Verbal domestic violence is emotionally a silent killer.
What is Domestic Violence?
In the U.S. and more than 80 countries, domestic violence is a crime. It is defined as a pattern of abusive tactics perpetrated by a spouse, partner or significant other, with the goal of establishing or maintaining power and control over the victim.
Forms of Domestic Violence
Domestic violence takes many forms and can happen occasionally or continuously. It often gets worse over time. Examples of different forms of domestic violence are outlined below.
Although both women and men can be victims, for ease of communication, the text throughout this guide uses “she” in many instances. This does not indicate that abuse is limited to women.
- Psychological and Emotional Abuse – The victim is told that she is ugly, fat, hopeless, stupid, a bad parent, etc. Forms of this kind of abuse include stalking, intimidation or emotional blackmail with statements like…”If you really love me, you would…”
- Social Abuse – The victim is not allowed to see the people she wants to see, or doesn’t see family or friends because it isn’t worth all the arguments.
- Financial Abuse – The victim is not given enough money to feed and clothe herself or her children and/or receives no money for paying bills but is expected to make ends meet. The victim may also be forced to hand over her money or is prevented by her perpetrator from getting or keeping a job.
- Physical Abuse – The victim is pushed, shoved, slapped, hit, punched or kicked, or objects are used as weapons against her. This is the most obvious form of domestic violence.
- Sexual Abuse – The victim is pressured or forced to participate in sexual activities against her will.
It can sometimes be difficult to tell if someone is in an abusive relationship. It can even be difficult for a victim to realize she is in an abusive relationship. Those who are abused, and those who abuse others, come in all personality types from all different backgrounds. Most people experiencing violence from someone close to them do not tell others about it. So how do you know it’s happening?
- Verbal Abuse – The abuser puts down the victim by calling her names, constantly criticizing her, provoking public or private humiliation, or making her feel ”crazy.”
- Bruises and Injuries – The victim often has bruises and injuries that can’t be explained, or offers weak excuses for them.
- Violent Temper – The abuser has threatened to hurt the victim, her children, family members, friends or pets. The abuser blames the victim and other people for everything, and gets angry in a way that scares her or other people.
- Controlling Behavior – The abuser checks up on the victim constantly by asking about her whereabouts, calling her at work or on her cell phone, checking her car mileage and listening to her phone calls. The abuser manages all the finances and monitors her spending.
- Extreme Jealousy – The abuser is jealous or possessive, often accusing the victim of flirting or having affairs.
- Isolation – The abuser tells her not to see certain friends or family members, keeps her away from school or work and makes her stay home when she wants to go out.
- Emotional Changes – The victim seems to be on edge or fearful, or becomes quiet when the partner is around.
- Behavior of the Children – The children of an abuse victim frequently get into trouble at school or are quiet and withdrawn and don’t get along with other children. Conversely, children may also exhibit “perfectionist” attributes, and may excel in school so as not to draw attention to themselves or to their situation at home.
Why Does The Victim Stay?
The reasons for staying in an abusive relationship are complex. Often there are many aspects to the relationship that do not allow the victim to leave. Most often, she is afraid and fears for the safety of herself and her children.
Some reasons victims don’t leave include:
- She fears she will lose custody of her children, or she fears the abuser will cause emotional or physical harm to her children if she tries to leave.
- She may have limited financial resources or lack access to alternative support or skills to secure work.
- Religious beliefs may stand in the way; a religious community may not support a victim who leaves or seeks divorce.
- Friends and family may not support her leaving. The abuser may have convinced friends and family that their relationship is good and that any problems are the victim’s fault or “in her head.”
- She may have grown up with violence and may consider an abusive relationship “normal.”
- She may not want the relationship to end – she still loves her spouse or partner and just wants the violence to stop. She may believe that love can change the abusive behavior.
- She may feel shame about being abused and reluctant to let anyone know that abuse is occurring in the relationship.
- She may not know who to turn to for help or where to get assistance.
- There may be language barriers that prevent her from seeking help or independence, or she may fear deportation.
Planning for Safety
Studies show that domestic violence homicides increase up to 75% when anvictim tries to leave or end an abusive relationship. Domestic violence homicides often happen after leaving an abuser, so leaving doesn’t always mean safety.
If someone you know is planning to leave an abusive relationship or to take any legal or financial steps to separate, safety planning in advance is critical!
The victim should follow these steps as necessary:
- Call 911 or arrange a signal with a neighbor or a friend to call 911 if there is immediate danger.
- Call a local domestic violence program or the National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-SAFE) for help, advice and support. The victim should memorize this telephone number.
- Hide money, spare keys and a small bag of clothes and other necessities for herself and her children at work or at a friend’s house.
- Put together important documents (or copies) including passports, birth certificates, social security cards, insurance papers, work permits or green cards, ownership (title) documents for car and/or house, checkbooks and bank account numbers for herself and her children. Hide these papers at work or at a friend’s house. Know the abuser’s social security number, birth date and place of birth.
- Document the abuse by taking photos of bruises and injuries. Tell the doctor and get copies of medical records. Save any threatening voicemails or e-mails and write each incident down in a journal. All of this will be extremely important if legal action is taken in the future.
- Obtain an order of protection from the court which prohibits the abuser from contacting, attacking, sexually assaulting or telephoning her, her children and other family members. Call a local domestic violence program or the National Domestic Violence Hotline for legal assistance; carry a copy of the order of protection at all times.
- Inform the victim’s employer about the situation so a safety plan can be set up at work. Share a photo and description of the abuser with the appropriate people at work (human resources or security) and any pertinent legal documentation, such as an order of protection.
Children Affected by Domestic Violence
Children who witness domestic violence face additional risks and stress from exposure to traumatic events. Immediate risks include emotional and psychological trauma and neglect, and physical and sexual abuse. Long-term consequences may include social, behavioral and emotional problems,such as aggression, hostility, disobedience, fear, anxiety, low self-esteem, poor development of social skills and poor performance at school. These symptoms can lead to depression, suicidal thoughts and increased violent behavior.
Children who witness or are subject to abuse may carry some or all of these outcomes into adulthood, often repeating the cycle of violence and abuse, and ultimately affecting their well-being and happiness.
Dating Abuse and Violence Among Young Adults and Teens
Dating abuse is the emotional, psychological, verbal, sexual and physical abuse by a boyfriend or girlfriend. As with domestic violence, dating abuse is about power and control over the victim. It affects people of every race, religion, education, age, sexual orientation and socioeconomic level.
Warning Signs of Dating Abuse
The warning signs for young adults and teens are similar to those for domestic violence. The dynamics can be slightly different and more difficult as young adults and teens generally lack experience, want independence from their parents and may romanticize abusive behavior and confuse it with love.
Parents need to pay close attention to their children’s relationships, and look for problematic patterns including the following, although not all of these patterns will always be present:
- Constant Communication – The boyfriend constantly calls and text messages and must be called back immediately. He constantly needs to know where she is and what she is doing.
- Isolation – The boyfriend gets upset when she spends time with friends and family, and makes her feel guilty she is not spending more time with him. Your child loses interest in activities she normally enjoys.
- Jealousy Issues – The boyfriend becomes extremely jealous when she talks to someone else, or someone else pays attention to her.
- Name Calling and Criticism – The boyfriend calls her names and criticizes the way she looks, her clothes or hairstyle.
- Violent Behavior – The boyfriend has a quick temper. Your child sometimes feels afraid and unsafe around him.
- Emotional Changes – The boyfriend treats her in a way that makes her feel sad, lonely and desperate. Your child might be upset all the time, lash out at others and cry a lot.
- Making Excuses – Your child makes excuses and apologizes for the behavior of her boyfriend.
- Physical Signs – You notice bruises, scratches and other injuries that cannot be explained, or the explanation does not make sense.
What Parents Can Do To Help
There are many reasons kids don’t tell parents and friends about the abuse they are experiencing in their relationship: they may believe that being in the relationship is the most important thing in their lives and they are afraid that their parents might break up the relationship; they are convinced it is their fault and their parents will blame them or will be disappointed; they may be confused about the relationship or they may be ashamed.
Talking to your child about relationships can be difficult. Below are some tips that may help you connect.
Teach Self Respect – Teach your kids that no one has the right to tell them who to see, what to do or what to wear. Teach them that no one has the right to hit or control anyone else. Be a good role model for your child. Talk to your kids about your expectations of how to treat others and how to be treated in all relationships. Emphasize respect.
Listen – Allow your child to talk openly with you and give her your undivided attention. Listen quietly to the whole story. Be open to all questions your child asks. Don’t criticize, judge or jump to conclusions when she asks questions about relationships. Encourage her to talk to you any time.
Talk – Look for opportunities, such as news stories and TV shows, to talk to your kids about healthy relationships. Talk about the warning signs of abuse, as well as the qualities of healthy relationships, such as compromise, communication, loyalty and respect. Keep in mind that short, unplanned talks may be more effective than a long discussion.
Safety Tips for College Students
Your years at college are an exciting time, but there are nonetheless risks involved when entering into an unfamiliar environment filled with new people.
Studies show college aged women are at the highest risk for being sexually assaulted. Being aware of this risk is often the first step in staying safe.
- Trust your instincts. If you feel unsafe in any situation, go with your gut. If you see something suspicious, contact your resident assistant or campus police immediately.
- Avoid being alone or isolated with someone you don’t know well. Let a trusted friend know where you are and whom you are with.
- Get to know your surrounding and learn a well-lit route back to your dorm or place of residence. If you are new to the campus, familiarize yourself with the campus map and know where the emergency phones are.
- Be careful when leaving online away messages. Leaving information about your whereabouts or activities reveals details of your location that are accessible to everyone. Avoid putting your dorm room, campus address, or phone number on your personal profile where everyone can see it.
- Form a buddy system when you go out. Arrive with your friends, check in with each other throughout the night, and leave together. Don’t go off alone. Make a secret signal with your friends for when they should intervene if you’re in an uncomfortable situation.
- Never loan your room key to anyone and always lock your door. Don’t let strangers into your room.
- Practice safe drinking. Don’t accept drinks from people you don’t know or trust and never leave your drink unattended – if you’ve left your drink alone, just get a new one. Always watch your drink being prepared. At parties, don’t drink from punch bowls or other large, common open containers.
- Watch out for your friends. If a friend seems out of it, is way too intoxicated for the amount of alcohol they’ve had, or is acting out of character, get him or her to a safety place immediately. If you suspect that you or a friend has been drugged, call 911, and be explicit with doctors about the symptoms.
- Don’t let your guard down. The college campus environment can foster a false sense of security. Don’t assume people you’ve just met will look out for your best interests; remember that they are essentially strangers.
- Try not to go out alone at night. Walk with roommates or someone you trust. If you’ll be walking home alone, ask a trusted friend to accompany you. Avoid the ATM and jogging at night. Don’t put music headphones in both ears so you can be more aware of your surroundings.
You are not alone – Domestic Violence and Dating Abuse Resource Guide,
Information, Support and Resources to Use and Share provided by AVON.