Cognitive Distortion in Victims of Domestic Abuse

Mon, Oct 12, 2020 2-minute read

Victims of intimate partner violence use certain cognitive survival strategies that distort reality they vary depending on individual differences and the evolutionary stage of abuse.

There are different phases in violence which can progress or stagnate at a certain level.

If violence begins in a subtle way and is psychological in its nature, the victim often tends to deny or minimize the problem as isolated. Another feature of this type f abuse is that the victim will tend to implement self-deception and selective attention to the positive aspects of their partner. Violent behavior can even be justified away and excuses can be fabricated to aide in the lie. Many times the woman clings to the belief that her aggressor will “change” and self-incriminates herself for not being able to please her partner so that they do not assault her.

In addition, victims also change their belief system because violence is experienced inside the home (the supposedly safest place a person has in their life) which breaks off their sense of security and makes it feel like the world is a dangerous place. Miller & Porter (1983) distinguish three types of self-indictment cognitions in battered women which cause a great emotional deterioration, they are:

  1. by believing that they are the cause of the violence,
  2. for not being able to stop them,
  3. for tolerating violence.

It is common to find the following distorted beliefs among victims of domestic abuse:

  1. shame for making such degrading conduct public and allowing it to be viewed in the social environment;
  2. believe that children need to grow up and mature emotionally with the inescapable presence of a father and mother;
  3. be convinced that the victim could not continue to care for the children on their own;
  4. consider that the family is an absolute value in itself and that it must therefore be maintained at all costs;
  5. believe that the power of love can do everything and that, if she perseveres in her conduct, she will get the abuse to end;
  6. to think that your partner, who, deep down, is a good person and is in love with her, will change over time;
  7. be firmly convinced that she is essential to prevent him from falling “into the abyss.

All of which are fallacies that further anchor the distorted reality the victim has created into place. Breaking this illusion is difficult and often only when the violence and abuse has escalated to a later stage.