legal mantra here is "no face, no case." When that happens, there is no legal action or consequences, but the event still counts as domestic violence.

The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence defines domestic violence as "willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, and/or other abusive behavior as part of a systematic pattern of power and control perpetrated by one intimate partner against another. It includes physical violence, sexual violence, psychological violence, and emotional abuse" (National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 2017).

Domestic violence does not have to be physical to be abuse; nor does it have to be physical to hurt. Physical violence bruises the body; emotional/psychological violence bruises the soul and/or the spirit. Just because the perpetrator cannot legally be arrested or held accountable for emotional or psychological abuse doesn't mean that it didn't happen or doesn't count. An abusive relationship is one in which one partner doesn't feel she or he has a voice, or a choice, in the relationship or in decisions relating to his or her life (or sometimes both).

Abuse is a pattern of behavior. It is not an isolated incident or event. It does not have to be physical. A violent partner is just that: violent. An abusive partner is one who engages in a pattern of controlling, coercive, purposeful, isolating, and manipulative behaviors in order to attain or maintain control over the other partner.

Substance Abuse and Domestic Violence

Although there is a high correlation between alcohol, or other substance abuse, and battering, it is not a causal relationship. Batterers use drinking as one of many excuses for their violence and as a way to place the responsibility for their violence elsewhere.

Many people drink and/or take drugs but do not batter their partners. Just because a person batters while drunk or high does not necessarily mean that the person's relationship is abusive. It means they only batter while — not because — they are drunk or high. The drug (or alcohol) removes the filter.

Frequently, partners who are emotionally and mentally abusive while sober become physically abusive when drunk or high. If drugs and alcohol caused abusive battering behavior, then everyone who drank or used drugs would abuse his or her partner, and that is just not the case. Alcohol and drugs often escalate the lethality of the violence, but they do not cause the battering.

Often people who have no control over their drug and/or alcohol use try to control their partners instead. Substance abuse and domestic violence are both important clinical issues and must be addressed in treatment, but they must also be addressed as separate co-occurrent issues.

It is important to note that there are exceptions regarding alcohol and/or substance use/abuse and domestic violence. For example, some people are allergic or have violent chemical reactions to alcohol or to certain drugs, especially when alcohol and is being taken in conjunction with prescription and/or nonprescription medications.

Mental Health and Domestic Violence

Like substance abuse, a mental health diagnosis does not cause domestic violence. There are millions of people worldwide with a variety of mental health diagnoses who don't try to control, batter, or abuse their partners. Domestic violence is a learned behavior. When children grow up in a controlling and abusive environment, they learn that control, fear, and intimidation are the ways to have power and get your needs met and that "might is right." Normal isn't healthy, and healthy isn't normal.

Abusive and controlling partners are not crazy and are seldom psychotic. Most are fully aware of what they are doing. They use purposefully manipulative and coercive behavior that is designed to get what they want. If the abusive behavior were caused by a mental illness, then everyone with a mental illness would try to control or batter his or her partner, and that simply does not happen. In addition, victims commonly report that when their abusive partners are out in public, "It's like she [or he] is another person." Often victims of domestic violence describe their partners as a "Dr. Jekyll and Mr./Ms. Hyde." If mental illness were causing the abusive and controlling behaviors, the batterer would not be able to control it in front of other people.

Victims, on the other hand, often hear from their abusive partners that they are crazy, loco, or whacked in the head — so much so that they begin to believe it. Generally, it is the situation and the relationship that are so-called crazy, not the victim. Depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder are common among victims of domestic violence (self-medicating addictive behaviors are also common). More often than not, these mental health issues are not because victims are crazy but are instead a result of having been victimized and often traumatized by abusers whom they loved and trusted. In addition, having been isolated and disempowered, they often lack healthy boundaries, tools, coping mechanisms, and support systems — a lack that causes them to feel helpless, hopeless, stuck, and afraid. If this sounds like you or someone you know or care about, I would ask that you (or your friend/loved one) get professional help from a licensed clinical professional who understands the dynamics and impact of domestic violence and its related trauma. If finances are an issue, many domestic violence centers and shelters offer individual outpatient counseling at no or minimal charge. Check your state's resources online, or visit the website for the National Coalition against Domestic Violence for more information. Counseling is often helpful for men and women who have been victims of domestic violence because it helps empower them, support them, educate them, and heal the pain and trauma of living and loving (or having lived and loved) in an abusive relationship.

What Domestic Violence Is Not

False Allegations

Now that we've defined what an abusive relationship is, let's look at what it is not. An abusive relationship is not and should not be a way for non-victims to make false domestic violence allegations against their current or former partners, spouses, or co-parents in order to get a leg up in the legal and court systems. People who claim to be victims of domestic violence to get an injunction for protection (IFP), also known as a restraining order, in order to get primary custody of the children or the house, are controlling, manipulative, and coercive. They are the abusers!

Assholes and Bitches

Just because an intimate partner is an asshole or a bitch does not mean that he or she is an abuser. Likewise, a person who occasionally says mean or thoughtless things to or about his or her partner is not necessarily an abuser. By definition, abusive relationships include a pattern of manipulative and coercive behaviors. Isolated inappropriate behaviors and the people who exhibit them are inappropriate, but that does not does always mean that the person who exhibits these behaviors is an abuser.

Also, just because a good relationship or marriage is over and the separation or divorce is ugly does not mean that the whole relationship was abusive. Many times, good relationships run their course, and in the midst of a breakup or divorce, they get ugly (especially if the breakup was a result of infidelity). Ugly divorces are usually different from abusive relationships; they can be toxic and unhealthy without being abusive. That being said, abusive marriages that end often end in abusive and sometimes dangerous divorces.

Communication versus Control

All couples experience conflicts. Conflict is a normal and healthy part of relationships. It becomes abusive when one partner must always win and be right, and as a result, the conflict often escalates into verbal or physical violence. In an abusive relationship, even if a victim speaks, he or she seldom feels as though his or her thoughts and feelings are heard, respected, or validated. As a result, victims often stop talking and sharing, hoping that will make the fighting stop. In a healthy relationship, couples can have conflict without violence, and when there is a conflict, they work to solve to solve the problem — not to win an argument.

Codependency versus Control

Unlike partners in an abusive relationship, enablers and codependents share control. Codependency is a term that is often used to describe relationships in which one person struggles with some type of addiction or addictive behavior and his or her partner enables that behavior by continuing to rescue him or her. As a result, the addicted partner never experiences the consequences of his or her actions.

Although the enabler might appear to be controlling or even the victim of an abusive relationship, the enabler's behavior is based on an unhealthy love or attachment — not fear or powerlessness. On the contrary, the enabler feels empowered because he or she feels needed and believes, "As long as you need me, you'll never leave me." A victim of domestic violence is not codependent; she or he is fully dependent on her or his partner. The abusive partner has all the power in the relationship and the victim has none — or very little. The prefix co means two, meaning that both partners are dependent on each other. Often codependent partners refer to each other as "my other" or "my better half." This is symbolic because codependent partners feel incomplete without the other partner. Each partner needs her or his other half to feel whole. (Please note: I said feel whole — not be whole.)

It is important to understand that just because a person is in a relationship with an addicted partner doesn't necessarily make the person an enabler. The person might be a victim.

Anger versus Control

A person's inability to control his or her anger is not the same as using aggressive outbursts as an excuse to control his or her partner. Anger and so-called "problems with anger management" are not exclusively the causes of domestic violence. Many (too many) batterers and victims blame domestic violence (physical battering) on problems with "anger management." If a person can control his or her anger at work or with friends at restaurants but can't do the same at home, then he or she does not have a problem with "anger management" — he or she has a problem with control.

Violence and anger are related only in that when a person feels he or she is losing control of the other partner, he or she gets angry and often violent. A person struggling with with anger management would not be able to control who the recipient of his or her unleashed anger was; nor would he or she be able to make sure that the bruises always ended up in places where no one could see them. That being said, there are people who have a problem managing both their anger and their desire to control their partners.

Mental illness is seldom the cause of domestic violence, but it often triggers or exacerbates mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, and PTSD, for its victims.

Domestic violence is a learned behavior in which one person controls, coerces, and manipulates the other. It is not caused by alcohol or substance abuse or mental illness. (There are a few exceptions, such as drug reactions or interactions with other drugs or alcohol, allergies, and violent psychotic episodes.) Although it's often easier to blame the drugs or alcohol, more often than not it's the person's need to control his or her partner that causes the aggressive behavior. Generally, it's not that the aggressor can't control his or her behavior; the truth is more likely that the aggressor chooses not to.

Again, please remember that just because a person is violent when drunk or high does not mean that she or he is controlling or abusive because she or he is drunk or high. The same goes for mental illnesses: just because someone is struggling with a mental illness and may be violently and aggressively acting out does not necessarily mean she or he is attempting to control her or his partner. The dynamic of the partner who is violent because of mental illness and active psychosis is very different from the one described within these chapters — unless, of course, the violent partner is both mentally ill and controlling and abusive. In that case, it is the need to control and abuse that are co-occurrent. The mental illness is not causing the controlling abusive behavior.


Types of Abuse in an Intimate Partner Relationship

The National Coalition of Domestic Violence defines domestic violence as the "willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, and/or other abusive behavior as part of a systematic pattern of power and control perpetrated by one intimate partner against another. It includes physical violence, sexual violence, psychological violence, and emotional abuse" (NCADV, 2017).

Domestic violence is often thought of as physical violence in relationships. The term verbal abuse is common, and many people understand what that is, but in controlling, abusive relationships there are a number of ways that one partner controls the other. They include physical abuse, emotional abuse, mental or psychological abuse, sexual abuse, and destruction of property or pets. They each have an impact. In combination, they form toxic and effective ways for one partner to exert control over another. Not only do these forms of abuse keep control with the abuser, but they also ensure that the partner doesn't leave the relationship and take away the control that so often is confused with — or at some point seems to replace — love.

Physical Abuse

Physical abuse is any type of physical behavior used with the intention of controlling another person, such as pushing, slapping, shoving, stabbing, or pulling hair. Physical abuse is used by the abusive partner in order to control the other. A victim of abuse will tell you that physical abuse is no better or worse than other types of abuse. When it happens, victims of physical abuse generally know that it is abuse and that it is against the law. Legal consequences, although often minimal, can follow this type of abuse. This is not always the case with more manipulative, coercive, and insidious types of abuse.

Victims who have been physically abused often say that their partners have anger issues, but a person who can control her or his anger around everyone other than her or his partner does not have anger issues; she or he has control issues.


Excerpted from "Wife Beater Shirt Optional"
by .
Copyright © 2017 Dr. Laura Streyffeler.
Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Preface, xi,
This Book Is Not for Victims Alone!, xii,
Introduction, xv,
Pretest: Myths and Truths Quiz, xix,
Chapter 1: What Is Domestic Violence?, 1,
Chapter 2: Types of Abuse in an Intimate Partner Relationship, 16,
Chapter 3: Dynamics of Domestic Violence, 30,
Chapter 4: Domestic Violence in the LGBTQ Community, 41,
Chapter 5: Why Victims Stay — and Leave, 44,
Chapter 6: Trauma and Domestic Violence, 63,
Chapter 7: Assessing for Domestic Violence and Lethality, 88,
Chapter 8: Safety Planning with Victims of Intimate Partner Violence, 100,
Chapter 9: Mandated Reporting, 103,
Chapter 10: Domestic Violence and the Courts, 105,
Chapter 11: One Last Story, 111,
Chapter 12: No More Myths: Truths Revealed, 113,
Appendices, 119,
Resource Index, 127,
References, 131,

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