At A Glance: Abuse In Relationships

One of the bitter ironies of life is that abuse actually happens in relationships with high levels of trust. An abuser would not act abusive if he or she did not trust that the victim would not just stay, but also stay quiet. This includes physical abuse as well as emotional abuse. To understand abuse,…


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One of the bitter ironies of life is that abuse actually happens in relationships with high levels of trust. An abuser would not act abusive if he or she did not trust that the victim would not just stay, but also stay quiet. This includes physical abuse as well as emotional abuse. To understand abuse, it is necessary to think of how the conditions for abuse are put in place, and the psychological perceptions of the abuser and the victim.

How it starts

There are three major steps in building a nest for lasting abuse.

Building trust: Most of the times, what spirals into abusive relationships start off lovely as the abuser builds trust with a prospective victim.

Isolation: This second phase has to do with cutting off the prospective victim’s network of trust, and in my opinion, this is indirect emotional abuse. The aim here is to reduce the possible number of people the victim can confine in.

After isolation, a person is prime for abuse because they have no one to go to, coupled with a society that frowns on relationship troubles, and especially for women, the stigma of a failed marriage possibly with children, and an unfriendly biological clock.

Testing: The third phase is to test the limits. The abuser will continue to test the limits of what the victim would take from just using the threat of violence till the violence is fully blown.


The major psychological factors surrounding the abuser can be split into three.

Associated experience with abuse: People with memories of direct abuse or from witnessing domestic violence can form unhealthy association with violence and love making it feel acceptable subconsciously. This is no different to how in certain parts of the world, physically beating children is frowned upon, but in Nigeria it is the most normal practice.

Insecurity: When people feel inadequate to be with someone, it is natural to feel a need to compensate for this position. This is most common in emotional abuse where abusers attack the victim’s self worth to bring him or her down to their level.

Control: Most common with egomaniacs, some people are not capable of not being in control of things around them, and they can stretch this to people too. This is the case when people try to use threats like stopping financial assistance. In societies where women are financially dependent on their men, this can be a very serious problem.


The most popular notion of victim that keeps them silent is the fear that people will judge them for taking too much, e.g How could she take him beating her for 4 years? It’s her fault for staying. To understand abuse it is important to also see it through the eyes of the victim that contributes silence to power the cycle.

Fear of quitting: For some people, the fear of breaking out of an abusive relationship can be enough reason to stay in. This is more common in situation where the abuser have offered a standard of life the victim has become adapted to. It is always worse in cases were a spouse is not financially dependent. There is also much to be said about the fear of harm and even death threatened by abusers. The fear of consequences of leaving can be crippling.

Societal pressure: What will people say? Seemly what we expect to be the last question on the mind of a victim, but this is a very real fear. While we may easily think no one would judge a victim negatively for speaking out, darker parts of the human condition can make us delight in the plight of others, especially those we initially considered perfect. There is also the general negative perception of relationship troubles in society. The same perception that discourages troubled couples to attend marriage therapy is often at play in silencing victims.

Jesus Complex: This is probably the strangest of rationalization, but some victims actually consider their abusers broken and misunderstood. They believe it is up to them to save the abuser from self-destructive patters.


Abuse continues to permeate society because it occurs in silence. Raising awareness, public education, and having safety nets for victims with care for their security and mental condition after breaking out of abusive relationships in necessary. With the right social encouragement and support available for victims, the first step words sorting abuse would be complete. Help should also be made available to abusers that might require rehabilitation.

Image via Diary of a Black Child


  1. dee
    Spot on!
    We often forget that abuse does vary. It’s more than physical abuse. Emotionally & verbally too. I was a victim of verbal abuse at a time. My ex always tried to make me feel small with his words. Always degraded me & my accomplishments. I began to feel empty Thank God it didn’t lead to depression and the rest.
  2. Deehvahrzz
    It’s sad that in this century, people still die as a result of domestic violence.. It’s still the woman’s fault.
    We need more awareness on this issue. If he dreams of hitting me, am out the door already.
    No man is sadly worth looking your life over.
  3. cece
    when you talk about domestic violence, is there anyway a child can be the victim with his/her parents the abusers? even under the claim of discipline ie “not sparing the rod so as not to spoil the child”
    1. Gabriel Shaze
      Yes Cece. I believe so.

      Imagine the child who is naturally curious and imaginative being constantly rained words like

      “See your big head”
      “Why can’t you ever do things right?” “You’re just useless”
      You know what they say, when you hear something false repeatedly, you might begin to think its true.

      And the downward spiral begins from there.

  4. Olushola
    Is disheartening that a lot of people still suffer and/or indulge abuse in their relationships. Whatever form it takes, no matter the circumstances involved, nobody deserves to he abused and I wonder why people remain in abusive relationships.
    Women definitely suffer more unfortunately, as indicated by a report that women suffer about 70% of abuses ranging from social, domestic to emotional.
    I adore women who bear it though, you just have to acknowledge that some are just strong and tough to have endured because they said “together till death do us part” .
    God bless women.
    1. BlackPearl
      No offense but but that’s horrible adoration. Bearing abuse should not be the case, that’s how people die! Abusers almost never change. Are you to bear until he kills you? Abeg don’t adore ooo
      1. Olushola
        Not adoring the abuse. I adore their strength and resilience. They will survive anything.
        Nobody has to bear it, nobody should stay where they are abused but those who do should be respected. It takes a lot to handle such disrespect.
      2. Olushola
        Struggled with expressing myself in the earlier reply.
        Just as some would feel pity for the abused, what I feel is respect for their strength and commitment to their vows. When others label it foolishness or cowardice to remain in the marriage (emphasizing marriage and notndating- if he abuses you when you’re not married, just arrange to get him beaten), I call it wisdom, discipline, resilience, strength, bravery and trustworthiness.
        1. Pinkette
          I can assure you that if, your sister or anybody directly related to you finds herself in a marriage where abuse and domestic violence is the order of the day, you will not feel respect for her ‘strength to endure’. You will do everything within your power to get her out of that situation. You will not call it widom, discipline, strength, resilience or bravery if you see your daughter covered with bruises and living in a shadow of her former self because she made a ‘vow’. You will then remember that the man bringing this horror upon your child or sister also made a vow too and should uphold his own end of the vow. Trust me, the first thing that would come to your mind is to remove your child/sister from that situation, even against her will. It won’t be admiration or trustworthiness I can assure you.

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