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Everything you need to know about Domestic Abuse in four easy answers

February 16, 2010

Many women at Calvary are survivors of abusive relationships, and many women and families become homeless because of domestic violence. In fact, through our Life Skills program we offer classes on healthy relationships, as well as offer mental health services for those women with a history of trauma. Thus, in honor of Valentine’s Day, this week we’re going to discuss  domestic violence and some of the common signs of an abusive relationship.

What is domestic violence?

Domestic abuse occurs when one partner in a relationship seeks to dominate and control the other person. Many times, this is involves physical violence; however, domestic abuse, can take many forms, including psychological, emotional, and sexual abuse. Domestic abuse (of all forms) is solely to give the abuser complete and total control, which can be maintained through humiliation, fear, threats, and guilt, among other things. And domestic abuse/violence really can happen to anyone, regardless of age, gender, or sexual orientation.

What are the most common types of abuse?

*Physical

Every relationship has its fights; however, it is never ok to lay a hand on your partner. Physical violence is never a result of the loss of control or temper of the abuser; it is always a deliberate act in order to control.  And unfortunately, domestic violence is prevalent. In the United States alone, it is estimated that approximately 1.3 million women (and 835,000 men) are physically assaulted by an intimate partner annually. No matter how minor it may seem (especially in comparison to movies and television), any act of physical aggression is and should be considered domestic violence.

*Emotional or Psychological:

This type of abuse is just as damaging as physical abuse, is harder to detect, and can leave you with very real scars. Abusers chip away at their partners’ self-esteem and self-worth, leaving them without the confidence to lead a healthy life or be independent. Threats of physical abuse very often accompany emotional abuse, as well as other abuses such as name-calling, shaming and intimidation.

*Sexual abuse

This type of abuse is occasionally very hard to distinguish because of the intimate nature of domestic relationships/marriage to begin with. However, any degrading sexual activity or forced or unwanted sexual occurrence is considered sexual abuse. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, between one-third and one-half of all battered women are raped by their partners at least once during their relationship.

*Economic Abuse

Because abusers are seeking control, it is very easy to use money/finances as a way to do this. And financial abuse makes it especially hard for victims to leave and have the self-confidence to be able to live independently and self-sufficiently. Economic abuse includes withholding money, preventing you from working, stealing from your personal accounts, restricting your purchases of basic necessities, restricting you to an “allowance,” etc.

*The “Cycle of Violence”

Abuse, especially physical violence, often follows a cyclical pattern. Following an abusive incident, the abuser will express guilt and worry over what has happened. This is then followed by a period of “normal behavior” or even a nicer-than-normal “Honeymoon period.” These periods in between incidences of abuse make it even harder to leave; you may believe that your partner has “changed” or that it will never happen again. However, in reality, your abuser is thinking about all that you are doing “wrong” and needs you to be even further under thumb.  Thus, the abuser will once again manufacture a situation in which further abuse can be justified. This cycle repeats itself over and over again….and the dangers of not getting out are very real.

What are some telltale signs of an abusive relationship?

If you suspect that a friend or family member is being abused, always speak up. Victims are isolated and afraid; yet, they need help. Here are some warning signs to be cognizant of. Those who are being physically abused may frequently have “accidents,” miss obligations with nothing more than a vague “excuse,” or may have bruises in various stages of healing (a sign of ongoing abuse). Other signs of abuse include very low self-esteem, anxiety to please their partner, talk about their partner’s jealous and/or receive frequent and possessive phone calls, social restriction, and limited access to cash and credit cards.

What to do if you suspect abuse?

 

Speak up! Take your friend or family member aside, and talk to them in private. Express your concern for their safety, reference specific examples, and let them know that you care for them and are there for them to talk to, at any point. Be supportive, express concern, and offer help. And remember, those who are being abused are scared, isolated, and potentially depressed, so do not place any blame, pressure or judgments upon their shoulders. By picking up on the warning signs written above and being supportive you can help your loved one escape a very dangerous situation.

This website is a very comprehensive source for further information on the signs and symptoms of an abusive relationship. If you or a loved is suffering from spousal abuse, find out how to get help here.  Also, here’s another interesting site with more statistics on the prevalence of domestic violence in our society.

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