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Psychological Physical Violence Can Be a Sign of More to Come
Physical violence always creates physical wounds, right? Maybe not ...
Physical violence should be clear-cut, shouldn’t it? If you’re being punched, kicked, strangled, threatened with a weapon, or enduring any other sort of bodily harm, you’re being physically abused. If you’re body isn’t battered, then you’re not being physically abused. Right?
Well, not exactly.
The most obvious tactics are easier to spot, yet physical abuse can come in other forms as well. If a person threatens violence in order to intimidate, terrorize, and control his partner, he’s committing a covert form of physical abuse. Even if he doesn’t touch her, he’s still being physically aggressive.
I call this psychological physical violence (PPV).
Many manipulative personalities use the tactic of PPV to forcefully coerce a partner into submission. This type of intimidation can take the form of damaging property by punching holes in walls, breaking furniture, or throwing items across the room so they dramatically smash to pieces. An abuser may purposely destroy electronics, precious ornaments, photographs, or other items of emotional value, or attack pets. Picking locks to get at their target is another common tactic, as is violently slamming doors, especially when it causes the door or doorframe to crack and splinter.
Using PPV has many advantages for the abuser. It allows him to physically attack and terrorize his victim without feeling the shame of actually laying a hand on her or having to look at the bruises he created. Quite often his excuse for his excessive behaviour is “I was just blowing off steam” or “all guys do this when they’re upset.”
Notice the minimizing language that’s so typical of manipulators:
Merely “blowing off steam” rather than raging, and “upset” rather than “infuriated.”
Is he right? Do all guys punch holes in walls, hurl objects across the room, or kick the cat when they need to “blow off steam”?
Uh, no. Not by a long shot. These are actions of an enraged abusive personality, not of someone with a healthy and justified anger which can be resolved through open and loving communication.
Is he right? Do all men punch holes in walls or hurl objects across the room when they’re angry? Is “toxic masculinity” a real thing?
The best way to find out is to ask a guy! And that’s exactly what I’ve done.
In my next post, I’ve invited a guest blogger to write about traditional masculinity and the prevention of domestic abuse. How exciting! Stay tuned!
Another advantage psychological physical violence has for the perpetrator is that it sends a clear and definite message, without having to say a word.
I’m capable of violence. I’m stronger than you, more powerful than you, and I can do serious damage if I want.
If you’re on the receiving end of this genre of abuse, you may find yourself in a double-bind. On the one hand you’re terrified, and each incident instills yet more terror. The result of prolonged exposure to this sort of violence is often severe yet generalized fear, anxiety, and even panic attacks. PTSD settles in and sets up living space within you. Every sharp, loud, or unexpected noise makes you jump. You tremble, you fear. Life is foggy, hazy, surreal.
Yet you’ve never been physically hurt, so at the same time you may feel a sense of gratitude. Well, at least it’s not that bad, you may think, minimizing the truth so as to be able to cope. It could be worse …
But please, please be aware. It may very well get worse—abuse usually does, unless an abusive person experiences a complete conversion and determines to turn his life around (which happens, but it’s rare).
Or unless you decide to leave.
If neither of those things have happened, and you’re still entangled with your abuser, be vigilant and alert (1 Peter 5:8). Where there’s PPV, actual physical violence is lurking sulkily around the corner—bruises and broken bones and perhaps even worse.
Be aware. Get help. Find a reliable and trustworthy support system.
Abuse of any kind nearly always accelerates the more the cycle of manipulation spins. The periods between “calm/honeymoon” and “tension building/explosion” get shorter and shorter as the weeks, months, years and even decades go by.
If you’re experiencing psychological physical violence, take this as a red flag that the next time his fist may be aimed at you rather than the wall. If you’re afraid this may happen, even though it never has before, that’s your intuition, the still small Voice within (1 Kings 19:12), telling you to pay attention and to seek help. There are people out there who can love you and support you, no matter where you may find yourself today. Even if you currently feel the dread of hopelessness, please know that your situation is not hopeless. Ever. Reach out. Seek help, and you will find.
“Let not your hearts be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me … Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you … Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid … in Me you may have peace … be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 14:1,27, 16:33)
“God is faithful, and He will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing He will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.” (1 Cor 10:13)