The Truth About Domestic Violence

truth about domestic violence woman's eyes

In the last 60 seconds, approximately 20 people were physically abused by an intimate partner¹. It’s important we take the time to acknowledge the millions of people each year who are victims of intimate partner violence (IPV). This type of violence does not discriminate based on age, ethnicity, economic status, gender, country, or any other reason. Anyone can be a victim, and anyone can be an abuser. To honor those who are affected by IPV, take the time to educate yourself on the truth about domestic violence. 

General Facts About Domestic Violence

  • IPV affects over 12 million people each year².
  • Almost all people in the US have experienced psychological aggression by an intimate partner at some point in their life².
  • From 1994 to 2010, 4 out of 5 victims of IPV were women².
  • IPV makes up about 15% of violent crimes¹
  • About 70% of murder-suicides involve an intimate partner².
  • On average, 20,000 calls are made to domestic violence hotlines in the US².
  • Over 3 women per day are killed by their husband/boyfriend each day.
  • Risk factors for IPV victimization include being poor, less educated, young adult/teenager, female, living in an impoverished neighborhood, and alcohol or drug dependency
  • Risk factors for perpetrating abusive behaviors are low income and/or academic achievement, young age, prior history of abuse either as a perpetrator, victim, or bystander, a desire for power/control, alcohol/drug use.

Domestic Violence by Gender, Sexual Orientation, and Age

  • More than 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have been victims of some kind of PVV in their lifetime in the US²
  • About 15% of women and 4% of men have been injured as a result of IPV in the US².
  • Women between the ages of 18-24 and 25-34 have the highest rate of IPV victimization²
  • Almost 10% of high schoolers report being intentionally, physically hurt by their intimate partner³.
  • 15-40% of youth report being the perpetrators of some kind of physical violence towards their intimate partner³
  • Over 40% of lesbians and 60% of bisexual women have been victims of IPV during thier lifetime.
  • 26 percent of gay men and about 40 percent of bisexual men have been victims of IPV in their lifetime.

Global IPV Statistics

  • About 87,000 women worldwide were intentionally killed in 2017–about a third of them were killed by their intimate partner.
  • Globally, 35-70% of women have experienced IPV throughout their lifetimes.
  • Countries with unequal gender norms tend to have higher rates of IPV.
  • In Sudan, 34% of women believe a husband is justified in hitting their wife.
  • Marital rape is legal in 10 countries.
  • IPV affects job stability, making it more likely for a victim to lose their job.

IPV by Socioeconomic Status

  • Low level of education is a risk factor of both IPV perpetration and victimization.
  • 17% of cities attribute DV as the most significant cause of homelessness.
  • IPV affects job stability, making it more likely for a victim to lose their job.
  • Low socioeconomic status is often considered a risk factor for IPV/DV, but any ¹⁰.

IPV Policies

  • 144 countries have passed laws on domestic violence
  • Data on IPV for the years 2005-2017 is available in 106 countries.
  • Evidence shows that advocacy, counseling on empowerment, and home visits are effective in reducing/preventing IPV.

October is a month for raising awareness and education about domestic violence. However, it is clear to see that this is a public health issue. We should push domestic violence into the “limelight” every day of every month–not just one. Policies of prevention and response should always be at the forefront of conversation. This is especially true in conversations between law enforcement, public health and government officials, and anyone else affected by this type of violence. If you or someone you know is a victim of DV, the National Domestic Violence Hotline is available 24/7 at 1-800-799-7233 for support. 

Here is a list of resources for further statistics or help for victims of IPV/DV that is provided by the American Psychology Association:

Provides resources for deaf/blind victims of DV, sexual assault and stalking.

Assists in finding psychologists in your local area.

A collection of resources and information on domestic violence, sexual assault, and other related topics.

Works to promote women of color advocates.


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References:

¹https://ncadv.org/STATISTICS.

²https://www.thehotline.org/stakeholders/domestic-violence-statistics/

³https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/datingmatters_flyer_2012-a.pdf

⁴https://ncadv.org/blog/posts/domestic-violence-and-the-lgbtq-community

⁵https://www.unwomen.org/en/what-we-do/ending-violence-against-women/facts-and-figures#:~:text=It%20is%20estimated%20that%20of,their%20own%20family%20every%20day.

⁶https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/violence-against-women

⁷https://data.unicef.org/resources/fgm-country-profiles/

⁸https://www.scmp.com/news/world/article/2076388/nine-countries-rapists-go-free-if-they-marry-their-victims-how-bad-laws

⁹https://www.apa.org/pi/ses/resources/publications/violence

¹⁰https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5801611/

What Is Domestic Violence?

what is domestic violence

What comes to mind when you hear the words “domestic violence”? Many people visualize images of women with black eyes and bloody noses with a boyfriend/husband as the perpetrator. However, this stereotype is not always a reality. Domestic violence can occur in any type of relationship regardless of age, sexual orientation, or economic status. Even the strongest of women and men can fall victim, and even the seemingly “friendly” person, of any gender, can be a perpetrator. October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and it’s the perfect time to bring awareness to the many different situations and types of domestic abuse. 

What is Domestic Violence?

According to thehotline.org, domestic violence (DV) is a “pattern of behaviors used by one partner to maintain power and control over another partner in an intimate relationship.” DV, often referred to as intimate partner violence (IPV) or relationship/dating violence, comes in many different forms, including:

  • Physical–the use or threat of physical force with the intent to cause harm. This can include shoving, strangling, grabbing, or throwing objects at the victim.
  • Emotional/Verbal–using words, or lack of words, to purposely cause harm to the partner. This includes things like name-calling, humiliation, the “silent treatment,” and gaslighting.
  • Sexual–any kind of unwanted sexual behavior. An example would be performing sexual intercourse with the partner without consent. 
  • Other control tactics–anything else that the perpetrator does to manipulate and control their partner. This can be anything from withholding money from the victim or having complete
  • control over how the money is spent to withholding sleep from the victim.

Who Are the Victims of DV?

There is no “victim profile” for domestic violence; anyone can be a victim. This is why it is extremely important to understand the warning signs that you or someone you know may be falling victim to this type of abuse. Here are some warning signs that The Guide tells you to watch for in abusive relationships: 

What is domestic violence in your own relationship?

Do you…

  • Often feel afraid of your partner?
  • Feel your partner gets angry easily and avoid topics that cause them anger?
  • Believe that you may be crazy or deserve to be mistreated?
  • Feel like you can never please your partner?

Does your partner….

  • Humiliate, put you down, or yell at you?
  • Ignore you or make you feel worthless/less than?
  • Blame you for their outbursts and temper?
  • Physically harm you or threaten to?
  • Threaten to hurt themselves if you leave?
  • Destroy, control, or withhold your money or belongings?
  • Exhibit jealousy or keep you from seeing family/friends?
  • Force or use threats to convince you to have sex?

What is domestic violence in others’ relationships?

Does the potential victim:

  • Seem afraid or anxious around their partner, constantly trying to please them?
  • Check-in with their partner more than would seem normal?
  • Discuss their partner’s jealousy, temper, or controlling behaviors?
  • Receive harassing phone calls or text messages from their partner?
  • Have frequent injuries with no specific cause?
  • Often miss events or work at the last minute?
  • Wear clothes that may cover bruises or marks?
  • Often only do things with their partner?
  • Have low self-esteem, depression, or major personality changes?

Answering yes to some or many of these questions may indicate that you or the person you know is in an abusive relationship. 

Effects of Domestic Violence

The World Health Organization (WHO) published a report highlighting the many dangerous effects of DV throughout the world. In a physically abusive relationship, of course, there are the more obvious effects, such as bruises, lacerations, and fractures. However, many victims of abuse, physical or not, carry the less visible scars of the relationship for the rest of their life. This includes physical symptoms, such as chronic illness and stress-related diseases like IBS. In fact, a history of abuse is a risk factor for many physical diseases and illnesses. 

While it is easy to view the physical effects of DV as the most serious because they are more visible and concrete, the mental effects of trauma can be just as detrimental. The WHO reported that anxiety, phobias, depression, thoughts of suicide, and attempted suicide were significantly higher in victims of DV. 

Unfortunately, death is also an effect of DV. WHO found that 40-70% of female homicide victims are killed by their intimate partner. Additionally, victims are more likely to commit suicide or contract HIV/AIDS.

What Can You Do To Help? 

By reading this article, you are already taking the first step towards preventing and responding to DV–you are becoming more aware and educated on the issue. The more knowledgeable you are about the warning signs and effects of DV, the more likely you will be able to notice these red flags in your own or others’ relationships. 

If you suspect a friend may be in an abusive relationship, it is important to have a conversation with them at a time and in a place where they can feel calm and safe. Let victims know they are supported, believed, and worthy of being treated well and receiving help. It may be beneficial to help the victim create a safety plan for when violence occurs; this can include things like a safe place to retreat to, code words for family/friends, and a stash of cash and important documents. Contacting a local domestic violence shelter can be a helpful first step. As much as you may want to help, it is important that you do not overstep, it is ultimately up to the victim when they are ready to leave their abuser. However, if the victim is in immediate danger, or the situation involves children, call the police. 

If you believe you are in an abusive relationship, first of all, know that it is not your fault. No one deserves abuse or to feel unsafe in a relationship. Secondly, don’t be afraid to talk to a safe loved one about your situation–they will likely be able to offer support, without judgment. You can also talk to your doctor, a social worker, the police, or a domestic abuse shelter in your area for help. Another option for support and information is The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).

Photo by: Sydney Sims Unsplash

Healing Through Art

art is healing

Art doesn’t need to be for show. In fact, oftentimes artists are creating for themselves. Others appreciating their artwork is a bonus. Plus, research reveals that utilizing art therapy for healing can prove to be a helpful tool for trauma survivors.

Several months ago, I had the idea to attack a personal trauma of mine by drawing the way I felt about a particular situation. While drawing, coloring, and labeling my art, I found myself coming to a calm conclusion about various aspects of the situation. The next day, I was faced with a high-intensity situation related to the one I’d drawn about. It was comforting to simply grab the piece of art I’d completed to reflect on the emotions I’d processed.

The Science of Art

As it turns out, artistic expression can scientifically calm the storm in the mind in order to better reflect and process a painful situation by encouraging the brain to access a “flow state,” better known as “getting in the zone,” according to the National Domestic Violence Hotline. Art therapy can be a fantastic tool for survivors of domestic violence, regardless of whether or not someone considers themselves creative or artistic. 

The American Art Therapy Association says, “Art therapy is used to improve cognitive and sensorimotor functions, foster self-esteem and self-awareness, cultivate emotional resilience, promote insight, enhance social skills, reduce and resolve conflicts and distress, and advance societal and ecological change.” 

Earlier this year, Very Well Mind pointed out that while artistic expression, in general, can be beneficial, art therapy specifically asks clients to focus inward on their experiences. They stated, “in creating art, people are able to focus on their own perceptions, imagination, and feelings. Clients are encouraged to create art that expresses their inner world more than making something that is an expression of the outer world.”

Art and Trauma

The Hotline stated that recent research reveals that traumatic memories are stored on the right side of the brain. These memories are “non-verbal” (storing sights, sounds, and smells) whereas memories stored on the left side of the brain are “verbal.” 

According to The Hotline, “this means that commonly recommended self-care activities like journaling, talking to a friend, or even traditional talk therapy might not be the most effective strategies for working through [traumatic] memories and the emotional and physical reactions attached to them.” The article goes on to further explain how artistic expression can tap into the right side of the brain where traumatic memories are stored, which encourages a person to enter the previously mentioned “flow state” where intrusive thoughts stay at bay.

Interestingly, one way to access dopamine — a chemical in our brain related to reward and pleasure centers in the brain — is through a repetitive action. “Engaging in creative pursuits regularly can help train your brain to produce more of these feel-good chemicals that can improve your mood over time,” said The Hotline. Artistic expressions tend to provide a positive result (some examples include creating a brightly colored, pretty pot you can display in your home, effectively singing a note you have been practicing for a few weeks, or holding a yoga pose for a longer length of time than before). For me, I created a tangible piece of art that gave me the satisfaction of drawing something that turned out better than I expected, as well as something I could reflect back on whenever I needed to.

Art and Survivors

The connections that domestic violence survivors can create with each other is another vital aspect of art therapy. Art, in general, is somehow both an easy yet personal way to connect with others. Expressing past trauma, hardship or painful emotions is sometimes less uncomfortable to do when done through artistic expression. The feeling that music can express emotions better than just stating the way you feel is pretty universal, and applicable here.

Chanel Miller, who was known as the Emily Doe victim during the Brock Turner case, published a memoir in 2019 titled Know My Name. In her memoir, she spoke of attending an art program the summer after her assault, performing in a comedic stand-up production, as well as attending an art workshop for survivors — all various forms of artistic expression. She shared with The New York Times, “Drawing was a way for me to see that I was still there.”

In an article published by VAWnet, the writer said of a domestic violence survivor writing workshop they used to conduct, “As we worked together to find meaning in poetry and shared our vulnerabilities when reading our own writings aloud, we built community.” 

Finding community through art not only can provide survivors of domestic violence with that sense of safety, but it does so through a form of self-care. 

The path of healing can be accessed by getting out your colored pencils, paints, or ballroom Youtube video and seeing how far it takes you.

Photo Credit: Donny Jiang, via Unsplash

Learning to be Independent

independent

An abusive partner’s main objective is to create a totally dependent victim. They want us to lose all of our spunk, our spirit, and our freedom. They want total control over us. We are no longer independent. To do this, they use their myriad of tactics to isolate, dominate, and manipulate us in a way that molds us into their submissive robots.

When abusive partners do this, they strip us of our autonomy. I was a fun-loving, independent, successful, and smart person before he walked into my life. Over time, I became something I did not recognize. I became a robotic shell of a human being. I became completely dependent on him.

How do we, as survivors of domestic violence, regain our independence post-abuse? How do we find ourselves again? How do we adjust to life after them?

Learning to be independent after our abusive relationships is something we may have great difficulty in doing. We are so accustomed to living by their rules and their way of life that we don’t know anything else. We don’t know how to step, speak, and live. We need to relearn everything all over again.

Reclaim

One of the biggest hurdles for me to overcome was reclaiming parts of my life that were lost. Our abusers are hell-bent on taking away every last bit of what makes us individuals. I was so timid and afraid to take a step post-abuse that it took me a long time to reclaim lost parts of myself.

Things to consider when reclaiming yourself:

  • There’s no timetable for this. Go as slowly as you need to.
  • Take small steps. Baby steps can equal large accomplishments.

One of the biggest pieces of advice I can give in reclaiming yourself is to accept the satisfaction and freedom it gives you when you accomplish something. I remember that after my situation when I began to do things that he didn’t want me to do, I reclaimed part of myself again and began to feel freedom with every new step that I took.

Reconnect

Abusers often isolate us from our support system. Subsequently, it’s also a tactic they hate to lose when we begin to break away from them. They despise it when we reconnect with our support system. Their goal is to drive wedges between us and those closest to us so that the only one we rely on is the abuser.

Reconnecting with family, friends and other support is vital to our healing and recovery. When I was first out of my situation, I found it easy to reconnect with my main support system – my parents and a few close friends. My mother knew what I had gone through because she, too, is a domestic violence survivor and knew what it took to come back to those who love her.

Things to consider when reconnecting with others:

  • How quickly you reconnect is up to you.
  • Don’t let others pressure you into connecting too quickly.
  • Create boundaries if you need to.

You are putting yourself back together, like fitting puzzle pieces together. Each time you reconnect with those around you, it will fit a piece back into that puzzle. The more you do that, the more of yourself you will get back, and the more independent you will become.

Regain

To regain is to get possession of something once again. The thing I needed to regain the most was my voice. My voice was taken away from me. Much of who we are is made up of our voice, thoughts, opinions, and feelings. When we are in our situations, abusers strip us of the ability to speak our minds. They tell us we are stupid, that we don’t know what we’re talking about and that we should listen to them because they know better. We begin to defer to their supposed better judgment. Little by little, our voice is taken away.

Regaining our voices will help us learn to be more independent in our healing journeys. But it will take time. It took me a considerable amount of time to find my voice again. I was so afraid to speak my mind that I agreed to everything to keep the peace. Finding your voice again will be a big, but necessary, step to becoming independent again.

Things to consider when regaining your voice:

  • Share with those you feel most comfortable.
  • Share at your own pace.
  • Speak up about your needs as often as you feel.

The more you speak up, the easier it will become. I know it will be a scary thing to do. I was petrified of others’ reactions to my thoughts and feelings. I thought I’d be told no, that my thoughts were stupid, and that I didn’t matter. But with the right support system behind you, you will find your voice again because they will give you the space and time you need to do so.

Re-express

To freely express ourselves again after an abusive relationship is a petrifying thought. It is human nature to be expressive in thought, word, and action. Abusers slowly destroy that expressive part of us. It’s only natural to be fearful of learning to be expressive once again. What did you love to do before your abuser? Did you love to paint, draw, sing, or write?

We are coerced into shutting ourselves off creatively when we are with our abusers. We stop doing the things that bring us joy. We stop our lives because of them. We turn into people we don’t recognize. Part of learning to be independent again is learning to re-express ourselves.

When you begin to reclaim and reconnect again with loved ones and begin to find yourself again, your independence will shine once more.

Why is Sleep so Difficult?

sleep

You’ve barely slept all week. You decide to go to bed early to try to catch up on reset, but once in bed, you lay awake, your thoughts racing. You toss and turn, then decide to get up and grab a glass of water. The process repeats itself until finally, about three hours later, you fall asleep. Why is sleep so difficult?

Never Ending Pattern

A noise wakes you. Instantly your thoughts begin to race… what if he’s back? What if someone is in my house? Is this the end? “It’s okay,” you rationalize to yourself, “it was probably just the dog.” But even trying to talk yourself down keeps you up for at least another hour. You fall asleep again, only to wake up every hour, following the schedule your abuser kept you on. Most nights follow this pattern.

Do you relate to this? 

Sleep and PTSD

If your answer is yes, you may have post-traumatic stress disorder. Aside from sleep disruptions, individuals suffering from PTSD are also likely to wake up screaming or thrashing, wake up often, move frequently during sleep, and have realistic nightmares which can lead to waking up in a state of panic. Being a victim of abuse has clear connections with sleep disruptions, some surveys suggest that 70 percent of people with PTSD experience insomnia and/or nightmares, according to Very Well Health

Healthy Ways to Manage Sleep

There are healthy ways to manage sleep while struggling with PTSD. It’s important to not use alcohol or drugs as a coping mechanism as you can easily become dependent. Chemical dependency often leads to more disruptions of sleep, including sleep apnea. Lifestyle changes can help people with PTSD sleep more soundly. According to the National Sleep Foundation, referenced in Good Therapy, sleep is a habit and with the right changes, sleep patterns can be corrected. 

Be patient with yourself. Change and healing take time.

You can follow these tips from Everyday Healthy, to help heal and reset those patterns:

  • Adjust your bedtime (and be consistent), 
  • Avoid naps,
  • Avoid oversleeping,
  • Wake up a set time every day,
  • Avoid exposure to blue light prior to going to bed,
  • Exercise, but not too close to bedtime,
  • Create and follow a personal bedtime routine that relaxes you,
  • Use your bed only for sleeping, not to read or work.

Stress Management

Most importantly, managing stress levels can drastically reduce PTSD episodes. This relief can be found from therapy, meditation, yoga, or guided imagery. You can also consult with a doctor to determine if medication or other steps would help you have a more restful night of sleep.

Ultimately, do what makes you feel the safest and most comfortable. You know yourself best, follow all suggestions with good judgment of what will make you feel the happiest and healthiest. 

Processing Grief

processing grief

Loss of any kind is a part of this world. It’s something we, unfortunately, have to learn to cope with. How we process this loss is also a part of this world. What are the ways we can process grief in a healthy way? What can we do to cope with loss in our lives? What if you lost someone dear to you because of domestic violence? How do you process that loss?

Kirsten Belaire, Director of Behavioral Health at Mt. Carmel Veterans Service Center stated, “Everyone is unique and so is their grief.” There are natural responses to trauma, grief, and loss, the recovery process, and functions of the brain.

Types of Loss

There are so many different types of loss – from losing a loved one to an illness to mourning the loss of a relationship, and even to a sudden loss of a loved one (including a domestic violence situation). This is not to say that any one loss is more significant than another. It also doesn’t make it easier. We all deal with loss differently and we will each process the grief differently.

Belaire‘s goal is to lead workshop attendees to an understanding that processing grief in a healthy way is to allow “the process, not dampening or shutting off the process (like coping with substances or ignoring feelings), and sharing your story/process.”

How Do You Process Loss?

I lost one of my best friends suddenly in April 2020. It was such a shock to the system that it literally brought me to my knees. How do you process such a sudden loss? I couldn’t make sense of it. I felt lost.

According to Merriam-Webster, grief is defined as “deep and poignant distress caused by or as if by bereavement.” Often, those in bereavement find great difficulty in processing such an extreme and intense emotion.

In her book, On Death and Dying, Elizabeth Kubler Ross outlined the five stages of grief:

  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance

There is no right way to grieve, and the stages don’t “go in order” either. These stages are not linear – you will bounce between stages and maybe back to a stage you were in already. Since my friend’s death in April 2020, I have been bouncing between the anger, depression, and acceptance stages. I find myself wanting to be angry at how and why she died. Then depression sets in that my friend of 19 years is gone. Acceptance finds its way into my heart. But again, so does anger.

What does grieving look like? Well, it varies from person to person. What works for one, may not work for another. It typically manifests itself physically, emotionally, and psychologically, according to Mental Health America. “For instance, crying is a physical expression, while depression is a psychological expression,” stated the site.

Processing Grief in a Healthy Way 

NPR lists several fantastic ways to process grief in a healthy way. My two favorites are “be with your grief” and “grief needs expression.” Being with your grief does not mean to let it consume and overwhelm you. It simply means to acknowledge it and allowing the messiness in. Denying it doesn’t help either. Often, people will push the grief away and keep busy with work, school, or other things. That does us no good and in the end, those emotions can come back tenfold. Sit with your grief and recognize the messy emotions that come with it.

The other thing NPR lists that I have used to help me process and cope in a healthy way is expressing my grief. We are expressive creatures and in that, we need to find ways to express all of our emotions, including grief. If you are an artsy person, maybe you typically turn to painting, drawing, or sculpting. You may also find that keeping a journal will help you release your grief. Sometimes, shared grief can be a big help too. Perhaps find another trusted friend or support group that you can lean on. Those who know what you are going through can be an incredibly positive experience and help bring you peace.

Don’t Do It Alone

If you are struggling to process the grief you are experiencing, Belaire’s advice is simple but important. “Don’t feel you have to do it alone. Talk with someone who is familiar with grief (like a counselor, group member, or peer). In other words, someone who will not shut you down or make you feel like you’re failing. Remember, the grief process/healing is often painful and not always the ‘prettiest.’ It’s okay to be messy in moderation. If life becomes unmanageable, or your/others safety is at risk, seek help.”

For more information on Mt. Carmel Veterans Service Center, please visit their website.