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Student discusses violence

Sarah Mayer | Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Saint Mary’s senior social work major Connie Adams explained the cycle of violence and the way women think in abusive relationships during a lecture in Vander Vennet Theater Tuesday.

Adams drew on her internship at the YWCA center for domestic violence victims to try to portray the realities of violence in relationships to those in attendance.

In a brief overview Adams explained that two to four women are physically abused and between the ages of 18-64 one in four women will have been abused.

Abuse can be done in many forms, she said. It can be physical (shoving, blocking exits rape), verbal (yelling, sarcasm, insults), emotional (stalking, ignoring, mind games), sexual and financial.

Adams also addressed the issue of gender in abusive relationships.

“I am going to be referring to the abuser as ‘he’ and the victim as ‘she’ because in 90 percent of the cases the women are the victim,” Adams said.

In most abusive relationships the beginning is very normal, she said, due to feelings of new, exciting attraction. But, Adams said things change when the abuser starts asking questions, such as who the victim is going to be with, where she is going, what she is doing, what she is wearing, that may not seem abusive at first but ultimately are possessive.

“Maybe she has a big midterm to study for and she needs to leave and he blocks her exit or pulls her back on the futon – it’s the little acts,” Adams said.

The abuse may just start with a slap across the face then an immediate apology. The women tend to look past that though.

“Women always look at how the relationship started and think he’s a human being, he cannot be all bad,” she said.

Adams related everything she said to the three-step “cycle of violence.”

The first step is the “honeymoon” phase, she said. The abuser apologizes for the violence, he promises to go to counseling and sometimes purchases gifts for the woman.

Following that stage is the “tension building” stage, she said. The abuser uses jealousy as a weapon and belittles the person and attacks their self-esteem.

“Many women want to speed up the tension building phase because that is worse than the actual abuse”, according to Adams. “Women are nurturing and want to tame the lion so they might instigate the abuse.”

The final stage is the “explosion” phase, an extreme increase in physical, verbal or sexual abuse with threats to kill or harm, Adams said.

Often times the honeymoon phase is shortened and the explosion phase is longer as the abuse continues.

Adams said that abuse is about power and control.

“Men play mind games,” said Adams, giving the example of a woman leaving their keys in a dish next to the door, the man taking the keys and then acting like he has no idea where they are. When the woman is in another room looking for them, he would then put the keys back and act like they were there the whole time.

In retrospect the abuser knows what he is doing, she said.

“He is always damaging her stuff because he knows it will hurt her more,” Adams said.

She also said that anyone can be an abuser because there is not a correct stereotype of what men will abuse a woman.

“It does not matter what size, class or color,” she said. “Abusers can be charismatic, intelligent, and religious but they can also be manipulative and justified in that what they do is always ok.”