The dynamics of domestic violence are different than other forms of violence because the abuse occurs at the hands of someone the victim loves and trusts and is part of a long-term pattern, creating circumstantial dependences that complicate the ability for the victim to leave. Most domestic violence relationships don’t start out violent.
Domestic violence tends to progressively increase in severity. It is not uncommon for relationships that end with domestic violence to begin healthy and happy. In fact, it is this process of progression of abuse that complicates a survivor’s feelings about an abuser and makes it harder to leave or get help.
“At the beginning of our marriage, things were ok. We loved each other very much. I can’t remember when exactly it started, but he would get very nervous and upset for nothing. I was trying to do everything I could to please him but it seemed nothing worked. I thought once we had a baby, it would bring us closer, but while I was pregnant he would get very angry at me, saying that all I think is about the baby. He started hitting me, even in my belly. I was so sad and scared and afraid of losing the baby, but then he would come with flowers and apologize. I loved him and when he would apologize I guess I believed him. I thought that things would improve but instead they consistently got worse. Years passed and the beatings got worse and worse and more and more frequent.
I don’t know why he was beating me - I tried to understand, but it was like there was always something unexpected that would make him explode. I can’t remember. One time, when the beating was very severe, I could not speak, and my lips and eye were swollen, he pleaded with me to forgive him. He said he would change and was super nice to me and brought gifts to the kids and helped out around the house. I thought maybe he got scared that he could have killed me or that I might leave him. I even felt sorry for him because he looked so lost. And I didn’t know what to do. I was ashamed to say anything to anyone.
I thought about leaving but I had no money and no place to go. I thought that the kids needed to have a father. But they were afraid too. My eldest daughter at the age of 5 started to wet her bed at night. I felt she was very scared of her father. I was hoping that the last beating would be the last time, but then it seemed that everything was repeating again and again. All his gentleness went away. He forced himself to have sex with me even during days I didn’t feel well or once when I had a fever.
One day, after 9 years of marriage he threatened to kill me. He took the kitchen knife and waved it at me. I thought I was going to die. I realized then that I had to get away... He was becoming uncontrollable and I could not tell what would happen next. I still remember how much I loved him. Sometimes I can still feel it."
Anahit, age 33
As seen in Anahit’s story, abuse is often part of a complicated relationship that includes positive and loving moments that confuse and manipulate the victim, making it very difficult for the woman to leave the abusive relationship especially when there are children and financial dependency.