“When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”
These words of Maya Angelou are timely given the social challenges prevailing.
Most people will relate with these words especially if we think about the context of potentially abusive partners.
Everyone’s life is important and it makes a difference in this world.
Yet the high number of abuse cases being recorded in the country show that abusive partners still take advantage of their victims.
Violence against women continues to be one of the most serious problem in our society.
Current global research shows that 90 per cent of perpetrators of violence and abuse against women are men.
An abuser can either be male or female; be it a law enforcement officer, a doctor, a clergyman or anyone.
Victims fall into the trap of such people who tend to have a sense of self-importance and often believe that their feelings, lives and needs take priority over those of others.
Remember, by not confronting abuse to avoid the risk of losing someone’s love, you put yourself at risk of the next attack.
Certain warning signs may suggest a possibility of abuse, but no one can predict with certainty whether it will happen and when.
It is important to take a checklist of an abused partner’s past relationships once you are convinced that you are dealing with an abuser than live in denial.
Patterns of perpetrators give the victim an understanding of the factors driving the abuse in any type of relationship and will go a long way towards helping survivors open up about abuse and get support.
A common pattern of domestic abuse, especially between intimate partners, is that the perpetrator alternates between violent, abusive and apologetic behaviour with apparently convincing promises to change.
Notably, domestic abuse being the most common, is typically manifested as a pattern of abusive behaviour toward a married partner or in an intimate dating relationship or living together where the abuser exerts power and control over the victim.
This abuse can be mental, physical, economic or sexual in nature.
Incidents are rarely isolated and usually escalate in frequency and severity.
Eventually, if not addressed, these are the Gender Based Violence (GBV) cases that are escalating in homes and later culminate in serious physical injury and even death of some partners.
I have discovered through my counselling and advocacy in GBV that Christian women and the so-called schooled are common victims of and are trapped in toxic relationships.
As portrayed in most cases, partner abuse does not only occur just in families and relationships in which husbands are either not religious or are alcoholics.
There are many abused women who are married to church leaders and law enforcement officers who are conversant with the law.
For many years, one victim of abuse, who was married, witnessed so many episodes about her husband – a pastor – who engaged in different intimate relationships with girls and women in the church.
‘And because scriptures, that are quoted and interpreted from the pulpit, seemingly give us options that need us to reflect seriously, we tend to take long in reaching out for support as you also encounter doubt from some loved ones, making it difficult to make a sound decision despite the options one may use,’ the woman wrote in a recent email.
It is important to note that we cannot generalise and say abusers are this or that, but studies have shown us that the majority of abusers share something in common despite their status in society.
And because abusers do not have a profile for us to relate with, they easily target their victims through their honed skills, set them up with their tactics and make them easily fall prey to their abuse.
Also, each relationship is different and patterns of abuse can be different as some abusers may decide to cycle rapidly, others over longer periods, but ultimately, regardless of their motive, abusers purposefully use numerous tactics of abuse to instil fear in the victim and maintain control over them.
Usually, this may begin as they start their relationships and their tactics begin as soon as the abuser wants to explore the possibility of a long-term relationship.
We have witnessed how victims have been won over by isolating victims from friends and families.
Sometimes, these can be over ordinary visits, such as attending a church service or interacting with a friend or relation, leading to an insensitive tension made out by an abuser as an attack on their victims.
This is violence and abuse that may not often start until after marriage.
But it also can escalate when the victim shows signs that they want to leave the abusive relationship.
It is during this time that experts have encouraged victims to be observant with any plans of the perpetrator and have an alternative plan and support.
Usually, abusers will control the relationship with demands and expectations as this skill is based on the abuser hiding their intentions when they make their initial approach.
According to psychologists, victims of abuse are mostly women.
This is because male abusers are described as people who depend on women to help them express emotions.
Unfortunately, this negative expression has shown why victims only attack their intimate partners because abusers realise that their targets are full of kindness, tolerate them, are always forgiving and will eventually get into their head and undermine and also manipulate them.
Further, you may not realise that abusers feel powerless, but don’t act insecure to cover up the truth.
Yet they are often bullies sharing one thing in common, having power over their victim.
Abusers mostly attack their partners as they are easy prey by pursuing them through expressing love and affection and will not risk becoming abusive until they are confident that the victim will not leave.
A common pattern of abuse between intimate partners is where the perpetrator alternates between violent, abusive and apologetic behaviour with promises to change.
Increasing matters of mental illness being reported in some partners has been noted, which triggers abuse and GBV in some relationships.
However, psychologists have noted that many people with mental health issues do not abuse their partners and if an abuser lives with any mental illness, they simply may have a mental illness and propensity to abuse their partner.
Despite psychological disorders some abusers may exhibit, it is important to take note of the easily identified signs of partner abuse.
Abuse can be a choice made by someone to maintain power and control over you.
Like in Maya Angelou’s words, we need to look no further than some of the words people use.
This can also be true of some people’s actions which can also be revealing.
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