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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

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