Domestic violence. Why does it happen and how can we stop it?

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Domestic violence is primarily a violation of human rights. It is a phenomenon with adverse effects on individual and social level. It has negative consequences on the physical and mental health of the victim, contributes to his social exclusion, while it can have negative consequences for the rest of the family too. It is also an intercultural, timeless phenomenon and does not happen in specific social classes. In Greece, the rate of domestic violence cannot be calculated, because a large percentage of abused women are afraid to report it. Only about 1 in 20 cases are reported to the Police.

Domestic violence has 95 to 99 percent female victims, without excluding the possibility of male abuse. But because men are usually stronger, they can defend themselves better and they can cause more harm.

Children often are victims of violence when parents crossfire. A significant study of more than 900 children of abused mothers found that almost 70 percent of children were victims of physical abuse or neglect.

So why do men hit? Because they have muscular strength, they are usually bigger and because they can. They believe that through violence they will maintain power and control in a relationship. Also, they do not consider a blow against their relatives as violence, but as correction.

The Cycle of Violence.

It usually starts with verbal tension and when it becomes unbearable then the man – usually – erupts in physical violence. After that the tension reduces and both partners try to find their balance. The man usually becomes very tender, careful (for some time) and sometimes he offers a gift trying to bring peace and promising that such a thing will never happen again. And he means it at that moment. Women on the other hand, feel responsible and guilty for the incident. They blame themselves for causing their partner’s anger and in the end, they justify the situation and attribute the violent behavior to external factors such as work stress and financial problems.

But there is absolutely no excuse for the violence. And this must be fully understood. The more tolerant one is to violence, the worse it gets. The period of the “honeymoon” gets shorter, the beatings become more frequent and more serious and many times the life of the abused person is endangered.

The question often arises: “Why do abused women stay in the relationship”?

To avoid more violence. An abused woman is afraid to leave because it often causes more violence. Research shows that when a woman leaves her perpetrator, she is in great danger both herself and her children and other family members, because she receives threats and lives with the unbearable fear that something bad will happen to them for which she will be responsible.

Shame. An abused woman feels ashamed to leave. She is under pressure from society to keep her family together “at all costs”.

Lack of support. Victims often feel that no one believes them and understands them, as they often live in isolation because their partner has barred them from socializing.

Love. A woman hopes that her partner will change if she shows him great love and understanding.

If it happens to us, what do we do?

• We leave the first time the other hits us. If he did it once he will definitely do it again. So, we do not stay and wait for it to happen again.

• We ask for help from the experts. This will protect both us and our children, if any.

• We understand that we have no responsibility for the perpetrator’s actions, nor have we caused them. No one has the right to use violence against us.

• If the violence is at an early stage, we also tell our partner to seek expert advice, otherwise we will leave him immediately.

We cannot afford to disregard something as serious as domestic violence, especially if there are children. All perpetrators, rich or poor, strong or weak, educated and uneducated, must be held accountable for their actions. So, it is up to us to stop the violence. Let’s take responsibility for ourselves and make the right decision, so that we can heal our wounds, or even better, never let them heal.