October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month
Domestic violence affects millions, both women and men, of every race, religion, culture and status. It’s not just punches and black eyes — it’s yelling, humiliation, stalking, manipulation, coercion, threats and isolation.
Tragically, more than 10 million Americans suffer at the hands of loved ones each year, and women are twice as likely to be targets of this heinous crime as men. Source
What is domestic violence?
Domestic violence, also known as domestic abuse, is a pattern of abusive behaviors, characterized by one partner’s need to control the other by using a range of tactics. While the frequency and severity of physical or sexual violence may vary, coercion, intimidation and emotional manipulation occur on a routine basis throughout the relationship.
› Physical Abuse: Hitting, slapping, punching, shoving, kicking, burning, strangulation/ choking, using weapons or other objects to cause injury.
› Sexual Abuse: Forcing a partner to engage in unwanted sexual acts; refusing to practice safe sex; treating a partner like a sex object.
› Emotional Abuse: Name-calling and putdowns; denying/shifting blame; treating a partner as an inferior; threatening to harm self/others or to have a partner deported; abusing children or pets; stalking; using threatening looks, actions or gestures; using technology to track, monitor or frighten.
› Economic Abuse: Stealing or destroying belongings/money; preventing a partner from getting or keeping a job; not letting the partner know about or have access to family income; damaging or ruining a partner’s credit.
Is it domestic violence?
Domestic violence is a pattern of abusive behaviors that adults and adolescents use to control their intimate or dating partners. It can include physical, sexual and emotional abuse, and other controlling behaviors. The following questions may help you decide whether you are in an abusive relationship.
Does your partner ever…
- hit, kick, shove or injure you?
- use weapons/objects against you or threaten to do so?
- force or coerce you to engage in unwanted sexual acts?
- threaten to hurt you or others, have you deported, disclose your sexual orientation or other personal information?
- control what you do and who you see in a way that interferes with your work, education or other personal activities? › use technology to track, monitor or frighten you?
- steal or destroy your belongings?
- constantly criticize you, call you names or put you down? make you feel afraid?
- deny your basic needs such as food, housing, clothing, or medical and physical assistance?
If you answered “yes” to any of the above, please know that help is available.
It is not your fault.
If you are being abused by your partner, you may feel confused, afraid, angry and/or trapped. All of these emotions are normal responses to abuse. You may also blame yourself for what is happening. However, please know that abuse is a purposeful and deliberate behavior where one person uses abusive tactics to gain power and control over another person. Abuse is never the victim’s fault.
Help is available.
Without help, domestic violence often continues to get more severe over time. It can sometimes become deadly. Please know that you have options.
› Domestic violence programs. These organizations offer free and confidential help to individuals in abusive relationships, including crisis intervention, safety planning, emergency shelter, advocacy and other supportive services.
› Community support. Friends, family, women’s and community groups, places of worship, and service providers (such as legal, health, counseling centers) can also provide a variety of resources, support, and assistance.
› Criminal charges. If you or other loved ones have been physically injured, threatened, raped, harassed or stalked, consider reporting these crimes to the police. Criminal charges may lead to the person who is abusing you being arrested and possibly imprisoned.
› Restraining/protective orders. Even if you don’t want to file a police report, you can file for a civil court order that directs your partner to stop abusing or to stay away from you. In many states, restraining/protective orders can also evict your partner from your home, grant support or child custody, or ban him or her from having weapons.
Safety planning is key.
Many survivors find it helpful to implement concrete safety plans in the case of emergency, whether they are planning to leave or stay in the relationship. Here are some suggestions:
› Consider telling others you trust, such as friends, family, neighbors and co-workers, what is happening and talk about ways they might be able to help.
› Memorize emergency numbers for the local police, support persons and crisis hotlines. For example, the National Domestic Violence Hotline number is 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).
›Identify escape routes and places to go if you need to flee from an unsafe situation quickly.
› Talk with your children and/or other household members about what they should do if a violent incident occurs or if they are afraid.
› Put together an emergency bag with money/ checkbooks, extra car keys, medicine, and important papers such as birth certificates, social security cards, immigration documents, and medical cards. Keep it somewhere safe and accessible, such as with a trusted friend or at your place of work.
› Trust your instincts — if you think you are in immediate danger, you probably are. If you are afraid for your safety, call the police.
Joining the effort.
To stop domestic violence, we all need to be part of the solution. The following are some things that you can do to help:
- Help a friend or family member who is being abused. Let them know that the abuse is not their fault, listen to them, help them to identify resources and options, empower them to make choices for their safety, and provide nonjudgmental support and an opportunity for them to seek your support again.
- Support your local domestic violence program. Most hotlines, advocacy or shelter organizations could benefit from your time, financial support or other donations. For ideas for building needed resources in your community for survivors of domestic violence: https://bit.ly/2nD2EhB
- Speak up about abuse. Let the person using violence or intimidation know their behavior is wrong and encourage them to seek help. If you see abuse, call the police. Doing nothing can make the abuse worse and even deadly.
- Educate yourself and others. Call your local domestic violence program to schedule informational workshops for your workplace, community group or place of worship. Encourage schools to include abuse prevention as part of their curricula. Social change is possible when individuals, families, communities, and institutions have access to both knowledge and tools. See Awareness + Action = Social Change: Strategies to End Gender-Based Violence for inspiration: https://bit.ly/2MkqQTR
- Set an example. Make a commitment to work for equality and end violence in all of its forms. Model non-violent and respectful behavior through your everyday actions.
HOPE is here.
For help, there are resources available for you: