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Domestic Violence  

Dear Gerda:

My partner is great except for one thing. Sometimes he gets really angry and blows up at me and the kids. At first it was only happening every few months, but now it is happening more frequently. Twice he has gotten so angry that he slapped me. How do I get him to stop?

Your partner is using his anger and physical violence to control you and your children. This constitutes domestic violence. The violence usually occurs in the pattern you have described. Initially the outbursts are episodic; with time they become more frequent and usually escalate from verbal to physical. Physical and verbal abuse carries serious effects. You should seriously consider the protection of yourself and your children. Studies have shown that children who have witnessed or experienced domestic violence may develop serious emotional, behavioral, and academic problems. This includes depression.

The experience of domestic violence carries a lot of shame and may result in an attempt to deny the abuse or withdraw from family and friends. Most victims fail to seek help because of fear of retaliation from the abuser. Domestic violence by an intimate partner knows no age, ethnic, social, financial, or religious boundaries. You did not mention any attempts you have made to let him know your feelings about his abusive behavior or his attitude after each episode.

You mentioned that your partner is great. It may surprise you to find out that most abusers appear to be great people. Abusers control their anger well toward other people or in dealing with the public. They aim their anger towards intimate partners and family members at home. Most abusers have been abused themselves and have difficulty coping with their own fear and anger. They have difficulty admitting to themselves that they are in pain and are hurting. This could show the world that they are weak.

You cannot solve a problem until its existence is acknowledged.  If you are not afraid of your partner and have determined that you are safe in your home, then it is time to educate yourself and your partner about abuse. Seek to involve a person that your partner respects. Help him to recognize the cycle of each angry and abusive outburst. He may need professional help to help him resolve his abusive past and to learn better ways to cope with anger and stress.

You also need to recognize the cycle of his angry and physical outburst.  Find a place and ways to distance yourself. Build yourself a social network of friends, family, and other supporters. Work on improving your financial situation. This will give you more life choices. Professional counseling could help to set boundaries and rebuild trust in the relationship. Should the abuse continue, make a plan to provide a safe place for your children and leave.

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