Ben Michaelis Ph.D.

The Creative Imperative

Domestic Violence

Violence and Valentine's Day

A brief reprieve from abuse

Posted Feb 09, 2016

Ben Michelis
Source: Ben Michelis

This Valentine’s Day whether you are in a happy, loving, committed relationship or you are one of the many people who will be celebrating “Singles Awareness Day,” one of the things that you may be thankful for is a brief reprieve from domestic violence

Although there is anecdotal evidence that Valentine’s Day is connected to a spike in domestic abuse, according to the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence, Valentine’s Day is actually one of three days where there is actually a slight decrease in reports of domestic violence (the other two are Thanksgiving and Christmas). 

This is a tiny bright spot within a very dark issue that usually only comes to light when a celebrity has been caught on tape abusing their partner or because someone who you have never heard of has been killed after years of abuse.

Sadly, domestic violence is overwhelmingly common in the United States. Twenty people are physically abused by their partners every minute. Nearly 5 million women are victims of physical abuse by their partners every year and over 38 million women in the United States have experienced physical intimate partner violence in their lifetimes. 

Why does domestic violence occur? 

On a individual psychological level, domestic violence is the inappropriate outburst of negative emotion channeled into physical aggression onto one’s partner.  This outburst, which is overwhelmingly male-to-female violence is due to a combination of stress (often economic), poor impulse control (often fueled by alcohol) and a lack of appropriate coping mechanisms. Men who have witnessed or experienced violence in their family of origin are far more likely to perpetrate it in their romantic relationships.

On a couples level, domestic violence tends to persist due to a three phase self-reinforcing cycle: In the first phase, tension builds between the batterer and the woman. The second phase involves the perpetration of violence.  The third phase is when the abuser appears calm and loving, pleads for forgiveness, and promises to seek help. During this third phase, also known as "The Honeymoon Phase" the man acts as a sort of "White Knight," often showering his partner with attention and gifts and treating her as a queen.  Victims tend to avoid seeking help or stop any legal action against partners during this phase.

On a societal level, domestic violence persists because of silence. Victims who often feel scared or ashamed remain quiet, avoid getting help or letting others know about what is happening to them.  Unfortunately, this silence, which is understandable, tends to reinforce the idea that domestic violence is uncommon and should remain a private matter.

In order to end the cycle of domestic violence, we as a society must come together,  express empathy for victims and intolerance for abusers.  If you, or if someone you know is being harmed in your home, you are not alone.  Please get help and let others know what has happened. 

Let’s make this Valentine’s Day the beginning of the end of the cycle of domestic violence.


National Coalition Against Domestic Violence  
Works to educate the public on how to recognize domestic violence and what to do about it; teen dating violence; the impact of family violence on children; and domestic violence against individuals with disabilities, older adults, and other marginalized populations.

VAWnet: The National Online Resrouces Center on Violence Against Women 
Provides a comprehensive and easily accessible collection of full-text, searchable electronic materials and resources on domestic violence, sexual violence, and related issues.

Crisis Text Line (CTL) Provides immediate support via text for anyone in crisis.

Women of Color Network (WOCN) Provides a variety of services for victims of domestic violence.

Ben Michaelis
Source: Ben Michaelis

Ben Michaelis is a clinical psychologist in full-time private practice in Manhattan. He writes and speaks regularly about mental health,relationships, and motivation. Dr. Michaelis is the author of Your Next Big Thing: 10 Small Steps to Get Moving and get Happy. You can get the first chapter of his book by signing up here.

You can also find him on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.