Conjugal violence can be identified by a series of repetitive acts, which usually increase in frequency and intensity. This process is known as the cycle of violence; which is characterised by increasing tension, abuse, rationalization, reconciliation and a calm period (For more information on the cycle of violence consult: Part II: Cycle of violence).
It is a consequence of inequality between two partners; whereby one partner dominates, manipulates and controls the other. Also, it is important to remember that anyone can be a victim of conjugal violence, regardless of social class, age, cultural origin or religion.
Victims of conjugal violence can be subjected to:
- physical and sexual violence
- emotional blackmail
- financial control
The abusive partner may also restrict their partners’ independence by controlling their income and expenses as well as spying on them during their daily activities. Finally, it is important to remember that a partner’s dominance over their partner might extend to a psychological level, making it extremely difficult for them to break free from their abusive relationship.
Remember: Although a partner may try to use alcohol, drugs or stress as a justification for their violent behaviour, they ARE NOT and they CANNOT be used as an excuse for their actions!
Verbal Abuse: It is used to intimidate, humiliate and control the other person. It can either be subtle or very direct.
- Screaming or raising their voice
- Blaming the victim for their actions
Psychological Abuse: It deals primarily with the attitudes and actions of the person and the abusive acts target their psychological integrity. Similar to verbal abuse, psychological abuse can be subtle or more aggressive.
- Isolating the person from friends and family
- Humiliation, intimidation
- Threatening the victim directly or indirectly (EX. If a spouse threatens to kidnap or kill your children)
Sexual Abuse: It is characterised by any act that is sexual in nature (with or without physical contact), which is committed without the consent of the other person. A lack of consent can be demonstrated either by saying NO or by any act of disagreement (EX. Pushing your partner off of you or even simply showing signs that you are uncomfortable, is sufficient in order to express your lack of consent).
Always remember: Consent should always be obtained without force!
- Sexual touching or sexual acts against the will of the individual
- Exploiting an individual for pornographic means
- Harassing an individual sexually (at the workplace, at school or in the streets)
Physical Abuse: It is characterised by violent acts against another person. When physical abuse is present in the relationship, it is very likely that it is coupled with verbal, psychological or sexual abuse.
- Biting, pinching or pushing
- Hitting/punching, kicking
- Threatening with a weapon
- Death threats
- Throwing objects
Economic Abuse: It prevents a person from having economic independence. Once again, this form of abuse can be used either directly or indirectly.
- Prevent or highly discourage their partner from working
- Controlling their partners finances
- Confiscating their partners pay checks or source of income
Spiritual Abuse: It forces a person to practice a certain religion or it can be used to forbid them from practicing their desired religion.
- Threatening or intimidating a partner to practice or not to practice a religion
- Prevent them from going to a religious institution
- Forcing them to go to a religion institution
- Denigrate their religion
Although, there are a wide range of emotions that a victim might feel, the following is a general perspective of how you could feel:
- You might be in constant fear of your partner
- You might feel alone, helpless, tired or afraid
- You could be depressed and confused as a result of your partners actions
- You could be fearful for the safety of your children
- He might often blow up over small incidents
- He might be extremely jealous and might often claim that his jealousy is a sign of love for you
- He might isolate you by devaluing your friends and family in order to cut you off from all social support
- He might hold stereotypical views about gender roles in society
- He might believe that it is okay for him to use violence to solve conflicts
Children exposed to conjugal violence experience a roller-coaster of emotions. The consequences of exposure to violence on children vary by age group.
- Effects on infants:
- Can range from being easily startled and fearful
- Effects on school aged children:
- Can have low self-esteem and difficulty concentrating in school
- Effects on adolescents:
- May experience depression, anxiety and may turn to drug use as a means of numbing their emotions.
Children, who are witnesses to conjugal violence tend to learn poor coping strategies and are more likely to normalize violent behaviours which can lead to their own unhealthy and abusive relationships. While each child’s experience with violence is unique, stopping exposure to violence is the best thing you can do. With support from family, friends and social workers your child can thrive!