Monday, August 9, 2021
Domestic Violence is Not Just Punching or Black Eyes
Think about counting to the number nine and at that very moment a woman is being assaulted. Then count another nine seconds and it happens again. Unfortunately, every 9 seconds, a woman in the U.S. is beaten or assaulted by a current or ex-significant other.
Here are some more hard facts:
- 1 in 4 women have experienced violence by a spouse or an intimate partner.
- 7 million children live in families in which severe partner violence occur.
- Almost 500 women are raped or sexually assaulted each day in the U.S.
Domestic violence is not just punching and black eyes — it’s yelling, humiliating, stalking, manipulation, coercion, threats and isolation. It’s stealing a paycheck, keeping tabs online, nonstop texting, constant raging, constant use of the silent treatment or calling someone stupid so often they believe it.
Physical and sexual assaults, or threats to commit them, are the most apparent and well-known forms of domestic violence. In many cases of domestic abuse, physical assaults occur only occasionally or not at all. A long list of other less-recognized abusive behaviors make up a much larger scope of domestic violence and being able to spot them is key to prevention.
Domestic violence can happen in any intimate relationship, regardless of ethnic group, income level, religion, education or sexual orientation. Abuse may occur in a marriage or between unmarried people living together or in a dating relationship. It happens to both women and men.
People assume that if you have not been physically abused, then you’re not a survivor of domestic violence. But an abuser can take power and control over another person in a lot of different ways that aren’t physical and still could be controlling that individual. Nonphysical domestic violence can cause long-term damage to a victim’s mental health and can be even more harmful than physical aggression.
Anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, suicidal ideation, low self-esteem and difficulty trusting others are prevalent attributes with domestic violence sufferer and survivors. Many victims of nonphysical forms of domestic violence even fail to recognize that they are being abused.
Supporting someone who keeps returning to an abusive relationship:
- Educate yourself: Understanding the dynamics of domestic violence is important when supporting a person in an abusive relationship. A greater understanding of these dynamics may help you develop more empathy for your friend or family member who is experiencing these things in their relationship. Abuse is about power and control.
- Let your loved one know you are concerned: This can be a really difficult conversation to have, but you can start it by simply saying, “I’ve noticed that your partner says mean things to you/doesn’t let you go out as much /puts you down in front of other people. I’m concerned about that.” Your friend may not want to talk, or they might even defend their partner. Try not to judge them, and instead remain open and supportive.
- Listen and support their decisions: People in abusive relationships often feel like they have little control over their lives. Their abusive partners have taken control, and they may be dependent on them in multiple ways. It can be tough to support a person’s decision to return to or stay with their abusive partner but try to avoid telling your friend what they should do.
- Encourage small steps and help them find options specific to their needs: There is no one-size fits-all solution to domestic violence. Many survivors feel overwhelmed by the idea of leaving for good or taking drastic measures (like calling the police), so try to help them identify small steps they can take to feel safer and more empowered and/or move toward leaving the relationship. You might encourage them to contact the Domestic Violence Hotline and talk to a counselor.
- Practice self-care: Secondary trauma is real and very common. Supporting someone in an abusive relationship can take a mental and emotional toll on you. If you find yourself getting frustrated with your friend, then can be a really important time to step back and focus on your own self-care.
If you are concerned that someone you know is in an abusive relationship, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−SAFE (7233) or TTY 1−800−787−3224.
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