**WARNING** The content in this topic could trigger you. Domestic violence can be a highly emotionally charged issue.
This information is meant to educate those who have experienced this type of abuse and for those who have witnessed loved ones go through this type of toxic relationship—or may still be in the throes of a relationship involving domestic violence. It is not my intention to add my voice the countless others who disparage domestic violence. There is a time and place for that but that is not here.
If you’re in a relationship where domestic violence has or is occurring or if you have watched or are still watching a loved one in a bad relationship and don’t know why they stay, this if for you.
First, it is essential to identify where the abused person is mentally
Here are the 5 different stages people experience with domestic violence:
Stage 1 Stage of Confusion
Stage 2 Stage of Grace
Stage 3 Stage of Acceptance
Stage 4 Stage of Unacceptance
Stage 5 Stage of Action
First is the stage of confusion which is typically the shortest stage. Depending on one’s unique set of circumstances, this stage could last an hour to several weeks. Typically, the confusion occurs after the first incident of domestic abuse. In this stage, you typically ask “why?”; Why did they hit me? What did I do? Or other questions to that effect.
Next comes the stage of grace. In this stage, one has typically asked the “why” question. They may not actually know why they are being abused and generally, they still believe that their abuser is a good person. They are willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.
“He was probably tired” or “I really pissed her off so of course she took a swing at me”.
In this stage, one honestly believes that the abuse was a one-time event or that the violence will dissipate on its own. Typically, people in this stage do not share that they are being hurt. If they truly believe it will end soon why make trouble?
Eventually they stop believing it will ever change.
At this point, the abused enters stage 3: acceptance. People in this stage may have some understanding that they don’t like what is happening but the abuse makes sense to them. They have been manipulated to believe that their abuse is logical. Typically, people in this stage want to talk to friends or family about the abuse but, when they do bring it up, no one accepts their reasoning as to why the abuse is acceptable. The most common advice they receive from those in whom they have confided is to leave.
However, they generally find this advice unhelpful. Because even at this stage they want to stay in the relationship. They don’t want the abuse, but at the same time, they don’t want to get rid of the abuser. This is a double-edged sword. This lack of understanding causes them to stop talking about it to anyone. People in stage 3 typically do not want someone else to interfere which can be incredibly frustrating if you are a friend or loved one of the abused, because this stage can last for a very long time.
Once the victim finds a supportive yet challenging voice to help them see that they are in fact being abuse and that it won’t change, they will eventually move into stage 4: unacceptance. In this stage they know that at some point the relationship must end.
“But what if there is a kid involved?”
“Or they couldn’t financially support themselves at the income level they want?”
People in this stage will stay with the abuser until it just becomes so unpleasant that its no longer worth the benefits of staying with the abuser. To help someone in this stage is to give them opportunities to leave. Help them learn about safe houses, resources, support groups (online or in person). Help them to physically get out of the situation. People in this stage are usually willing to rely on people who have earned their trust.
Then comes the last stage: action. A person at this stage recognizes that nothing is going to change unless they leave. They also have decided that the relationship it is no longer worth the price they are paying. This is the final stage.
It’s important that you are aware of these different stages, because if you or someone you know is in a domestic violence situation you need to understand that it is a process to get help. People don’t typically leave domestic violence in one go.
If you need help, please contact someone you trust or seek the counsel of a professional. We are here for you.