Domestic Violence and Abuse: Signs and Resources
by Lisa DiFalco
Domestic violence and abuse occurs in many homes across the US and is the leading cause of injury for women. In the US, over three women are murdered by their boyfriends or husbands every day. Domestic violence not only affects those assaulted but those who witness an incident. Research shows that close to 10 million children have witnessed some type of domestic violence each year. These children may become one of the teenage girls with boyfriends that threaten violence or self-harm or one of the boys that grow into men with double the likelihood of abusing their own wives simply by being a witness during their childhood. Domestic violence is an issue of continued concern throughout the US. Friends, families, community members, psychologists, case workers and other health professionals can take steps to identify the signs of domestic abuse and violence and provide support and resources when victims choose to get help.
The Many Forms of Domestic Abuse and Violence
Domestic abuse can begin with name-calling and escalate to emotional abuse, beatings and more. Christine Davis was such a victim that shared her story candidly on Domestic Violence Statistics. Christine married her son’s father at 18 and her honeymoon was the beginning of the abuse to come. Drunk on their honeymoon, he told her that she was “fat, lazy and no good” and went off to party the night away with friends as she slept alongside her son.
Verbal abuse soon escalated to violence, with Christine being pushed, beat or verbally abused whenever her husband had a bad day. He took measures to isolate and intimidate her, placing her in dangerous situations such as walking through a gang-ridden neighborhood late at night to get him a pack of cigarettes. Christine experienced domestic abuse: when one person in a marriage or intimate relationship attempts to dominate and control the other individual. The physical violence that was experienced also makes her situation a domestic violence case.
Many other domestic abuse stories start out similarly to Christine’s with escalation of abuse and violence over time and a variety of tactics used to intimidate, isolate and make victims feel small and worthless. Abuse can be psychological or physical, leaving victims to live in a state of fear. Signs of a person who is a potential victim of domestic abuse or violence include:
- Showing fear or anxiety about pleasing a partner
- Accepting all a partner says and does
- Being required to check in frequently with the partner and having to share what they do and where they are
- Discussing their partner’s jealousy, temper or possessiveness
- Being the recipient of frequent and harassing phone calls from a partner
- Claiming that frequent injuries are “accidents”
- Missing work, social occasions, or school frequently and without explanation
- Wearing clothing that may be seasonally inappropriate, such as long sleeves during summer to cover bruises or sunglasses indoors
- Having little access to credit cards, money or a car
- Being socially isolated- rarely seeing friends and family or going out into public on their own
- Demonstrating low self-esteem, depression, anxiety or suicidal thoughts
- Expressing significant personality changes, such as when an extroverted person becomes withdrawn
If many of these signs seem familiar, the individual may be a victim of domestic abuse and/or domestic violence. Such people may lack a support system to help them get away from an abuser and be confused or ashamed of their situation. An acquaintance, colleague or healthcare professional can provide the necessary assistance and guidance to help a domestic violence or abuse victim.
How to Help Domestic Abuse and Violence Victims
Victims may not know how to get out of the cycle of violence and abuse. It may take time or opportunity to get away from a partner that is abusive. In the case of Christine, she had to wait until her husband worked a rare double-shift to contact family and get herself and her two children out of the environment. Breaking free from the violence is possible. Women, men and their children can all be victims of domestic abuse and violence and need assistance in leaving an abusive partner or parent. Those that plan to help should note how best to proceed. Guidance for those that want to offer support are to:
- Show concern
- Ask the individual if anything is wrong
- Listen to and validate the individual’s experiences
- Offer help
- Support their decisions
Be available and patient with the victim. Do not place any conditions on offered help, blame or judge the person or pressure them to make a decision. This can cause a person to stop seeking assistance or to withdraw from further communications.
Additional resources to support victims of domestic abuse and violence include:
- The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY)
- The State Coalition List offering a directory of offices to find local shelter, support and free or affordable legal services that covers all U.S. states and territories
- Help for Victims, Family and Friends
- Breaking the Silence Handbook from the Nebraska Health and Human Services on spotting signs and finding assistance
- Dating Violence for teens involved in abusive relationships from The Alabama Coalition Against Domestic Violence
These are only a few resources currently available. Gather resources early to offer support when a victim is ready to make a change.
Victims and Children Can Stop the Abuse
In the fight against domestic violence and abuse it is necessary to get off of the fence and get involved. Staying silent does nothing for the victims and children trapped in abusive and violent situations. As author Elie Wiesel said:
“We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”
Step forward and offer hope to victims of domestic abuse and violence.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Our online courses offer resources for licensed professionals and the general public to learn about this important issue. If you’d like a deeper understanding of domestic violence and its enormous impact on society, consider these online learning resources from Relias Academy: Domestic Violence: Awareness And Prevention, Substance Use And Violence Against Women, and Domestic and Intimate Partner Violence.