Updated: Nov 28, 2021
This past month, a lot of information has been circulated on social media in honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Domestic Violence specifically intimate partner violence. For one, there's may layers to this deep-rooted issue. The Power & Control Wheel was created by The Duluth Model (see below).
Leaving intimate partner violence is not cut and dry as indicated above. Additional factors include legal status, fear of deportation, and distrust along with fear of law enforcement. On average, it takes 8 times to leave an abusive relationship and if you've been watching MAID on Netflix, you witness the dynamics. The process of leaving or taking major life steps can be better understood by the Stages of Change, please see below. The Model below was developed by Prochaska and DiClemente in the late 1970s
While it may not be easy to fathom why survivors struggle to leave their abusers, noting vulnerability factors can help conceptualize.
Glorifying struggle. The term Guerruera/o (feminine or masculine) means warrior. This word can often be used as a compliment and received as a badge of honor in the Latinx community. This is very much rooted in gender roles and expectations which really contribute to developing co-dependent patterns. Trauma on Trauma in my experience leads to Trauma Bonding. I can't count the times clients have shared that they grew up seeing their fathers beat their mothers only to flee, leave the home to seek independence only to find themselves in abusive relationships, but minimizing it because "it wasn't as bad as my upbringing". This normalization of abuse and noting how strong a person is by how many hardships they can endure really creates unhealthy and unrealistic expectations of a person's role in a relationship. It perpetuates secrecy, shame, and isolation.
"No Se Habla de Las Cosas de la Casa"-----aka Home matters stay at home, hush hush. This stigma towards seeking outside help can very much perpetuate the cycle of abuse along with fear and shame for seeking help.
*Sigh* More often than not, clients and survivors in the community have shared how church leaders were discouraged from seeking help by outside professionals. Scriptures can be misused and abused (Ephesians 5:22) while ignoring Ephesians 5:25 and Galatians 5:22. Check the fruit!
Another reference that has been misrepresented and minimizing abuse is the notion of Spiritual Warfare. While that may be the case, as people, we have free will, and it is never God's will to endure abuse. Also, it is not a person's job to change somebody nor be God and place themselves in danger.
We could be here all day with the terms and implications, but I want to focus on just a few here.
Purity Culture- This comes from the Evangelical movement and promoting abstinence before marriage.
Honor Culture- The focus on protecting the image of self, family, and respective community where "what will they think" plays a vital role and impacts influence and reputation.
Marianismo and Machismo- Marianismo is similar to the Purity concept only deriving from Catholic Church with the goal to embody and strive towards being like Mary the Virgin. The women are encouraged to be more docile, submissive, spiritual, yet influential while Machismo is the promotion of hyper-masculinity, power, and independence.
How do these contribute to survivors remaining in abusive relationships?
STIGMA AND SHAME
Shame. Due to the factors listed above, once kids are involved, there could be associated shame with "breaking up the family", being a single parent, divorcing, and having lost their virginity. Some churches shame members and require they sit in different areas for engaging in sexual relations before marriage. The shame only adds another layer of fear of retribution and judgment for leaving a union where abuse occurs.
There's a myth that men can’t be abused. This is not true and it shows as there are less shelters available for men. This is a systemic issue rooted in gender biases.
Before they bite, they bark. Before they hit you, they hit near you. -MAID, Netflix
What’s important is to address safety
Remember, If it’s rooted in control and transactional respect then it’s nope-it ain't it.
Explore and understand the impact your experience has had on you to truly heal from it.
There’s no condemnation (Romans 8:1-3)-This post wasn't meant to be so scripture-based, but the reality is, abuse and secondary trauma can occur within the church. While well-intended, gaslighting does happen.
W.A.Y Method: Worry about Yourself. You cannot go into a fire without protection and expect to come out unharmed. You can care for somebody, and be interdependent. interdependent
Therapy at any given point is encouraged, but specifically followed a traumatic event such as leaving an abusive relationship. There are many reasons and benefits for doing so including:
Learning about Domestic Violence. Many survivors I've come in contact with are not aware of the power and control wheel, stages of change, the cycle of violence. This isn't to say everybody should know, but having language and context for the experiences can be empowering and validating for somebody who has not had that. Acquiring knowledge is pivotal so that when folks who don't believe the survivor, try to gaslight them-they fail.
Understanding your patterns. The role you play, what attracted you, what made leaving hard-it's important to understand relationship patterns and unlearn where needed. Some survivors find that they have a history of co-dependent relationships.
In MAID by Netflix, Alex & her Mother demonstrated this. In the end, the mother breaks the dynamic where daughter is parentified child and they pursue their own interests.
HOPE FOR THE FUTURE
There's no justifying abuse and whether one is abusing or on the receiving end, help is needed in order to change patterns. There is help out there, and nobody deserves to be abused. The impacts can last a lifetime, but it doesn't have to be that way. If you want to explore how your upbringing influenced your current relationships, click below, let's talk.