“Violence that occurs between intimate partners does not end with the relationship’s conclusion, yet few resources exist to help survivors move beyond the betrayal of abusive relationships in order to begin new, healthy relationships.”
-“Intimate partner violence doesn’t end with the relationship”, Science Daily, 7/11/18
Some estimates are that one in three women in the United States has experienced violence by a partner, and that one in ten has been raped by a partner.
Abusive behavior by an intimate partner is not, however, limited to physical violence. It can include verbal, emotional, and financial abuse.
All this is experienced as betrayal by the very individual we most trust, the very individual we rely on to support and protect us, the very individual to whom we have committed our lives.
The shame associated with intimate partner violence is likely to carry over into new relationships. This may influence our choice of a new partner.
Once a new relationship has been established, self-esteem issues stemming from the violent relationship can color the routine problems that arise in all relationships. We may wonder whether we deserve love at all.
In the aftermath of abuse, and especially violence, women may close themselves off emotionally, sometimes permanently. This is a protective measure. However, it can undermine new relationships.
Because of past experience, we are likely to doubt our own judgment. Self-doubt may last a long time. But we can, also, learn from our past. Caution is not necessarily a bad thing.
How then do we move beyond betrayal? While there is no formula for recovery (and no specific time frame), there are stages to healing.
- Acknowledging the betrayal. Our initial response is likely to be denial. This is understandable. We simply cannot process betrayal on such a scale. But we must come to terms with reality.
- Stopping self-blame. We naturally analyze a failed relationship, blaming ourselves for having ignored the signs or having failed to leave the relationship earlier. But abuse is not our failure. It is deliberate cruelty by our partner.
- Forgiving ourselves for involvement in the relationship. It was not foolish for us to let our guard down. Vulnerability is a necessary element of intimacy. It does not imply weakness, but rather the courage to be ourselves . We may have made mistakes. But all human beings do.
- Communicating with our new partner. Such communication is key. Past abuse/violence which is kept secret from a new partner becomes a barrier to intimacy. A normal partner will want to understand our behavior, reassure, and comfort us.
We enter relationships in good faith. Though there are no guarantees of success, it is not unreasonable to expect that we be treated with love, respect, and concern.
 Science Daily, “Intimate partner violence doesn’t end with the relationship”, 7/11/18, https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/07/180711141351.htm.
 Psychology Today, “The Real Secret to Intimacy” by Emma Seppala, PhD, 9/5/12, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/feeling-it/201209/the-real-secret-intimacy-and-why-it-scares-us.
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13 responses to “Moving Beyond Intimate Partner Violence”
I don’t know which is more disturbing Anna, the pictures of abused women or the statistics you cite about 1/3 women who may have suffered violence by their intimate partner, or the 1/10 who may have been raped by their partner. Obviously, a man who would do such things does not love his partner, but sees her as merely an object to be used for his personal gratification. This is just wrong on so many levels.
It is enormously encouraging for victims to know that good men like you exist, Ron. Our challenge is to find them.
You are too kind Anna. I know only too well that the only good in me comes from a deep love for God. As a young boy I saw firsthand the abuse you speak of. I had a relative who would beat his wife senseless when he would get drunk, and then cry like a baby afterwards. Many is the time I saw her wearing sunglasses inside the house because her eyes were blackened. You don’t forget something like that. It will always escape me why a person we pledge
to “love, honor, and cherish, till death do us part” all too often becomes the object of our rage.
The simplest answer, I think, is that a partner is accessible. Abusers vent their frustrations w/ the world on a partner in much the way those who are not abusers do. However, abusers choose not to place limits on their actions, which all too often escalate to violence. The executive functions of the pre-frontal cortex govern the impulse control necessary to aggression management. Alcohol use impairs such impulse control. In many cases, that is a contributing factor.
Written very well. Very informative. Great conclusion.
I’m glad you found the post helpful.
Hi Anna. I really love your posts because you never dance around the problems in our days. More importantly, you also always provide possible solutions. I love the guidelines for healing in this post. Probably the hardest part of it all is forgiving oneself and stopping the self-blame and guilt. Thank you for this educative post. ❤
You are such an encouragement to me, Gbolabo! Not only because of your many compliments (however undeserved). But, also, because of your concern for women, in general. It is important for those of us who have suffered from abuse to know that there are good and decent men in the world. Your very existence restores hope to us. ❤
Thank you, Anna. 🙏
It is good of you to stop by.
Those who have been hurt can find it hard to trust again.
Very true, Chris.
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