Let’s Talk About It: Domestic Violence
Get Help: If you are in immediate danger call 911. If not, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline (800) 799-7233 or refer to futureswithoutviolence.org
What is domestic violence?
The term domestic violence refers to violent or aggressive behavior within the home between the abuser and a spouse or intimate partner. Domestic violence refers to felony and misdemeanor crimes categorized as domestic violence, but is also referring to those acts that are not reported.
Domestic violence involves the deliberate control by one person in a relationship over the other by means of asserting power, dominance, and aggression towards them.
Domestic violence is an epidemic affecting people of all different ages, genders, races, religions, socioeconomic background, and educational level.
It is important to raise awareness about and work to end domestic violence because the physical violence, emotional trauma, and psychological damage that is done can last a lifetime and even affect the next generation.
Forms of Spousal and Intimate Partner Violence:
- Physical Abuse- physical assault leading to bodily harm and/or injury
- Emotional Abuse- verbal abuse, constant criticism, intimidation, manipulation, withholding of approval
- Psychological Abuse and Manipulation– regular and deliberate use of words and actions meant to shame, harm, weaken, or frighten a person mentally and emotionally for the purpose of distorting, confusing, or influencing their thoughts and actions within their own life changing their sense of reality, safety, or perception of their intrinsic worth
- Sadistic Control- cruel behavior that is meant to inflict pain or discomfort on another person and/or aggressive acts meant to frighten and manipulate another person for the purpose of getting something; generally there is a lack of remorse, guilt, or distress displayed by the abuser
- Terrorizing Behaviors- screaming, cursing, raging, threats to harm someone or self, excessive hostility, ridicule, deliberate humiliation, intentional shaming, physically aggressive motions or gestures
- Sexual Assault- forced, coerced, or manipulated sexual contact or behavior that is unwanted by the recipient
- Economic Abuse- intentional and deliberate acts to control use of, access to, and earning of finances for the purpose of maintaining control or creating dependence, theft of money, unauthorized use of a partner’s financial accounts, using money as a basis to threaten and control another person’s spending, activities of daily living, or sense of safety
Understanding the Cycle
At the beginning of a relationship, it is difficult to determine whether one person will become abusive. It is important to become familiar with early signs or patterns of behavior that may signify abusive tendencies. In addition, it is important to examine the pattern that most abusive relationships resemble. However, not all abusive relationships fall into this exact pattern, and if you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship seek safe help from people and sources you trust immediately.
Early on abuse might start with behaviors that are overlooked or easily dismissed like name calling, criticism dismissed as playful teasing, or possessive and controlling behaviors. While these behaviors do not always signify that a partner will become abusive, it is important to notice them, address them early on, and consider whether these behaviors are really things that can be overlooked. It is important to pay attention to how the other person handles feedback about these behaviors. It may be that the person is unaware that they do this, that there is some misunderstanding, or that there really is a deeper problem here. A person who handles your concerns with thoughtful consideration and a willingness to do better is one thing, but a person who responds with criticizing you, blaming you, or telling you that you are over analyzing or being too rigid may be trying to assert control by instilling doubt in one’s own intuition.
Above is a diagram depicting the various factors that an abuser uses to maintain control and power over the victim. What are the stages of abuse?
Stage 1. May involve any of the behaviors in the diagram shown above.
Stage 2. May involve apology, gifts, attention, or something that was being withheld from the victim. During this phase, typically the victim is given more control.
Stage 3. During this phase, things return to a false normal.
Stage 4. This is when the abuser begins to take back control, use manipulation, coercion, or humiliation to weaken and devalue the victim in order to reestablish power, punish, or harm the other person leading to another incident.
Is Abuse Always Physical?
No. Abuse isn’t always physical. Some abusive relationships involve emotional and psychological abuse that does not become physically violent. However, this does imply that the victim is experiencing less abuse, that it is less severe or debilitating, or that it is easier to cope with or escape from. It also does not mean that the abuser is not as harmful or less dangerous to the victim.
All abuse is serious abuse, regardless of the form it takes.
It is important to help raise awareness around abuse, create resources for people who have suffered from being abused, and also create enough resources for people to utilize before entering a relationship where they will inflict abuse on someone else.
What Happens When The Relationship Ends?
When someone leaves domestic violence, the abuser may experience a loss of control that leads them to threaten, pursue, stock, harass, seriously injure, or even kill the victim.
Typically, the most dangerous period of an abusive relationship is when the victim seeks support or help, attempts to leave, or tells someone of the abuse.
So, Why Does She Stay?
This is a harmful question that plays into sexist stereotypes regarding women. While women experience a higher rate of domestic violence than men, it affects cis women and men, trans women and men, pansexual men and women.
There are many reasons why a person has difficulty leaving:
- Fear – fear of retaliation
There is a 75% increased risk of violence and homicide for at least two years after a person leaves a domestically violent partner.
- Isolation – abusers often cut off communication of the victim with family, friends, coworkers, and community in order to maintain more control
- Money – whether a victim is experiencing economic abuse, a victim may lack the financial means to get transportation to a shelter, buy basic needs, contact authorities, or make arrangements to stay away for good
- Physical Violence – threats and injury may have been experienced after a previous attempt, or after seeking medical attention
- Shame – victims of domestic violence often experience low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, humiliation, and lack of confidence in themselves which can interfere with leaving
- Social/Family Pressure – social and familial views around marriage duty, gender roles, and loyalty to one’s spouse or intimate partner can make leaving difficult when there are competing fears about losing family and friends if one leaves
- Language barriers – not all victims of domestic violence speak the same language as the authorities like police, hotline support personnel, medical staff, or other people designed to help victims and victims may be afraid that they will be misunderstood or overlooked because of the language barrier
- Discrimination – victims fear how they will be perceived by others if they leave by those they tell, people in their community, coworkers, family, and friends
- Hope – victims sometimes hang on to the belief that the abuser will change and that if they themselves change in some way then the abuse will stop
- Children – fear of child abuse as a result of attempting to leave, fear of putting the children in danger, fear of losing custody of the children to the abuser which happens in 50% of cases
- Shelters are full – victims have no where to go and in order to leave may be looking at homelessness if the shelters are full
- Lack of information – barriers exist that make it difficult for victims to get information about services that are available to help them, or will make them aware that they are experiencing abuse. some of these barriers include not speaking the dominant language, inability to read brochures or handouts about domestic violence located in doctors offices or bathroom stalls, lack of access to the internet or technology in order to look for resources and information about abuse, who to call, and how to get out
Facts and Figures
Women between the ages of 18 -24 are most likely to experience intimate partner violence
1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have experienced some form of physical violence by a partner in their lifetime ie. hitting, slapping, pushing, shoving
1 in 4 women experience severe physical domestic violence in their lifetime which refers to (ie. burning, beating, strangling)
Only 34% of victims injured by domestic violence receive medical care for their injuries
72% of all murder suicides involve intimate partner violence, 94% of the victims of murder suicides are female
Victims of domestic violence are at higher risk of suicide, depression, anxiety, death by homicide, addiction/dependence, STD, unintended pregnancy, cancer, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, malnutrition, and PTSD.
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