It’s sometimes difficult to tell the difference between a relationship that’s unhealthy or dysfunctional, as opposed to a relationship that’s abusive.  Unfortunately, many people misinterpret signs and symptoms of domestic violence, or or turn away with the belief that “it’s none of my business”.  Domestic violence is serious and sometimes fatal, and it’s something we all need to be aware of.

All couples argue or have disagreements.  However, in order to understand the difference between a couple that has an unhealthy or dysfunctional relationship and one where abuse is involved, it’s important to take a look at the Power and Control Wheel.  As part of the “Duluth Model”, the wheel helps to illustrate the various forms of abuse that one partner commits against the other.  There are a couple of things to take note of: at the center of the wheel is power and control – the different pieces of the “pie” illustrate the different forms of abuse that one uses to exert power and control against the other.  Domestic violence is not a one-time incident, and sometimes never involves physical or sexual assault.  What helps to set domestic violence apart from other types of “bad” relationships is the pervasive pattern of abuse.

In addition to what the wheel illustrates is the Cycle of Violence.  Not all relationships follow the same pattern, but often there will be a tension building phase, where victims often describe walking on eggshells around the abuser.  This is followed by an explosion or incident, where physical, sexual, or other types of abuse have peaked.  After this occurs is usually the honeymoon phase.  You can expect a lot of apologizing, making promises to change, buying flowers or other grand gestures.  Sometimes, victims never experience the honeymoon phase, but the cycle continues.

If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, it’s important to know that you’re not alone.  Approximately 1 in 3 women have been physically assaulted by an intimate partner in their lifetime, and 1 in 4 have experienced domestic violence as a whole (National Coalition Against Domestic Violence).  Over 7 million children live in families where severe domestic violence occurs (Futures Without Violence).  There is help and you have resources available to you.

In Bergen County, the Center for Hope and Safety provides residential safe house services for women needing to leave an abusive relationship safely, as well as clinical services for children.  Alternatives to Domestic Violence provides community education/training, counseling and legal advocacy, as well as batterer intervention groups.  For victims who need support with parenting, the Nurtured Parent Support Group is another great resource.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness month.  Even if you believe you are not impacted by domestic violence, you can educate yourself, attend events such as the Clothesline Project, or make a donation to your local domestic violence program.  Or, you can just be supportive of someone experiencing this horrible behavior.

In the long-term, therapy can also be incredibly helpful in healing from trauma.  If you believe therapy could be beneficial in your journey, please call Specialized Therapy Associates so our intake specialists at 201-488-6678 to discuss options and meet with a trained therapist.