Combating Domestic Violence
What is Domestic Violence?
Domestic violence can be defined as a pattern of behavior in any relationship that is used to gain or maintain power and control over an intimate partner.
The abuse may be physical, sexual, emotional, financial, or include threats of actions that influence another person. This includes any behaviors that frighten, intimidate, terrorize, manipulate, hurt, humiliate, blame, injure or wound someone.
Domestic violence can happen to anyone of any race, age, sexual orientation, religion, or gender.
It can happen to couples that are dating or married in any socioeconomic background with any level of education.
Domestic violence impacts one in four women and one in seven men.
The Cycle of Violence
Domestic violence events may occur in a variety of patterns—the victim may experience ongoing abuse, or the abuse may stop and start. One pattern of abuse often seen in a violent relationship begins with a tension-building phase, followed by the actual abusive act, and then a calm, making-up phase often called the honeymoon phase.
The tension-building phase includes increasing anger on the part of the abuser, coupled with attempts by the victim to avoid violence.
On the other hand, the victim may also attempt to bring on the violence to “get it over with.” The episode of acute abuse may include various forms of abuse and may occur for an indefinite amount of time.
The honeymoon phase that follows abuse often includes both excuses for the abusive episode and expressions of love for the victim. During this period the abuser may also promise that the abuse will never happen again.
If you think you may be in a domestic violence situation, consider the acronym below:
S – Think of safe places you can go, and safe people whom you trust
A – Ask for help. A number of resources are available for support (crisis, emotional, legal)
F – Think of the family you are protecting
E – Escape through planning: professionals will help you develop a detailed safety plan for leaving the relationship
T – Remember there is no excuse for intimidation, control and violence; do not be fooled by the cycle – the honeymoon phase of the apologies
Y – You are valuable! Domestic violence is more than a relationship problem–it is a crime. Take the control back and seek help today
Both short and long-term measures must be considered.
Short-term measures consist of assistance programs that protect the individual woman who has been or is being abused. They often focus on the critical period after a victim leaves their home, providing them with food, shelter, and guidance. This is the period when a victim is most at-risk from the perpetrator seeking retribution, or when they might return to the home out of a sense of hopelessness.
Long-term measures seek to educate the public and empower the victim to re-establish their life without violence.
Support can come in various forms:
- Crisis intervention services/hotlines
- Medical services
- Transportation networks
- Self-help support groups
- Assertiveness training
- Self-esteem and confidence-building
Advocacy and Legal Assistance:
- Property matters
- Financial support
- Restraining orders
- Public assistance benefits
Other Supportive Services:
- Housing and safe accommodations
- Access to community services
Why Do Victims Stay?
Outsiders find it difficult to understand why anyone would stay in a violent relationship.
Victims are often blamed and labeled as weak and needy.
Some people believe that if someone stays in an abusive relationship, they must somehow like it or need to be abused to feel worthy. But the issue is more complex than simply staying or leaving.
Victims may have limited financial options, blame themselves, stay because they don’t want to break up their family, or for religious reasons.
If you know someone who is being abused, it’s important to be a good listener, offer support, and remind them that they deserve better.
How can I help a loved one who is being abused?
Don’t be afraid to let them know that you are concerned for their safety
Help your loved one recognize the abuse. Tell them you see what is going on and that you want to help. Help them recognize that what is happening is not “normal,” and that they deserve a healthy, non-violent relationship.
Acknowledge that they are in a very difficult and scary situation
Let your loved one know that the abuse is not their fault. Reassure them that they are not alone, and that there is help and support out there.
Listen to them. Remember that it may be difficult for them to talk about the abuse, let them know that you are available to help whenever they may need it.
Respect their decisions. There are many reasons why victims stay in abusive relationships. They may leave and return to the relationship many times, but it is best not to criticize their decisions or try to guilt them.
Always be supportive
Even though the relationship was abusive, they may still feel sad and lonely once it is over. They will need time to mourn the loss of the relationship.
Help them develop a safety plan
Encourage them to talk to people who can provide help and guidance. Find a local domestic violence agency that provides counseling or support groups. Offer to go with them to talk to family and friends. If they have to go to the police, court, or a lawyer, offering to go along for moral support may make a world of a difference to them.
Remember that you cannot “rescue” them
Although it is difficult to see someone you care about get hurt, they to be the one to decide that they want to do something about it. It’s important for you to support them and help them find a way to safety and peace.