How to Stop Domestic Abuse?

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October is a Domestic Violence Awareness Month, so it is time to get a closer look at this increasing form of violent behavior. By and large, the general public is unaware of the effects domestic violence has on its victims, other family members and society as a whole. Therefore, attempts are being made to heighten society’s awareness of the many facets of this violent crime that plagues America today.

Organizations such as National Center for Victims of Crime, Love is Respect Website and National Domestic Violence Hotline are educating the general public as well as potential victims of domestic abuse, about the elements of the crime of Domestic Violence, how to differentiate between this family crime and other crimes, and even how to tell whether any crime has actually been committed at all.

Because people should be aware of the types of abuse crimes that fall into the category of domestic violence, and who the victims of domestic abuse are, the center is answering questions, such as “Does one have to be a spouse or other immediate family member to be considered a victim of domestic violence?”

What is Domestic Abuse?

This is a crime that involves abuse of family members, romantic partners, and others. The crimes of domestic violence are numerous, ranging from verbal abuse to murder. They include emotional abuse, such as intimidation and threats, assault, battery (with or without the use of a deadly weapon), sexual abuse (i.e. spousal rape), kidnapping, and detaining one against his or her will.

When considering crimes of domestic violence, most states consider certain relationships to be ‘domestic relationships.’ In these states, the relationships usually include spouses, former spouses, persons who share a common child together, persons currently residing together or those that have previously shared a domestic living arrangement together, in their criteria for domestic relationships.

Domestic Violence Today

The problem of Domestic Violence is on the rise and becoming ever more dangerous to its victims who live in fear. However, the average person in the United States today is unaware of just how serious and out of hand the crime of domestic violence is becoming. This could possibly be because many Americans do not live with conflict and violence in their homes.

Conversely, many victims of domestic abuse do not even realize that they are victims of the crime of domestic violence. They’ve been misled by their abusers and believe that the abuse they are victimized by, really is not abuse at all, but just “a way of life.”

Tactics of the Abuser

When people think of domestic abuse, they often imagine bruises, bleeding, external scars or other signs of being beaten. Yet abuse can take many forms. Emotional or verbal abuse is even worse, to some extent, as the effects can’t be seen on the surface and people don’t take the consequences of these actions as seriously. However, psychological kinds of abuse can be extremely damaging to self-esteem and the future of all the individual’s relationships.

Minimizing, Trivializing and Denial

Emotional abusers often minimize or downplay the severity of an episode of abuse. They question the abused person’s reaction to the episode of abuse, often suggesting that that person has overreacted. This includes trivializing, in which the abuser suggests that an abused person’s actions, thoughts or feelings aren’t important. Minimizing and trivializing leave the abused person feeling helpless and full of self-doubt.

Denial is another emotional abuse tactic, similar to minimizing and trivializing. Emotional abusers may deny their partner’s needs, especially as a means of punishing or controlling that person. They may deny that certain things occurred, especially episodes of abuse. They may withdraw emotionally, refusing to listen or communicate. They may insist that the victim’s memories and perceptions are wrong. Denial can lead victims to question their own perceptions and even their own sanity.

Denying, minimizing and trivializing are also similar to invalidation, a tactic by which the abuser refuses to acknowledge the reality of his or her abusive actions. Invalidation can also cause victims to doubt their own perception.

Excessively High Expectations

Emotional abusers often express excessively high expectations of those they abuse. The abuser may expect a partner to fulfill all of his or her needs and may use other forms of emotional abuse to ensure that the abused partner spends all, or nearly all, of his or her time tending to the abuser’s needs.

An emotionally abusive partner may expect that all of his or her needs should come before the needs of the other partner, or that the other partner should spend all of his or her free time with the abuser. This can leave the abused partner feeling like they spend all of their time taking care of their abuser.

Domination and Isolation

The abusive spouse usually takes control over the relationship. He may tell his partner what to say and do in specific situations or forbid her from undertaking particular actions or reaching goals. To maintain this dominance, the abuser has to isolate his victim. By telling the spouse lies about her family and friends, the abuser makes his partner lose trust in those who should be her allies. Further, he will usually bar her from going to work or school, environments where she will be able to ask for advice or seek support.

Humiliation and Shame

The abuser needs to make his spouse feel worthless. Once she does, she will be in his power. To effect this, he will call her names, put her down, create feelings of disgust, repulsion, and shame in her, try to make her loathe her body, her past and her abilities. He tries to render her incapable of leaving him by emphasizing her general unworthiness. If she believes no one else will find her attractive or interesting, then she will be unable to make the moves required to free herself from his abuse.

Chaotic, Unpredictable Behavior

Emotional abusers may often experience excessive amounts of conflict in their lives, even outside of their intimate relationships. They often start the disagreements in their lives and may hold grudges, even over small issues.

Emotional abusers often behave unpredictably. They may seem to experience drastic mood swings and may give way to outbursts of feeling. They keep their victims on edge by reacting very differently at different times to the same behavior. Victims become hypervigilant, never knowing how the abuser will react to their normal behavior.

Threats and Intimidation

Sometimes the abuse is less subtle than dominance or humiliation and the abuser resorts to outright threats. These could include a threat to damage property, her life or the lives of other loved ones, to leave her without any means of support, or to report her to authorities. Intimidation can involve gestures towards physical violence such as smashing objects in front of you, bashing their own heads or fists into walls, hurting pets, glaring cruelly or overtly displaying weapons.

Cycle of Abuse

Abuse in relationships follows a cyclical pattern: the abuser intersperses repentance and forgiveness in between the abuse. This keeps the victim under the abuser’s control because the victim believes that the abuser will change.

The abuse cycle pattern has three parts: build up, eruption and repentance and forgiveness. This cycle continues in all forms of relationship abuse: emotional, sexual and physical abuse. As the abuse continues in the relationship, the negative aspects of the cycle increase and the positive aspects of the cycle decrease. According to the National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence, the victim “may become beaten down and lose all will to care for herself.”

Build Up

The first part of the abuse cycle is the build-up: tension, demands, inadequacies and put-downs. The abuser will make the victim feel horrible about herself. Anything the victim feels insecure about, the abuser will use to his advantage. For example, the abuser may accuse the victim of being an alcoholic or an inadequate wife. During the build-up phase, the abuser’s jealousy and rage will begin to increase and be directed towards the victim.

Eruption

The second part of the abuse is the eruption: the abuser will take his aggression out on the victim. This can be manifested as physical, sexual and emotional abuse. According to NCDSV, “verbal abuse is a danger signal just as much as physical abuse.” Physical abuse may begin with a shove or a splay and escalate to homicide.

Repentance and Forgiveness

After the abuse, the abuser will revert to repentance and forgiveness. Known as the “honeymoon phase,” the abuser will use sweet talk to keep the victim under his control.The abuser may use lines like: I cannot live without you. I will lose my job, or flunk out of college if I do not have you because I just cannot concentrate.” The abuser may shower the victim with gifts and promise the victim that the abuse will not happen again. During this time, the victim will temporarily have the power in the relationship and will believe that the abuse will not happen again.

Why Do Women Stay in Abusive Relationships?

Despite the problems caused by abuse, many men and women stay in these relationships. Some may feel an obligation to stay with their partner, and others do not think they have a way out.

The Atlantic website states that even when faced with the abusive nature of their partners, some victims feel that it is their obligation as a wife to stay in that environment. For example, an abused woman may stay for the sake of her children, stating that she wants to have their father in their lives. Some women may have pressure from other family members to keep the relationship together or have religious beliefs that do not approve of divorce. Other women may stay in the abusive relationship out of loyalty to their partners, or because they love them.

Some victims of abuse feel ashamed about the abuse and do not want anyone else to know about it. Victims may also have low self-esteem from the abuse, in which she blames herself for what has happened, or thinks that no one else will love her. Other women may deny the abuse, saying that it is not that bad, or that the abusive partner is remorseful.

Victims may also be fearful of what would happen to them if they leave their relationships. For example, they may be afraid of retaliation from their abusive partners for leaving them and may feel they are in greater danger if they leave. Some women may fear that their partners will commit suicide if they leave them. Abused women may also be worried about how they will survive on their own. Legal issues are also a concern, such as custody of the children or deportation if the victim is not a citizen of the country. Some victims do not know where they could get help, which can deter them from leaving abusive relationships.

Are You Victim of Abuse? If so, GET OUT NOW!

It can be very hard to admit when you are a victim in an abusive relationship, but now that you’ve gotten that far, you need to know how to get out. Whether you need to escape an abusive marriage or a dating relationship with an abusive boyfriend or girlfriend, your safety is of the utmost importance.

Call For Help

If you have made the decision that you need to leave, you may need help to assure your personal safety, and the safety of any children you may have. Call 911 if you feel you are in danger at any time. File for a restraining order.

You need to leave when your partner is going to be out of the house for at least several hours. Hire movers, if you can afford them. If not, call friends or relatives to help you pack your belongings as quickly as possible. Rent a truck or van to help you move everything at once. You do not want to have to make multiple trips; if your partner comes home early, you could be forced to leave things behind.

If you do not have anyone who can help you pack your things and move, you can call the police and request their presence. At the very least, ask a neighbor to stay with you just to keep an eye out for your partner.

Where to Go

Do not tell your partner where you will be staying. If you are staying with a friend or relative who is known to your partner, you run the risk of him or her finding you there and confronting you. If your partner is violent, this could put your friends and family in danger.

If violence is a concern, you should consider staying at a local domestic violence shelter until you can find somewhere else to live. Domestic violence shelters can provide a safe place to stay, as well as legal assistance, financial assistance, counseling, help finding a job, and help relocating.

If You Are Married or Have Kids

If you are married, you will need a good divorce lawyer. If you have kids with your abuser, you will need a good lawyer to help you with a custody suit. It will help your case – divorce or custody – if you have documented dates and details of any abuse that has taken place. If you have police reports or medical documents to produce as evidence in court, that would be ideal, but just writing everything down in a journal is better than nothing.

Stay Away from Your Abuser

Because it can be hard to put your emotions aside, it may be difficult to stay away from the person who hurt you. Chances are, you still love your partner. You may have been together for months or years, but you likely wouldn’t have stayed if you weren’t emotionally invested in the relationship. You probably believe that your partner loves you, too, despite the abuse inflicted upon you. The important thing to remember is that love is not supposed to hurt. Your safety and well-being was not respected. You deserve someone who loves you and respects you enough not to hurt you.

Enlist Help

Tell all of your friends, family, and co-workers when you leave. That way, the receptionist at work can reject any of your partner’s attempts to call you at work. Security can prevent your partner from coming to find you at work. Your sister can call the cops when you’re visiting her and his car pulls into the driveway. Your best friend can make sure to keep you busy on weekends when you might’ve otherwise had plans with your partner. Your mom can invite you over for dinner on what would’ve been your anniversary.

Helpful Websites

If you are a victim of domestic violence, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE. And also check out these websites:

Break the Cycle
Break the Cycle provides tools and resources to prevent and end dating abuse.

Casa de Esperanza
Casa de Esperanza’s mission is to mobilize Latinas and Latino communities to end domestic violence.

Corporate Alliance to End Partner Violence
CAEPV is dedicated to reducing the costs and consequences of partner violence at work, and eliminating it altogether. Their site has info, materials and advice on everything from policies and programs to legal issues and legislation.

Futures Without Violence
Futures Without Violence has led the way and set the pace for ground-breaking education programs, national policy development, professional training programs,and public actions designed to end violence against women, children and families around the world.

Institute on Domestic Violence in the African American Community
IDVAAC is an organization focused on the unique circumstances of African Americans as they face issues related to domestic violence, including intimate partner violence, child abuse, elder maltreatment and community violence.

Institute for Law and Justice
ILJ is a private, nonprofit corporation dedicated to consulting, research, evaluation and training in criminal justice.

Legal Resource Center on Violence Against Women
The LRC works specifically to obtain legal representation for domestic violence survivors in interstate custody cases and to provide technical assistance to domestic violence victim advocates and attorneys in such cases.

Legal Services Corporation
Legal Services Corporation (LSC) is an independent nonprofit established by Congress in 1974 to provide financial support for civil legal aid to low-income Americans.

loveisrespect
A project of the National Domestic Violence Hotline and Break the Cycle, loveisrespect is the ultimate resource fostering healthy dating attitudes and relationships, and educating about teen dating violence.

National Adult Protective Services Association
Formed in 1989, the goal of NAPSA is to provide Adult Protective Services (APS) programs a forum for sharing information, solving problems, and improving the quality of services for victims of elder and vulnerable adult mistreatment.

National Clearinghouse for the Defense of Battered Women
NCDBW works with battered women who have been arrested and are facing trial, as well as those who are serving prison sentences.

National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence
NCDSV helps people who work with victims and perpetrators: law enforcement, criminal justice professionals, health care professionals, advocates and service providers, counselors, and social workers. They also work with local, state and federal agencies, educators, media, policymakers and more.

The National Center for Victims of Crime
They advocate for victims’ rights, train professionals who work with victims, and serve as a trusted source of information on victims’ issues. They’re the most comprehensive national resource committed to advancing victims’ rights and helping victims of crime rebuild their lives.

National Network to End Violence Against Immigrant Women
The National Network to End Violence Against Immigrant Women seeks to challenge and eliminate all forms of oppression and discrimination against immigrant women facing violence by empowering them to build better lives of their choice.

National Runaway Safeline
The mission of NRS is to help keep America’s runaway, homeless and at-risk youth safe and off the streets.

National Network to End Domestic Violence
NNEDV offers a range of programs and initiatives to address the complex causes and far-reaching consequences of domestic violence. Through cross-sector collaborations and corporate partnerships, they give support to victims of domestic violence who are escaping abusive relationships.

National Resource Center on Domestic Violence
NRCDV engages, informs and supports systems, organizations, communities and individuals to build their capacity to effectively address domestic violence and intersecting issues.

NO MORE
NO MORE is a new unifying symbol designed to galvanize greater awareness and action to end domestic violence and sexual assault. NO MORE is supported by major organizations working to address these urgent issues.

National Violence Against Women Prevention Research Center
Sponsored by the CDC, NVAWPRC does research to help increase the understanding of violence against women.

Peace Over Violence
Peace Over Violence is a sexual and domestic violence, stalking, child abuse and youth violence prevention center headquartered in LA and dedicated to building healthy relationships, families and communities free from sexual, domestic and interpersonal violence.

StrongHearts Native Helpline
The StrongHearts Native Helpline is a culturally-appropriate, free and confidential service for Native Americans affected by domestic violence and dating violence. Speak with a StrongHearts advocate by calling 1-844-762-8483 Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Central time.

US Department of Justice: Office on Violence Against Women | Domestic Violence State Coalitions
A component of the U.S. Department of Justice, they provide federal leadership in developing the nation’s capacity to reduce violence against women and administer justice for and strengthen services to victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.

VAWnet
The goal of VAWnet, the National Online Resource Center on Violence Against Women, is to use electronic communication technology to enhance efforts to prevent violence against women and intervene more effectively when it occurs. 

WomensLaw
A project of NNEDV, WomensLaw was launched to provide state-specific legal information and resources for survivors of domestic violence. They also provide referrals, detailed protective/restraining order information, and more, state by state.

Voices For Change

Tracy Schott’s website. She is a producer and a documentary filmmaker about domestic abuse.