Harassed, beaten, intimidated – Why a violent partner will not leave anyway

It sounds unbelievable when we hear stories about relationships where one partner uses violence on the other, sometimes for years, and yet the relationship continues. What can it be that keeps those affected with their violent partners despite all the suffering? And what are the long-term consequences?

Basic facts

  • Violence can occur in any partnership – regardless of age, social class or sexual orientation.
  • Over a lifetime, around 3.8% of women and 1.3% of men in Germany have been affected by physical and sexual violence in a partnership.
  • The figures for general experiences of violence, however, are significantly higher, as violence perpetrated psychologically is more difficult to record
  • Physical, sexual and certain forms of psychological violence are prohibited by law and are grounds for the police to initiate criminal proceedings.

Violence has many faces

When we hear the word violence, we often first think of beatings, physical assaults, and a person losing their temper. But this does not always have to be the case, because violence can start much earlier in a partnership and generally means aggressive behavior with the intention to hurt or control another person. The following three forms of violence can be distinguished:1. Physicalviolence This form of violence is usually also physically visible in the affected person. Rough touching, pushing, hitting, choking or attacks with objects result in bruises, wounds, burns or even fractures. In the worst case, there are even internal injuries that can cause serious long-term damage.2. sexual violenceIn this form of violence, the violent partner goes beyond the boundaries of the person affected and pushes him or her to perform certain sexual acts, up to and including rape. Insinuating looks or remarks can also be part of sexual violence and are not visible to outsiders.3. Psychological violenceThe first two forms of violence usually occur together with psychological violence. Psychological violence, on the other hand, can also occur in isolation and is the form of violence that also most often occurs outside the home environment. This form of violence includes, for example, insults, humiliation, intimidation, spreading rumors, ignoring, suppressing, controlling, threatening, blackmailing or prohibiting other contacts. The insidious thing is that this form of violence leaves no visible traces and for this reason is often not initially seen as violence, especially by the victims. In the context of psychological violence, the term “gaslighting” has come to encompass emotional manipulation and insecurity.

How does violence arise in a partnership?

A relationship usually begins with great infatuation. Violence is usually not an issue at the beginning and is more of a creeping process, which makes it so difficult for those affected to perceive it. At the beginning, the violent partner in a relationship is aggressive, irascible or jealous from time to time. Especially after the first violent assault, both the perpetrator and the affected partner are usually shocked by the act. They apologize for the terrible behavior and promise that it will never happen again. However, in the course of time, the intervals between the acts of violence become shorter and shorter and the severity of the violence increases. In essence, violence is based on a power imbalance and dependence between the partners. Difficult life circumstances such as addictions, financial debts or changes due to a job loss or the birth of a child can also have a favorable effect.

Devastating consequences

The range of consequences of violence in a partnership is enormous! Consequences can be short or long term, physical, psychological, economic, social or material:

  • Broken bones, damaged internal organs, scars, venereal diseases, infertility.
  • Psychosomatic diseases such as stomach ulcers, migraine or circulatory disorders
  • Psychological diseases such as anxiety disorders, depression, sleep disorders, eating disorders
  • Panic attacks, feelings of shame and guilt, low self-esteem, self-harm, use of drugs, suicide attempts
  • Loss of job due to frequent absences
  • Loss of all possessions due to an escape from the violent partner, renunciation of alimony and compensation payments due to fear of further violence
  • Loss of social network due to shielding or fear of becoming a victim of the environment itself

Further, very decisive, effects of violence in the partnership have on the children. In most cases, they are witnesses to the acts of violence and are often affected as well. This not infrequently ensures that the children are traumatized and internalize destructive behaviors and gender roles themselves. In addition, they often feel responsible for the violence and are also hurt by the attempts to intervene. Depending on the age group, a wide variety of psychological and physical consequences can occur as a result of the traumatization, just as they do for the affected partner. Unfortunately, there is also a high risk that children from a violent household will later become victims or perpetrators themselves in their partnership.

Why victims do not leave their abusers

From the outside, it seems so natural to end such a relationship at any cost and immediately seek protection. However, this is often not so easy for those affected, because especially in the case of violence over a longer period of time, the support from a no longer existing social environment is missing and those affected lose their courage. They withdraw further and further and may even develop perceptual disorders and changes in their values. Precisely this often leads to the assumption from the outside that they do not want to contribute anything to the improvement of the situation. In this case, only the condition occurs in the affected persons that can also be observed in persons in hostage situation: they adapt to their perpetrator in order to survive. Thus, the point is also very important that affected persons often take the blame on themselves and assume that if they change themselves and no longer provoke their partner so often, everything will be better. Their self-esteem is so low that they feel ashamed to be so awful and don’t leave the relationship because no one else would put up with them. Fear of the violent partner’s reaction if left also plays a role. The list of reasons not to end a violent relationship is endless, the following additional points often play a role:

  • The environment only knows the “dream partner” and the affected person is not taken seriously
  • Society can also be the reason for staying in such a relationship: traditions, religion, family ideals
  • Financial dependence or a joint business
  • Between death threats and expressions of love: The person involved loves the perpetrator and is afraid of separation pain
  • Children can also be a reason for not separating, as they are supposed to grow up with both parents and are believed not to witness the violence.
  • Fear of losing the children, as the partner concerned could be said to be psychologically unstable.
  • Equally, there may be a fear of being outed – for example in an LGBTQ+ relationship.
  • Disability and associated dependency of the affected partner
  • Lack of knowledge about support services or ways out of the situation

Ways out and help

As hopeless as the situation may seem, there is a growing offer of help for people affected by violence in a partnership:help hotline “Violence against women ” – around the clock at 08000 116 016, chat and e-mail advice at https://www.hilfetelefon.de/. Help hotline“Violence against men ” – Mon-Thu 08:00-20:00 and Fri 08:00-15:00 at 0800 123 9900, chat and e-mail advice at https://www.maennerhilfetelefon.de/.Weisse Ring e.V. – telephone advice daily from 07:00-22:00 at 116 006, online advice at https://weisser-ring.de/haeuslichegewalt.shelters for women – https://www.frauenhauskoordinierung.de/hilfe-bei-gewalt/frauenhaus-und-fachberatungsstellensucheshelters for men – https://www.maennergewaltschutz.de/beratungsangebote/maennerschutzeinrichtungen/Acute help – In case of immediate danger, call the police immediately on 110! In addition, it is advisable to come to terms with what has happened and to seek support in the context of psychotherapy and/or self-help groups. If they are not affected themselves, they are nevertheless attentive in their surrounding field, straight with strong isolation affected ones can look for themselves only with difficulty for assistance. The earlier affected persons are helped, the more long-term consequences can be avoided!

Verena Klein
Author Verena Klein
"LIMES Schlosskliniken specializes in the treatment of mental and psychosomatic illnesses. With the help of the blog, we as a clinic group would like to examine the various mental illnesses in more detail and present different therapies as well as current topics."

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