Domestic Violence Awareness

Domestic violence is a serious problem that plagues many relationships in the United States today. Definitions of domestic violence vary among medical, social and criminal justice professionals but typically it refers to physical, emotional or sexual abuse against one partner in an intimate relationship. The terms spouse abuse, intimate partner abuse, battering or partner violence are also used interchangeably. Domestic violence can affect anyone regardless of age, race, religion, education, economic status or gender. Most often victims of domestic violence are females but males can be and are also abused by females. Abuse occurs in same sex partnerships as well but surveys show that male same sex couples have a higher incident rate than female same sex couples.

There are primarily three types of abuse. Physical abuse is the act of exerting physical power over someone by hitting, kicking, pushing, shoving, slapping, punching, choking, stabbing or some other form of physical harm. Sexual abuse is best described as forcing someone to participate in a sexual activity against their will. Sexual abuse can occur when the victim has not been asked to consent to the act, has said no or is afraid to say no or is not fully conscious. Emotional abuse is characterized when a person is made to feel threatened, intimidated, humiliated, yelled at, blamed, made to feel inferior or stupid or isolated from family and friends. Most often more than one type of abuse is experienced by victims of domestic violence. Inflicting harm on one’s partner is not the goal of most abusers but the ability to exert power and control over another human being. The abuse is just the means to do so.

Domestic violence revolves around three phases. The tension building phase is when the anger begins to build and arguing, jealousy and blaming intensify. The battering phase is when the actual abuse begins; whether the abuse is physical, sexual or emotional. The final phase is the honeymoon phase. At this point the abuser may deny the violence or make excuses for their behavior. They may apologize, buy gifts and promise to never do it again. Many domestic violence advocates describe this as a circular pattern but most often this cycle speeds up when the abuse continues over many years and resembles more of a spiral.

Most often this type of abuse is a learned behavior. Those who have grown up in an abusive environment are more likely to become abusers or victims of abuse. This behavior is learned from the environment they have become accustomed to and the abuse may be viewed as the normal way of life.

On average a victim of domestic violence will attempt to leave their abusive partner seven times before leaving for good. They return to these abusive relationships for many reasons. A few of these reasons are financial, fear, shame and self esteem issues. Victims may feel they do not have the financial resources to support themselves or children. They may be fearful that their abuser will find them and hurt them worse than ever before. They may be ashamed that they have allowed themselves to be victimized and do not want anyone in the community to know they have been abused. They may also have been put down repeatedly and feel no one else could love them so it is better to be with someone even if that person happens to be an abuser, than to be alone.

It is important for victims of domestic violence to know they are not alone. Help is out there. For victims of abuse getting help may take some planning. Initially it may help to find out what services their community has to offer. There is a toll free number for the National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-SAFE. This number is available 24 hours per day, seven days per week for those who are seeking additional information. Also local telephone books provide additional local hotline numbers listed on the front page of every book. These numbers are there to provide valuable information concerning shelters, legal services and counseling.

Resources:

www.cdc.gov

https://www.justice.gov/ovw

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