Trauma & Domestic Violence
Post-traumatic stress disorder is defined in terms of the trauma itself and the person's response to the trauma. Trauma occurs when a person has experienced, witnessed, or been confronted with a terrible event that is an actual occurrence. Alternatively, the person may have been threatened with a terrible event, perhaps injury (physical or psychological) or death to themselves or others. Then, the person's response to the event or to the threat involves intense fear, helplessness, and/or horror.
It is important to note, however, that having strong reactions to trauma is normal. What's more, there is a range (spectrum) of expected reactions depending on a person's prior exposure to trauma and even on hereditary (genetic) factors. Most importantly, you should understand that there are efficient and effective treatments for PTSD.
Domestic violence is all too common in American families. In almost 20 percent of all marriages, couples slap, shove, hit, or otherwise assault each other. Emotional abuse—verbal threats, humiliating or degrading remarks, and controlling behavior—is even more common. If you or someone you love is in an abusive relationship, help is available.
Marital violence is especially common among young couples, and, without intervention, may escalate in intensity or frequency. In many marriages, violence begins with shoving or pushing. Couples frequently ignore early aggressive incidents and believe that once current stressors end, the violence will end. However, even minor acts of violence can escalate over time, increasing the risk of injury or even homicide.
If the violence has not escalated to the point that you are fearful, but you or your partner recognize that the way you argue is not healthy and want to prevent destructive arguing from destroying your marriage or escalating to battering, there is a variety of options available to you.
Anger management and victim support groups are often suggested. You may also want to seek marital therapy if you are both committed to ending the violence and improving the marriage. Marital therapists work with couples to develop strategies for resolving conflict without violence. Make sure that your therapist knows about the violence in your relationship and has experience and training working with marital violence. Through domestic violence–focused marital treatment, couples are given tools to eliminate violence, resolve conflict, and improve marital relationships.
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