Many times I have heard it said that abuse is on the rise because unemployment statistics are high, jobs are being lost, the recession is causing violence.
It’s not true.
Domestic abuse is not caused by financial difficulties. Job loss does not result in violence in the home. What the stress of a recession does is expose, worsen or exacerbate an already abusive situation. A man who is abusive, but spends most of his day at work, away from the home, may restrict his abuse to verbal and emotional abuse. When he loses his job and starts spending most of his time at home, we are inevitably going to see a rise in violence. He’s going to be edgy. He’s going to be impatient. He’s going to be stressed. The level of abuse in the home will naturally increase.
When my ex-husband first hit me, I left him. It was a “mild” incident as it left no bruises or mark, so I considered returning to him, to “work it out”. At the same time, he was given the option to leave his job or be put on probation at work. He chose to take the separation package being offered. His anger level, while working, was so high and his violence was already escalating at home that I realized if I went back to him the children and I would be at risk. I recognized it was unsafe to be around someone who was that angry and already showing violent tendencies. I did not return until he had gone to counseling and obtained a new job.
Abuse is about control. It’s about the abuser having his (or her) needs, wants and desires met. Under stressful economic conditions, they lose a piece of their control. They aren’t as able to have their needs (wants, desires) met because they can’t afford as much, and if they have a family those needs must be met. If they have lost their job, they are at home more often and their proximity to the actions, words and behaviors of their victims will inevitably set them off. Abuse is not caused by external factors.
We all feel this way. We all experience times in our life when the noise and stress of raising children gets on our nerves, when we would do anything for a break from everyday life. We don’t get violent about it. We don’t lash out at those who are annoying or irritating us in the moment. We find a way to deal with our stress.
Domestic violence does rise during difficult economic conditions, but those economic conditions are not the cause of the increase in abuse. If economic downturn caused abuse, it would be far more prevalent than it already is. It is an exacerbating trigger. Someone who becomes physically violent during a recession was already abusive in the home, just not, necessarily, as obviously or as often. Others will see an escalation in the violence, prompting victims to speak up, to seek help, to expose and end the abuse.
Abusers blame everyone and everything, outside of themselves, for their behavior. It is never their fault… Except that it is. It is a choice they make. It is a decision they exercise.
Domestic violence is the sole responsibility of the abuser. On no one else, in no circumstance, no temporary situation, no past experiences, no other area, thing or person can the “cause” of abuse be redirected to anything other than the choices of the abuser.
When we realize that the blame for abuse can only rest on the actions of the abuser then we will start to see change happen. We will support victims and survivors. We will stop making excuses, we will stop justifying the criminal actions of abusers, we will stop accepting it as “normal”.
We must make a change. We must change the way we think, respond and act to those living in domestic violence. We must stop blaming circumstances and hold accountable those whose actions are reprehensible and truly at fault.
An abuser loves it when we blame the economy. It justifies their abuse, their violence. It gives them a socially accepted reason to keep abusing, and that is a horrifying realization.
Domestic violence exists across all economic levels. It exists among the very poor all the way up to the very rich. There is no economic level exempt from domestic violence. How, then, can economic change be the cause of abuse?
Let’s stop talking about the rise of abuse during a recession as if it is an expected or acceptable thing. Let’s stop blaming the circumstances and find a way to stop the abuse.