Saturday, November 2, 2019

"Just Hit Me" - The Power of the Cycle of Violence

I wrote a paper recently on the reason why women stay in domestic violence.  One of the reasons I explored is the Cycle of Violence.  I was asked by my professor to share some of that information with the class today.  As I was thinking about what I most wanted to get across, I saw a connection in my journey that I had never seen before. 

Here is what Domestic Violence Roundtable has to say about the Cycle: In 1979, psychologist Lenore Walker found that many violent relationships follow a common pattern or cycle. The entire cycle may happen in one day or it may take weeks or months. It is different for every relationship and not all relationships follow the cycle—many report a constant stage of siege with little relief.
This cycle has three parts:
  1. Tension building phase—Tension builds over common domestic issues like money, children or jobs. Verbal abuse begins. The victim tries to control the situation by pleasing the abuser, giving in or avoiding the abuse. None of these will stop the violence. Eventually, the tension reaches a boiling point and physical abuse begins. 
  2. Acute battering episode—When the tension peaks, the physical violence begins. It is usually triggered by the presence of an external event or by the abuser’s emotional state—but not by the victim’s behavior. This means the start of the battering episode is unpredictable and beyond the victim’s control. However, some experts believe that in some cases victims may unconsciously provoke the abuse so they can release the tension, and move on to the honeymoon phase. 
  3. The honeymoon phase—First, the abuser is ashamed of his behavior. He expresses remorse, tries to minimize the abuse and might even blame it on the partner. He may then exhibit loving, kind behavior followed by apologies, generosity and helpfulness. He will genuinely attempt to convince the partner that the abuse will not happen again. This loving and contrite behavior strengthens the bond between the partners and will probably convince the victim, once again, that leaving the relationship is not necessary.
On the night my ex and I celebrated one-month-iversary, we attended a Hokus Pick concert. On our way back from the concert we had our first big fight.  I don’t remember what the fight was about, but my ex was yelling at me in the car.  When we got back to the school, I got out of the car and headed straight upstairs to my room.  Our dorms were separated into male and female sides, so he could not follow me upstairs.  I heard him yelling, “Come down here” and “I want to talk to you” but I went to my room.  I was scared and upset that he was yelling at me. After a few minutes, one of the girls from the dorm came to my room and told me that he was downstairs looking for me and that he asked her to come up and get me because he wanted to talk to me. Eventually, I went back downstairs.  He said, “Let’s go to the car and talk.”  I was apprehensive, but I decided to go hear him out. As we walked out the door, I said something to him that I had never said to any other human being in my life… “Just don’t hit me.

Let me stop here for a moment. I grew up in a loving household. I was never hit or abused in any way.  I had relationships with other guys, but I never feared for my physical safety. I was never punched, slapped, kicked, or physically injured. I had no prior experiences that would initiate those four words, “Just don’t hit me.” 

Fast forward to the week my ex was arrested, and keep in mind that for the 11.5 years between the concert and the arrest I was trapped in the Cycle of Violence.  What that means is for 11.5 years, when tension would build, the common way it would dissolve was through physical violence of some kind.  It could also resolve through anger, swearing, making one of us cry, or him breaking something in the house. 

My ex was arrested during the tension-building stage.  That tension continued to build even when he was out of the house.  There was so much unknown and so much uncertainty.  The tension inside my body got very strong, and since I had no coping skills to release the pressure on my own, the only thing I knew that would relieve it would be something physical. I wanted the tension bubble popped so badly that I said to a friend of mine, "Just hit me."

My 11.5 years in the violence cycle warped me so much that it took me from saying, "Just don't hit me" to "Just hit me."  That is how powerful the Cycle of Violence is.