Sheryl Isaacs is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. She is currently working in Scotts Valley seeing clients in private practice.
Sheryl has worked with families and children that have experienced a wide range of issues including: anxiety, trauma, depression, autism, ADHD, developmental issues, behavioral issues, divorce,
bulimia, grief, communication and self esteem issues.
She provides parental coaching, child therapy, sibling counseling, family therapy, marriage counseling, and individual counseling.
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Cycle of Domestic Violence
Domestic violence (DV) can occur in many areas of a relationship. It can be physical, emotional, sexual or psychological abuse. DV occurs when one partner tries to control the other partner in these areas. The DV follows a pattern. It is referred to as the "cycle of violence."
The household will experience a time of tension. At this time the abuser is looking for an excuse to abuse. Blaming occurs and the partner has a sense of "walking on eggshells" to keep the peace in the household. This morphs into the abusive phase. This is when the abuse occurs. It is important to remember that DV occurs physically, mentally,emotionally, economically and sexually. DV is not just physical abuse.
After the abuse period comes the "honeymoon" phase. The abuser may agree to do things that you have been wanting them to do or stop doing things that you have asked them to stop. They will "promise you the moon" to keep you in the relationship. This is when the abuser will apologize, give gifts and appear to have changed. If you listen closely when the apology occurs you can hear blame. The abuser may apologize, but the blame will be placed on your shoulders. The apology may include these phrases:
"Why do you make me do this?"
" If you weren't so ________ I would not do this."
"If you had not ___________ I would not have gotten so angry."
"Anyone would have a hard time if they were in my situation and would have been a lot harder on you."
Minimization occurs during this phase by both partners. It is difficult because you want to believe that real change is occurring and that this time the abuser will be different.
DV is learned behavior. Many partners that batter grew up in a home in which they witnessed DV. This is a family pattern that has been reinforced. Partners that are abusive need professional help to change their behavior. Change takes time and many programs are a year long. Many batterers refuse to seek treatment and are unable to see that this learned behavior is wrong.
In the book, He Promised He'd Stop by Michael Groetsch,you can find more information about batterer types and the likelihood of change. You can also find more information listed on the Power and Control Wheel. It details the various forms of abuse in a relationship and gives clear examples. On the Freedom and Equality Wheel you can find actions and behaviors that occur in a healthy relationship.
Signs of Domestic Violence
Domestic violence begins slowly. If the abuser were to immediately start abusing they would not be able to find someone willing to be in a relationship with them. This is why it is so difficult for many people to understand that they are being courted by an abuser. In the beginning the abuser may seem to be a great person. They will look to fill needs and desires that you have been looking for such as a father figure, desire for a family or need to be cared for. Abusers can be very charming. In the beginning there may seem to be a few things that crop up as a concern about the relationship, but they minimized by the abuser.
There are some red flags that you can pay attention to when in a relationship. Pay attention to these signs:
*Excessively jealous-needing to know where you are all the time, texting/calling numerous times a day to keep track of where you are and who you are with, questioning you after periods of time away from them.
*Volatile-"has a short fuse," blames others/you when things go wrong, yells/name calls.
*Make threats- either about self-harm, harming friends or family, pets, strangers or you
*Tries to limit your contact with family and friends
*Puts you down, humiliates you, embarrasses you-the abuser may try to pass off the behavior as a "joke"
*Pushes/shoves or restricts movement by holding you down- the abuser may try to minimize behavior to keep you in the relationship.
*You feel "crazy" when with this person
*You "walk on egg shells" to not anger this person
*You feel that you can not do anything right around this person
*You notice that your self-esteem is being affected
*You feel helpless when with this person
*You feel that there is something "not right" in the relationship
TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS!
Abuse becomes "the normal" when you are in it. Your mind begins to rationalize the behavior and the abuser convinces you that it is your fault. It makes me think of the story about cooking a frog in a pot. If you want to cook the frog you cannot put him in a pot of boiling water, he would jump out of it. If you put him in a pot of cold water and turn the heat on. The water warms slowly. The frog is not aware that he is getting cooked. This is domestic violence in a nutshell. Slowly you become used to the abuse. It becomes your new "normal."
Abusers pick who they abuse. There is a controlled effort to lower your self-esteem. They want you to feel that "no one else would have you," and that "you are lucky" to be with them. Isolation from friends and family makes it easier for the abuser to abuse you. They do not want you to have a support system to help you see what the truth is. They will try to destroy relationships with those that you love. Intimidation and threats are used to keep you "where you should be." You are expected to do what they want, when they want. It is about control. Being in a relationship with an abuser is crazy making.
If you feel that you are in an abusive relationship get help. You will need support and safety to leave the relationship. There are some local resources in Santa Cruz County available to help. Click on the links below for more information:
Walnut Women's Center 24 Hour help line
Defense de Mujeres
Women's Crisis Support 685-3737
Provides emergency shelter for DV and sexual assault victims
Look for part two of this series:
Part Two: Domestic Violence and Children