The No-Brainer

This week’s SEP put us back on our trek through the lives of Mate and Quaint. (If you have not been introduced, stop by their page to see about whom we are speaking.) One of the issues which came up in our discussion, and was evidenced by the poll in the post, was the basic disagreement as to what should be considered abusive.

Most in the discussion, and indeed most of the poll takers so far, have no issue seeing unwanted, violent, non-sexual, physical contact as abuse. What a mouthful. Physical abuse is considered the no-brainer of the types of abuse.

What is physical abuse?

With all its qualifiers, you would think there would be a small list of actions which fit the criteria. Think again.

  • Amputation
  • Biting
  • Bludgeoning (hitting victim with an object)
  • Blunt force trauma (hitting victim against a foreign surface)
  • Branding
  • Burning (flame or acid)
  • Choking
  • Cutting
  • Disfigurement
  • Dosing with drugs (legal and illegal)
  • Hair-pulling
  • Hanging
  • Kicking
  • Pinching
  • Poisoning
  • Punching/Slapping
  • Removal of piercings/body modifications
  • Shooting
  • Stabbing
  • Strangulation

Other acts qualify for this list beyond these twenty (20).

It’s okay?

Even with all its caveats, it is hard to believe we cannot agree to the definition. In fact, many cultures only consider these behaviors abusive if they occur between strangers or those not in a marital (significant other, cohabitation, dating) relationship. In terms of spouses and those who are dating, they are not crimes.

When these crimes are committed against strangers or even friends, they are battery, aggravated battery (first or second degree battery) or, depending on consequences, attempted murder. In some cases, these behaviors result in death and are murder.

But it is not okay.

Many countries have laws to protect spouses and partners from abuse. If you are not sure if your partner or spouse is committing abuse, put the act to the test:

If it is a crime for a partner or spouse to commit these acts of violence against a stranger, it is physical abuse.

Physical abuse occurs many more times than it is reported or prosecuted. In short, the last portion of the cycle ensures it will happen again.

The Cyclone

Physical abuse is a by-product of anger and/or resentment. In the first stage of the cycle, the abuser will use words to expel the anger toward the victim in ridicule, insults, derogatory remarks and/or threats. The victim will often do anything necessary to dispel the anger, but never gets to or eliminates the root cause of it.

In the second stage, the abuser perceives (real or otherwise) an infraction by the victim. Whether it is an overt act or inaction (such as not keeping a promise which calmed the abuser in the first stage), a rage builds in the abuser. The rage breaks the dam of reason, inhibition and decorum and manifests in violence.

The last and third stage of physical abuse is the cooling down period. As the rage dissipates, the abuser will apologize and promise not to repeat the violence.

During the third stage, many victims will abandon charges against the abuser. In certain jurisdictions, prosecutors will continue to press charges without the help or cooperation of the victim, although these cases are by far the minority.

Since the cause of the anger or rage has never been addressed, it remains just beneath the surface of the abuser’s psyche. Everyday life, perceived infractions by the victim and random events will trigger the rage, and the violence repeats.

More violent. More often. Deadly.

Most commonly, this behavior is called a cycle. In truth, it is more often a cyclone. It circles loosely in the beginning. Over time, the circles become closer together, more powerful and more frequent.

The first instances of violence will be very opportunistic, they will occur at a tipping point. As the cycle repeats, the first stage will become more hurtful and shorter; the second more violent; and the third more manipulative, often overlapping the beginnings of the next first stage.

Breaking the Cycle

Outside intervention rarely breaks the cycle until either the abuser or the victim participate fully in changing the circumstances.

If the abuser recognizes the behavior as abusive, counseling is often the prescription to treat the underlying anger. Victims will often participate in such therapy and assist abusers in treatment. These instances are rare.

If the victim recognizes the abuse, breaking the cycle is more difficult because there are more steps than merely getting help. The victim must:

  • Admit abuse exists.
  • Admit being a victim.
  • Want the abusive relationship to end.
  • Decide to help the abuser get help OR
  • Decide to leave the situation.
  • Leave and stay gone despite third stage efforts by the abuser to reconcile.

Victims have a very difficult time breaking the cycle, even when they have outside assistance.

Crap Shoot

In the discussion last night, many expressed the futility of trying to help victims. In more cases than not, it is futile to intervene because the victim will not go though the steps listed above and the abuser will do nothing to change. The cycle will continue.

Do not be deterred.

Just because someone you attempt to help may not want it does not mean someone who desperately needs and wants your help is not out there waiting for (someone, anyone, you) to intervene.

Be Safe

If you choose to intervene, do so carefully. Occasionally, victims will turn on those who intervene. Often, abusers will attempt to dominate those who intervene. Enter a violent situation with caution.

Contact authorities. Even if you believe the abuser and the victim when they say the situation is under control, you have witnessed a crime. Where victims may fear the intervention of a random person or a friend, they may take police intervention.

You cannot see through leather.

Be aware of the behavior of those around you and especially of those you love. Abusers do not wear uniforms. They blend in with the crowd. They are often charming and disarming. All are manipulating.

Not all physical abuse leaves bruises. Joints are dislocated. Blows are struck to the scalp. Asphyxiation rarely leaves marks for more than a few moments. Drugging and attempted drownings leave few physical marks. Broken toes stay hidden inside shoes. Victims act differently around their abusers. Be aware of the changes.


Have you seen or known other types of physical abuse than the 20 listed above? Are there domestic violence laws in your country? What do you think the most effective way to break the cycle of violence is? Have you ever considered the cycle to be a cyclone?


M3 will never endorse staying in an abusive relationship. If you are the victim of abuse or know a victim of abuse, contact your local law enforcement. Help is available. If you need assistance finding help, fill out the form.

(c) Ann Marie Dwyer 2012
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  1. OK>..somehow I missed the point about the foot picture??
    Bearman recently posted..Editorial Cartoon: Facepalm – Facebook goes PublicMy Profile

  2. A powerful and most helpful posting that everyone needs to read over and over again, to familiarise oneself with the warning signs and where possible do all that one can to help the victim, but being careful not to put oneself in any danger.

    An excellent posting Red 🙂

    Androgoth XXx

    • Red

       /  May 23, 2012

      Thank you, Andro. I have seen so many who never showed a bruise, but were physically abused. I hope others will recognize some of the behvior changes before we finish this series. Red.

  3. Why is my first reaction to this topic – Shoot the SOB? Once in the kneecap and after said abuser is writhing on the ground, put them out of their misery with a follow up shot.

    This gut reaction is especially true when the victims are children.
    MJ Logan recently posted..JD to the Rescue!My Profile

    • Red

       /  May 23, 2012

      Because you are admitting your visceral reaction. I have a similar one.

  4. Leslea Tash

     /  May 21, 2012

    Dealing with abusive neighbors. Finding it hard to get support in that, too. Keep getting told if it’s not domestic violence, it’s probably legal. I’ve read the Indiana code & I’m calling bullshit. Sad situation.

    Leslea Tash recently posted..The hag is a child-eating creature of human appearance, though likely to have more warts than the…My Profile

  5. I think that can be a real problem in some of the borderline cases, where the victim doesn’t want to end the relationship, and may not even think of it as abuse. Then it’s very hard for anyone, even the law or the courts, to do much about it. At least until it gets worse.
    Binky recently posted..Original MapMy Profile

    • Red

       /  May 23, 2012

      And the shame of it, when it gets worse, there is no coming back.

  6. The most important, stay out of the situation; don’t intervene unless you can do so safely. If it is a physically violent situation, call the police. If it is after the fact, get in touch with a local shelter if and only if the victim agrees to leave.

    I know, sounds harsh but the fact is if the victim doesn’t agree to leave you are at risk from both parties.

    Wonderfully done my sister
    valentinelogar recently posted..Picking My Battles WiselyMy Profile

    • Red

       /  May 23, 2012

      Thank you. You are right. In those instances, the only thing to do is to alert authorities.

  7. You have a fair idea of my family history and what you describe here is a similar pattern with my father whose abuse started small, then got worse and worse, mum too scared to get help even when it was offered for fear what dad would do in reprisal.

    Dad was a charmer, using his sob stories to get women into bed, or turning nasty if he didn’t get his way.

    When he failed to sell me to local paedophile gangsters involved in child prostitution, child porn and blackmailing their clients he attacked my mother in front of me.

    Somehow his failure was all her fault in his eyes.

    After that things got worse and worse.

    At first he would beat our mother given the slightest excuse, then turned on his three boys, battering them for the slightest infraction of the rules – rules which changed depending on his mood.

    By the age of eight I had a broken nose and dad was in dead trouble by the time I was ten because he left my younger brother (8yo.) with a bruise the size of a dinner plate on his back.

    Unable to hit us any more he took to hiding our PE kit so we would be caned at school and to killing our pets when he was angry, but unable to touch us.

    He drove mum to a nervous breakdown quite systematically in an effort to break her spirit, but the second time she realised what he was doing and refused to go down the same road twice.

    When she left the first time dad played the pitiful man whose wife had abandoned him and the kids.

    Laundry, cleaning and feeding became a case of us doing without clean clothes, clean beds and often without food.

    You cannot imagine how good it felt to be on free school meals…

    He begged mum’s forgiveness and swore it would never happen again, so mum came back and his promises lasted six weeks – then he turned on his children again…

    Eventually mum left for the second time and he pulled the same self-pity routine on his friends and his mind games on me after coming close to killing me at the age of eight and sixteen.

    My brothers escaped into the Army and served their full career in uniform, retiring as Sergeant instructors with several decorations each.

    I was trapped in that hell-pit as dad’s paying slave, dad constantly belittling me and playing his mind games until he demanded all my income or else he would throw me out.

    Luckily I had a g/f who had a place and I left and was homeless for six weeks after which I got my current home.

    Dad demanded I come home when he suddenly realised his had nobody to cook for him, do his laundry and keep the house clean as well as paying for the privilege.

    Because I refused he issued one of his infamous death threats and I found myself having to watch out for his car as he had threatened to run me down on sight.

    Today he is ostracised by the entire family as a liar, bully, coward and thief, only my youngest brother forgiving him as he is a born again Christian and his wife insisted.

    Three times he has sworn to kill me and yet I am still here…

    Love and hugs!

    prenin recently posted..Sunday – The sleep confusion continues…My Profile

    • Red

       /  May 23, 2012

      He sounds as though all which remains is the threats because he is no longer in the position to harm anyone. Eventually, karmic justice is served when abusers are alone with no one who trusts them. It takes away all of their power. Glad you have no further contact with him. {HUGZ} Red.

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