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How prevalent is domestic abuse? Consider this statistic. On a single day in 2014, domestic violence programs in Iowa helped 853 victims, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (ncadv.org). Sadly, 133 people could not be helped because of a lack of resources.

Though it isn’t always obvious, abuse is found throughout the country. While a majority of abuse victims are women, abuse can be experienced by people of any age, sex, religion, and race. In fact, the perception of females being the only victims of abuse can cause male victims to become embarrassed, scared of not being believed, and unsure of what resources are available to them. Thankfully, there are shelters and programs for both men and women who have been abused.

There are several different types of abuse, each with its own patterns and signs. The most common types are physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. In all cases, the victim needs to receive care and support. It is essential to determine which type of abuse is being committed to properly handle the situation and provide the most effective form of aid.

Cycle of Physical Abuse

Loveisrespect.org defines physical abuse as “any intentional and unwanted contact with you or something close to your body,” even if the abuse does not leave a mark, such as a scar or bruise. One cycle of physical abuse, or domestic violence, is the model created by Lenore Walker, which has three main stages. Womensafe.org describes these stages.

In the first stage, tension-building, small abusive incidents occur, though the victim tries to appease or avoid the abuser. But the abuser cannot be appeased, and the tension escalates until it reaches the next stage: the explosion.

The explosion stage releases the tension built up in the first stage through a battering episode where the abuser goes into such a rage that they cannot control themselves and end up injuring the victim. After the incident, both the victim and the abuser are appalled.

The honeymoon stage is the third stage of this cycle and consists of the abuser’s apology to the victim, their promises to change, to never hurt the victim again, and their expressions of love and kindness toward the victim. Womensafe.org mentions that the honeymoon stage brings false hope that the relationship will truly be different after the abuser’s apology.

Both the abuser and the victim tend to blame the explosion on outside issues, such as stressful work situations and money problems. Unfortunately, the victim and the abuser live in the honeymoon stage until the next tension-building stage begins, and the cycle continues.

Womensafe.org is careful to express that the cycle is not the definitive determinant of an abusive relationship. Every relationship can look different and have elements not specified in the cycle. Even if one is not experiencing these exact stages, it doesn’t mean an abusive relationship is not occurring.

If you or someone you know may be in an abusive relationship, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-787-3224. 

Emotional/Verbal Abuse

Emotional, or verbal, abuse is generally non-physical and can involve threats, insults, and other controlling behaviors, according to loveisrespect.org. Emotional abuse targets the self-esteem of the victim. The abuser embarrasses, harasses, humiliates, and belittles the victim to the point of severely damaging the victim’s view of themselves. The abuser may also constantly monitor the victim in an attempt to maintain total control.

Emotional/verbal abuse may cause the victim to blame himself or herself for their abuser’s comments and actions. But like all other types of abuse, it is not the victim’s fault. For more information on emotional abuse, visit loveisrespect.org.

Sexual Abuse

According to loveisrespect.org, sexual abuse is “any action that pressures or coerces someone to do something sexually they don’t want to do.” Though many people may think of sexual abuse as something between two people who are not a couple, it is important to realize that sexual abuse can occur in long-term relationships as well.

Sexual abuse is not always violent. Loveisrespect.org has more information on actions that occur in sexually abusive relationships, and what to do if you or a loved one find yourself in such a relationship.

In addition to physical, emotional/verbal, and sexual abuse, many other forms of abuse can also occur. For example, loveisrespect.org identifies financial abuse, digital abuse, and stalking on their website’s ‘Types of Abuse’ page. If you or a loved one might be in an abusive relationship, be sure to visit the websites below. You are also encouraged to call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-787-3224.