Law and Order’s Mariska Hargitay Hosts “No More Excuses” Law and Order Marathon


Yesterday, USA ran a Law & Order marathon to raise awareness for domestic violence and sexual assault prevention, hosted by the star of Law & Order Special Victims’ Unit, Mariska Hargitay. It is always heartening to see a major network like USA give organizations like NO MORE and The Joyful Foundation a public forum to raise awareness and to help refute the culture of shame and secrecy that still surrounds abuse.

“I am grateful to USA for their courage, vision and generosity in joining us to say NO MORE to domestic violence and sexual assault,” said Mariska Hargitay. “Being part of NO MORE from the beginning has been a great privilege. Society continues to misplace shame and blame on survivors – both women and men. That has to end. NO MORE confronts the myths and excuses that perpetuate domestic violence and sexual assault. I am filled with confidence and renewed determination that, together, we can and will put an end to this violence.”

The episodes covered everything from sexual assault in the military, teen dating violence, and child sexual abuse.  In between episodes, viewers were given facts, statistics, and most importantly, the links and phone numbers to the domestic abuse hotlines. Hopefully, the messages and resources reached at least one person who needed it.

Abuse is so prevalent that statistically, everyone knows someone who is being abused. But because of the shame and secrecy that surrounds it, abuse often goes unreported and unredressed. It is a terrible secret that stands right out in the open.


So kudos to Hargitay, USA, and all the other men and women who organized this marathon for shedding light on the problem.

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The Cycle of Abuse

Most abuse falls into a pattern, even if both the abusers and their victims aren’t consciously aware of it.cycleofDV

Abuse: the partner assaults you, lashing out with violence, threats, verbal abuse, and other belittling or aggressive behaviors aimed at making you feel helpless and afraid.  Your abuser does this to demonstrate that he/she has all the power.

Guilt:  Once the abuse is over, guilt sets in.  Your abuser is not ashamed of what he/she has done, but your abuser is afraid of getting caught and being punished by an authority figure, or of having you leave (and thus lose absolute power over you).

Excuses: Verbally or nonverbally, your abuser rationalizes what he/she has done to you.  Often, abusers will define their behavior as reasonable and just. Many abusers will blame an outside force (such as their job, the economy, or their childhood). They will say that they were justified in what they did because of something you did/didn’t do (whether real or imagined). Your abuser wants/needs you to believe that what they have done to you is the logical outcome for something you did “wrong” or some inane deficiency in your nature.

Damage Control: Your abuser acts “normally” in order to keep you from informing on them to an authority figure that could make them face the consequences of their actions. This grace period could last for months or just moments.  Some abusers act as though the abuse never happened. Others overcompensate with extra thoughtful behavior or with gifts.  This shift in behavior, combined with the rationalization the abuser offers for their conduct, often leaves victims hopeful that the abuse will never happen again, or that the abuser has changed his/her ways.

Fantasy: Abusers need to feel powerful and in control all the time.  After a period (long or short) of acting “normally,” the abuser starts fantasizing about abusing you again.  Hurting you in the past made him/her feel powerful. They often spend a great deal of time imagining how you have defied them or committed some other wrong and how they will make you pay for it.

Set-up: Your abuser stops fantasizing about hurting you and creates a plan to realize the fantasy.  Your abuser will then create a situation where he/she can justify abusing you again.

An Example

A woman attacks her husband. She verbally assaults him by calling him, “stupid,” “useless,” “worthless,” and “dishonest.” She hurts him by throwing heavy objects at his head. Afterwards, she feels guilty because she is afraid that he might tell her family, his friends, or that he might leave her.  She tells him that what happened was his fault because he never brings in enough money to pay all the bills.  She then acts sweetly to him. She does nice things for him; she cooks him his favorite meal and buys him a nice birthday gift.  After a while, she remembers how powerful she felt when she had him cowering and ducking, and she starts fantasizing about hurting him again. She makes a plan on how to set him up.  She pushes him to work overtime .  What she doesn’t tell him is that he needs to come straight to bed when he gets home.  When he falls asleep in front of the television, she accuses him being lazy, and justifies hitting him with a frying pan while he sleeps.

The Long List of Excuses

775_4143541cropped“He/She Can’t Help It. He/ She Is Just ______________”

It is a common myth that abusers can’t help their behavior, and that they have no control over their actions.  This is not true.  Your partner does control his/her behavior.  Abusers generally don’t attack everyone who irritates them or makes them angry.  They stop the behavior when there are witnesses, when the police show up, or if an authority figure (such as a boss or clergy) is present.

Often though, both the abusers and their victims have a million excuses for their behavior.

It’s not their fault, they just have a bad temper…They only do it when they get drunk…It only happens once or twice a year…They had a bad childhood…They’re under a lot of stress at work…I mouthed off, I deserved what I got…It’s not that bad…They’re just passionate…”

The list of excuses goes on and on.

“It was my fault, I did _______________________.  And he/she promised that it would never happen again.”

Abusers hurt you, on purpose. This  reality can be hard to face, but to get control of you, they will use any means necessary.

I didn’t mean to hit her, she just made me so mad..I read the call history on his phone, he was cheating on me, what was I supposed to do…She brought it on herself…I wanted to cut off my own hand after I had hit her, I love her…

They may even believe it themselves when they tell you they won’t do it again.  But as long as the abuser won’t admit he/she has done wrong and won’t get professional help,  the broken promises will continue.

“It’s Not So Bad, it’s not like he/she ever_______________”

Sometimes we rationalize their behavior because it doesn’t seem as bad compared to what we see on television, or what we hear about.

They never put us in the hospital…They never hit me with a closed fist…They never threatened me with a gun or a knife…It’s not like that Burning Bed movie [or that What’s Love Got to Do With It movie, or that Medea’s Family Reunion movie], they didn’t hurt me THAT badly…

Don’t compare your abuse to someone else’s situation or to a fictional movie. Remember, it is not the intensity of the violence that’s the issue; it is the fact that your partner is trying to maintain absolute control over you or is taking out their anger, grief, frustration, sadness, or fear on you instead of dealing with their own problems.

Your abuser thinks that it is ok to hurt you (emotionally, financially, or physically) in order to get what they want and to make themselves feel powerful.

And there is never an excuse for that.

To Friends and Family: What to Do If You Suspect Someone Is Being Abused

158_4189063If you suspect that someone you love or know is being abused, you must say something!  Don’t hesitate, or tell yourself it is none of your business, or that the person might not want to talk about it. There is a difference between expressing your concern and meddling. And even if the person denies it or tells you to mind your own business, speaking up in a gentle and non-judgmental way tells your friend or loved one that you are concerned and that they have allies who will listen if they ever need help. Remember:

  • Don’t judge.
  • Don’t give advice.
  • Don’t badmouth the person you suspect is abusing them.
  • Do listen.
  • Do state what you’ve observed.
  •  Do tell them that you will be there for them.

Sometimes, abuse will result in psychological changes that don’t have other explanations, such as a happy, confident person developing a low self-esteem; major personality shifts, such as a talkative, outgoing person becoming anxious and withdrawn; or more serious mood shifts, such as depression or suicide fixation.

Please note: these symptoms may be apparent, but may not be.  Many people experiencing abuse try to hide their problems from the world.  Some will “put on a happy face” and act like everything is normal (at least when others are looking).

Red Flags of Domestic Abuse

People who are being abused may:

  • Seem afraid of their partner, or overly anxious to please their partner
  • Check in often with their partner, or receive repeated phone calls from their partner, checking up on them and demanding to know where they are and what they are doing
  • Obeys orders from their partner, or agree with everything their partner says and does, even if what their partner says is not in their best interest
  • Mentions their partners temper, jealousy, or possessiveness (or you witness them first-hand)

Red Flags of Physical Violence

People who are being physically abused may:

  • Frequently miss work, school, or social gatherings without explanations, or with contradictory stories
  • Have frequent injuries that they blame on “accidents”
  • Wear clothing that hides bruises, burns or scars (e.g. wearing turtlenecks in summer to hide choke bruises or wearing sunglasses at night to hide black eyes)

Red Flags of Isolation or Financial Control

People who are being controlled may:

  • Rarely goes out into public without their partner
  • Must ask permission to go places or must frequently check in with their partner
  • Demonstrate a change in socializing that can’t be explained by other factors such as illness or work (e.g. a person who normally would attend frequent family gatherings or spend lots of time with friends now rarely goes out, especially without the partner)
  • Must ask permission to spend their own money, or refer to their joint income as belonging exclusively to their partner
  • Have limited access to money, credit cards, or the car

The best thing to do, if you see these signs, or if you suspect abuse, is to talk to the person in private, and let them know that you are concerned.  Tell them what you’ve observed that makes you feel worried.  Let them know that you are there, whenever they feel ready to talk about it. Don’t take it personally if they deny everything, tell you you’re wrong, or get angry.

Abusers control, intimidate, and manipulate their victims, meaning that your friend or loved one is feeling emotionally battered, depressed, drained, scared, ashamed, and confused. They have been isolated from friends, and trained not to trust anyone.  Let your friend or loved one know that whatever is said to you is kept in strict confidence and that you will help in any way you can.


Tags: Abusive Relationships; Families of battered women; domestic violence; help; intervention; signs of abuse; red flags of abuse and violence;

Domestic Violence/Abuse Red Flags

609_3514101The more red flags that apply to your situation, the more likely you are in an abusive relationship.

Red Flags:

  • You feel afraid of your partner most of the time, or you avoid certain topics because your partner will get angry
  • You feel that nothing you do is right or acceptable to your partner—you are always wrong and can’t get it right
  • You feel you must be crazy, or your partner is constantly telling you that you are the crazy one and that you are the only one with a problem
  • You feel helpless, emotionally shut down, or numb
  • Your partner yells at you or humiliates you
  • Your partner constantly puts you down or criticizes you
  • You are embarrassed to have your family or friends see how he/she treats you
  • Your partner blames you for his/her abusive behavior
  • Your partner treats you (or regards you) as property and/or a sex object and not as a whole person
  • Your partner acts overly possessive and jealous
  • Your partner controls what you do, where you can go, and tells you who you can talk to or spend time with
  • Your partner restricts you or pressures you not to see your friends or family
  • Your partner limits or controls your access to money, your car, or monitors and/or restricts your phone usage
  • Your partner demands that you frequently check in with him/her or is constantly checking up on you
  • Your partner has a short and unpredictable temper

If your partner does ANY of these red flags, you are definitely in an abusive/violent relationship and you need to get help to protect yourself and your children

  • Your partner hurts you
  • Your partner threatens to hurt you or kill you
  • Your partner threatens to take away your children, or threatens to harm them
  • Your partner threatens to harm themselves if you leave him/her
  • Your partner threatens to cut you off financially if you try to leave him/her
  • Your partner destroys your belongings or threatens to destroy your belongings if you don’t do what they want
  • Your partner threatens you with weapons, such as guns, knives, and blunt objects
  • Your partner, either through force or through intimidation, coerces you to have sex with him/her