Tuesday, October 6, 2009


Domestic Violence and Abuse

Warning Signs and Symptoms of Abusive Relationships

Domestic Violence and Abuse: Types, Signs, Symptoms, Causes, and Effects

If you think your spouse or partner is abusive, or you suspect that someone you know is in an abusive relationship, review the red flags and other information on domestic abuse and violence covered in this article. Not all abuse involves physical threat; emotional abuse can also leave deep and lasting scars. Recognizing the warning signs and symptoms of spousal abuse is the first step, but taking action is the most important step in breaking free.

Domestic violence and abuse

Special note:

Stressful economic times trigger more instances of spousal abuse. To learn about reducing stress in your relationship, see Managing Relationship Stress

Domestic abuse, also known as spousal abuse, occurs when one person in an intimate relationship or marriage tries to dominate and control the other person. An abuser doesn’t “play fair.” He or she uses fear, guilt, shame, and intimidation to wear you down and gain complete power over you. He or she may threaten you, hurt you, or hurt those around you. Domestic abuse that includes physical violence is called domestic violence.

Victims of domestic abuse or domestic violence may be men or women, although women are more commonly victimized. (Note:this article will use the pronoun “he” for convenience only) This abuse happens among heterosexual couples and in same-sex partnerships. Except for the gender difference, domestic abuse doesn’t discriminate. It happens within all age ranges, ethnic backgrounds, and financial levels. The abuse may occur during a relationship, while the couple is breaking up, or after the relationship has ended.

Despite what many people believe, domestic violence is not due to the abuser’s loss of control over his behavior. In fact, violence is a deliberate choice made by the abuser in order to take control over his wife or partner.

Violent Behavior is an Abuser's Choice

Reasons we know an abuser's behaviors are not about anger and rage:

  • He does not batter other individuals - the boss who does not give him time off or the gas station attendant that spills gas down the side of his car. He waits until there are no witnesses and abuses the person he says he loves.
  • If you ask an abused woman, "can he stop when the phone rings or the police come to the door?" She will say "yes". Most often when the police show up, he is looking calm, cool and collected and she is the one who may look hysterical. If he were truly "out of control" he would not be able to stop himself when it is to his advantage to do so.
  • The abuser very often escalates from pushing and shoving to hitting in places where the bruises and marks will not show. If he were "out of control" or "in a rage" he would not be able to direct or limit where his kicks or punches land.

Source: Mid-Valley Women's Crisis Service

Spousal abuse and battery are used for one purpose: to gain and maintain total control over the victim. In addition to physical violence, abusers use the following tactics to exert power over their wives or partners:

  • Dominance — Abusive individuals need to feel in charge of the relationship. They will make decisions for you and the family, tell you what to do, and expect you to obey without question. Your abuser may treat you like a servant, child, or even as his possession.
  • Power and Control WheelHumiliation — An abuser will do everything he can to make you feel bad about yourself, or defective in some way. After all, if you believe you're worthless and that no one else will want you, you're less likely to leave. Insults, name-calling, shaming, and public put-downs are all weapons of abuse designed to erode your self-esteem and make you feel powerless.
  • Isolation — In order to increase your dependence on him, an abusive partner will cut you off from the outside world. He may keep you from seeing family or friends, or even prevent you from going to work or school. You may have to ask permission to do anything, go anywhere, or see anyone. Source: Domestic Abuse Intervention Project, MN
  • Threats — Abusers commonly use threats to keep their victims from leaving or to scare them into dropping charges. Your abuser may threaten to hurt or kill you, your children, other family members, or even pets. He may also threaten to commit suicide, file false charges against you, or report you to child services.
  • Intimidation — Your abuser may use a variety of intimation tactics designed to scare you into submission. Such tactics include making threatening looks or gestures, smashing things in front of you, destroying property, hurting your pets, or putting weapons on display. The clear message is that if you don't obey, there will be violent consequences.
  • Denial and blame — Abusers are very good at making excuses for the inexcusable. They will blame their abusive and violent behavior on a bad childhood, a bad day, and even on the victims of their abuse. Your abuser may minimize the abuse or deny that it occurred. He will commonly shift the responsibility onto you: Somehow, his violence and abuse is your fault.

If you feel you are in physical danger immediately call 911 or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-787-3224.

Cycle of violence

Domestic abuse falls into a common pattern, or cycle of violence:

  • Cycle of violenceAbuse — The abuser lashes out with aggressive or violent behavior. The abuse is a power play designed to show the victim "who is boss."
  • Guilt — After the abusive episode, the abuser feels guilt, but not over what he's done to the victim. The guilt is over the possibility of being caught and facing consequences.
  • Rationalization or excuses — The abuser rationalizes what he's done. He may come up with a string of excuses or blame the victim for his own abusive behavior—anything to shift responsibility from himself.
  • "Normal" behavior — The abuser does everything he can to regain control and keep the victim in the relationship. He may act as if nothing has happened, or he may turn on the charm. This peaceful honeymoon phase may give the victim hope that the abuser has really changed this time.
  • Fantasy and planning — The abuser begins to fantasize about abusing his victim again, spending a lot of time thinking about what she's done wrong and how he'll make her pay. Then he makes a plan for turning the fantasy of abuse into reality.
  • Set-up — The abuser sets up the victim and puts his plan in motion, creating a situation where he can justify abusing her.

The Full Cycle of Domestic Violence

A man abuses his partner. After he hits her, he experiences self-directed guilt. He says, "I'm sorry for hurting you." What he does not say is, "Because I might get caught." He then rationalizes his behavior by saying that his partner is having an affair with someone. He tells her "If you weren't such a worthless whore I wouldn't have to hit you." He then acts contrite, reassuring her that he will not hurt her again. He then fantasizes and reflects on past abuse and how he will hurt her again. He plans on telling her to go to the store to get some groceries. What he withholds from her is that she has a certain amount of time to do the shopping. When she is held up in traffic and is a few minutes late, he feels completely justified in assaulting her because "you're having an affair with the store clerk." He has just set her up.

Source: Mid-Valley Women's Crisis Service

Your abuser’s apologies and loving gestures in between the episodes of abuse can make it difficult to leave. He may make you believe that you are the only person who can help him, that things will be different this time, and that he truly loves you. However, the dangers of staying are real.

Domestic abuse often escalates from threats and verbal abuse to physical violence and even murder. And while physical injury may be the most obvious danger, the emotional and psychological consequences of domestic abuse are also severe. No one deserves this kind of pain—and your first step to breaking free is recognizing that your situation is abusive. Once you acknowledge the reality of the abusive situation, then you can get the help you need.

Signs of an abusive relationship

There are many signs of an abusive relationship. The most significant sign is fear of your partner. Other signs include a partner who belittles you or tries to control you, and feelings of self-loathing, helplessness, and desperation.

To determine whether your relationship is abusive, answer the questions in the table below. The more “yes” answers, the more likely it is that you’re in an abusive relationship.

SIGNS OF AN ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIP
Your Inner Thoughts and Feelings Your Partner’s Belittling Behavior

Do you:

  • feel afraid of your partner much of the time?
  • avoid certain topics out of fear of angering your partner?
  • feel that you can’t do anything right for your partner?
  • believe that you deserve to be hurt or mistreated?
  • wonder if you’re the one who is crazy?
  • feel emotionally numb or helpless?

Does your partner:

  • humiliate, criticize, or yell at you?
  • treat you so badly that you’re embarrassed for your friends or family to see?
  • ignore or put down your opinions or accomplishments?
  • blame you for his own abusive behavior?
  • see you as property or a sex object, rather than as a person?
Your Partner’s Violent Behavior or Threats Your Partner’s Controlling Behavior

Does your partner:

  • have a bad and unpredictable temper?
  • hurt you, or threaten to hurt or kill you?
  • threaten to take your children away or harm them?
  • threaten to commit suicide if you leave?
  • force you to have sex?
  • destroy your belongings?

Does your partner:

  • act excessively jealous and possessive?
  • control where you go or what you do?
  • keep you from seeing your friends or family?
  • limit your access to money, the phone, or the car?
  • constantly check up on you?

Types of domestic violence and abuse

There are different types of domestic abuse, including emotional, physical, sexual, and economic abuse. Many abusers behave in ways that include more than one type of domestic abuse, and the boundaries between some of these behaviors may overlap.

Emotional or psychological abuse

Emotional or psychological abuse can be verbal or nonverbal. Its aim is to chip away at your feelings of self-worth and independence. If you’re the victim of emotional abuse, you may feel that there is no way out of the relationship, or that without your abusive partner you have nothing. Emotional abuse includes verbal abuse such as yelling, name-calling, blaming, and shaming. Isolation, intimidation, and controlling behavior also fall under emotional abuse. Additionally, abusers who use emotional or psychological abuse often throw in threats of physical violence.

You may think that physical abuse is far worse than emotional abuse, since physical violence can send you to the hospital and leave you with scars. But, the scars of emotional abuse are very real, and they run deep. In fact, emotional abuse can be just as damaging as physical abuse—sometimes even more so. Furthermore, emotional abuse usually worsens over time, often escalating to physical battery.

Physical abuse

When people talk about domestic violence, they are often referring to the physical abuse of a spouse or intimate partner. Physical abuse is the use of physical force against someone in a way that injures or endangers that person. There’s a broad range of behaviors that come under the heading of physical abuse, including hitting, grabbing, choking, throwing things, and assault with a weapon.

Physical assault or battering is a crime, whether it occurs inside or outside of the family. The police have the power and authority to protect you from physical attack.

Sexual abuse

Sexual abuse is common in abusive relationships. 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. Any situation in which you are forced to participate in unwanted, unsafe, or degrading sexual activity is sexual abuse. Forced sex, even by a spouse or intimate partner with whom you also have consensual sex, is an act of aggression and violence. Furthermore, women whose partners abuse them physically and sexually are at a higher risk of being seriously injured or killed.

Economic or financial abuse

Remember, an abuser’s goal is to control you, and he will frequently hurt you to do that. In addition to hurting you emotionally and physically, an abusive partner may also hurt you in the pocketbook. Economic of financial abuse includes:

  • Controlling the finances.
  • Withholding money or credit cards.
  • Giving you an allowance.
  • Making you account for every penny you spend.
  • Stealing from you or taking your money.
  • Exploiting your assets for personal gain.
  • Withholding basic necessities (food, clothes, medications, shelter).
  • Preventing you from working or choosing your own career.
  • Sabotaging your job (making you miss work, calling constantly)

Domestic violence warning signs

Take Precautions

Call 911 or the police in your community if you suspect a case of domestic violence.

It's impossible to know with certainty what goes on behind closed doors, but there are some telltale signs and symptoms of domestic violence and abuse. If you witness a number of warning signs in a friend, family member, or co-worker, you can reasonably suspect domestic abuse.

  • Frequent injuries, with the excuse of “accidents”
  • Frequent and sudden absences from work or school
  • Frequent, harassing phone calls from the partner
  • Fear of the partner, references to the partner's anger
  • Personality changes (e.g. an outgoing woman becomes withdrawn)
  • Excessive fear of conflict
  • Submissive behavior, lack of assertiveness
  • Isolation from friends and family
  • Insufficient resources to live (money, credit cards, car) Domestic Violence and Abuse: Help, Treatment, Intervention, and Prevention
  • Depression, crying, low self-esteem

Reporting suspected domestic abuse is important. If you're afraid of getting involved, remember that the report is confidential and everything possible will be done to protect your privacy. You don’t have to give your name, and your suspicions will be investigated before anyone is taken into custody. Most important, you can protect the victim from further harm by calling for help.

Help, Treatment, Intervention, and Prevention

Domestic Violence and Abuse: Help, Treatment, Intervention, and Prevention

If you’re a victim of domestic violence or abuse, you may be afraid to seek help out of fear of you’re your partner would do if he found out. However, there are many things you can do to protect yourself when leaving. Start by creating a safety plan ahead of time, so you know exactly where to go and how to get away fast when your abuser attacks. Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE) for advice and help with your escape.

If you need help immediately, call 911.

Getting help for domestic abuse or violence

Domestic Violence: Where to Turn for Help

For emergency help: Call 911 if you are in immediate danger of domestic violence or have already been hurt.

For advice and support: Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE). Additional contacts for the hotline:

Help through email: ndvh@ndvh.org

Help for the hearing-impaired: 1-800-787-3224 (TTY) or deafhelp@ndvh.org

For a safe place to stay: Call your state’s branch of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence if you need a shelter from domestic violence. To find your state’s hotline number, go to the State Coalition List.

How can a woman safely leave an abusive relationship and protect herself from further abuse? Most women cannot simply leave their homes, their jobs, their children’s schools, their friends, and their relatives to escape their abuser. They depend upon police to enforce the law against physical abuse. Yet, police cannot act until a restraining order is violated or until some physical harm again befalls the woman.

If you are a victim of domestic violence, you may believe that it's easier to stay with your abuser than to try to leave and risk retaliation. However, there are many things you can do to protect yourself while getting out of an abusive situation, and there are people waiting to help.

Protecting yourself from domestic violence

If you live with someone who abuses you or if someone is stalking you, you need to take immediate measures to protect yourself. You’re in extra danger if your abuser or stalker talks about murder or suicide. You’re also in particular danger if you are thinking about leaving an abusive relationship.

Because of the risk of being seriously hurt or killed when leaving an abusive relationship, it’s important to develop a safe plan for departure. The National Doemstic Violence Hotline site provides Hotlines for help. People who are staffing the phones or answering email can advise you on how to protect yourself, refer you to other services and domestic violence shelters, and inform you about local laws and restraining orders.

If you’re still living with your abusive partner:

  • Domestic Violence Escape Kit

    Pack a survival kit.

    • Money for cab fare
    • A change of clothes
    • Extra house and car keys
    • Birth certificates
    • Driver’s license or passport
    • Medications and copies of prescriptions
    • Insurance information
    • Checkbook
    • Credit cards
    • Legal documents such as separation agreements and protection orders
    • Address books
    • Valuable jewelry
    • Papers that show jointly owned assets

    Conceal it in the home or leave it with a trusted neighbor, friend, or relative. Important papers can also be left in a bank deposit box.

    Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Domestic Violence Awareness Handbook

    Know your abuser’s red flags. Be on alert for signs and clues that your abuser is getting upset and may explode in anger or violence. Come up with several believable reasons you can use to leave the house (both during the day and at night) if you sense trouble brewing.
  • Identify safe areas of the house. Know where to go if your abuser attacks or an argument starts. Avoid small, enclosed spaces without exits (such as closets or bathrooms) or rooms with weapons (such as the kitchen). If possible, head for a room with a phone and an outside door or window.
  • Be prepared to leave at a moment’s notice. Keep the car fueled up and facing the driveway exit, with the driver’s door unlocked. Hide a spare car key where you can get it quickly. Have emergency cash, clothing, and important phone numbers and documents stashed in a safe place (at a friend’s house, for example).
  • Practice escaping quickly and safely. Rehearse your escape plan so you know exactly what to do if under attack from your abuser. If you have children, have them practice the escape plan also.
  • Come up with a code word. Establish a word, phrase, or signal you can use to let your children, friends, neighbors, or co-workers know that you’re in danger and the police should be called.
  • Make and memorize a list of emergency contacts. Ask several trusted individuals if you can contact them if you need a ride, a place to stay, or help contacting the police. Memorize the numbers of your emergency contacts, local shelter, and domestic violence hotline.
  • Keep change and cash on you at all times. Know where the nearest public phone is located, and have change available so you can use it in an emergency situation to call for help. Also try to keep cash on hand for cab fare.

Additionally, to keep yourself safe from domestic abuse and violence you should document all abuse. If you’ve been injured, take photographs. If you have been abused in front of others, ask witnesses to write down what they saw. Finally, don’t hesitate to call the police if your abuser has hurt you or broken the law. Contact the police even if you just think your abuser might have broken a law. Assaulting you, stealing from you, and destroying your property are all crimes.

Protecting Your Children From Domestic Violence and Abuse

How to make your children safer:

  • Teach them not to get in the middle of a fight, even if they want to help.
  • Teach them how to get to safety, to call 911, to give your address and phone number to the police.
  • Teach them who to call for help.
  • Tell them to stay out of the kitchen.
  • Give school officials a copy of your court order; tell them not to release your children to anyone without talking to you first; use a password so they can be sure it is you on the phone; give them a photo of the abuser.
  • Make sure the children know who to tell at school if they see the abuser.
  • Make sure that the school knows not to give your address or phone number to anyone.

Source: American Bar Association

Leaving an abusive relationship safely

You may be afraid to leave out of fear that your partner will retaliate if they find out. However, there are precautions you can take to stay safe as you seek help.

Seeking help by phone

Protecting Yourself From Domestic Violence

Phone Safety Tips

When seeking help for domestic violence, call from a public pay phone or another phone outside the house, using one of the following payment methods:

  • A prepaid phone card
  • A friend’s telephone charge card
  • Coins
  • A collect call

When you seek help by phone, use a corded phone if possible, rather than a cordless phone or cell phone. A corded phone is more private, and less easy to tap.

Remember that if you use your own home phone or telephone charge card, the phone numbers that you call will be listed on the monthly bill that is sent to your home.

Even if you’ve already left by the time the bill arrives, your abuser may be able to track you down by the phone numbers you’ve called for help.

You can call 911 for free on most public phones, so know where the closest one is in case of emergency. Some domestic violence shelters offer free cell phones to battered women. Call your local hotline to find out more.

Seeking help online

If you seek help online, you are safest if you use a computer outside of your home. You can use a computer at a domestic violence shelter or agency, at work, at a friend’s house, at a library, or at a community center.

It is almost impossible to clear a computer of all evidence of the websites that you have visited, unless you know a lot about Internet browsers and about your own computer. Also be careful when sending email, as your abuser may know how to access your account. See the Women's law.org article on Internet Security for instructions for covering your online tracks and email history.


2 comments:

nychica007 said...

It's great that you posted this. thanks

Jo said...

AWESOME post! I'm posting a link to this post from my blog! Thanks for helping to get the word out about this!