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Children are often considered the “hidden” victims in families where domestic violence occurs. Studies have estimated that 3.3 – 10 million children witness domestic violence each year. Children, like their adult caregivers, experience trauma from the physical and verbal abuse in the home.
Children can display a variety of behaviors due to witnessing domestic violence and those behaviors can affect their ability to be successful in school and other social settings. Also, 30% to 60% of perpetrators of domestic violence abuse children in the household.
Impact of Exposure to Domestic Violence
Newborn to 5
- Sleep and/or eating disruptions
- Withdrawal/lack of responsiveness
- Intense/pronounced separation anxiety
- Inconsolable crying
- Developmental regression, loss of acquired skills
- Intense anxiety, worries, and/or new fears
- Increased aggression and/or impulsive behavior
Ages 6 to 11
- Nightmares, sleep disruptions
- Aggression and difficulty with peer relationships in school
- Difficulty with concentration and task completion in school
- Withdrawal and/or emotional numbing
- School avoidance and/or truancy
What is Domestic Violence?
Domestic violence is a pattern of coercive, controlling behavior that can include physical abuse, emotional or psychological abuse, sexual abuse or financial abuse (using money and financial tools to exert control).
Domestic violence is a pervasive, life-threatening crime that affects millions of individuals across the United States regardless of age, economic status, race, religion or education.
Domestic Violence affects all walks of life.
Batterers make it very difficult for victims to escape relationships. Sadly, many survivors suffer from abuse for decades.
It’s important for survivors to know that the abuse is not their fault, and they are not alone. Help is available for those who suffer from domestic violence.
Why do victims sometimes return to or stay with abusers?
The deck is stacked against the victim when confronted with leaving or not.
Abusers work very hard to keep victims in relationships.
In fact, a victim’s risk of getting killed greatly increases when they are in the process of leaving or have just left. On average, three women die at the hands of a current or former intimate partner every day.
Batterers are very good at making victims think that the abuse is their fault. Victims often believe that if they caused the violence, they can also stop it.
A survivor may return to the abuser because that’s the person the survivor fell in love with, and they believe their promises to change. It’s not easy for anyone to let go of hopes and dreams.
Do abusers show any potential warning signs?
There is no way to spot an abuser in a crowd, but most abusers share some common characteristics. Some of the subtle warning signs include:
They insist on moving quickly into a relationship.
They can be very charming and may seem too good to be true.
They insist that you stop participating in leisure activities or spending time with family and friends.
They are extremely jealous or controlling.
Replaying assault in the mind
They do not take responsibility for their actions and blame others for everything that goes wrong.
They criticize their partner’s appearance and make frequent putdowns.
Their words and actions don’t match.
Victims say because they are made to think they cannot survive on their own, financially or otherwise. Often abusers create a financial situation that makes leaving nearly impossible.Survivors sometimes want the abuse to end, not the relationship.
Any one of these behaviors may not indicate abusive actions, but it’s important to know the red flags and take time to explore them.
Is it possible for abusers to change?
Yes, but they must make the choice to change.
It’s not easy for an abuser to stop abusive behavior, and it requires a serious decision to change. Once an abuser has had all of the power in a relationship, it’s difficult to change to a healthy relationship with equal power and compromises.
Sometimes an abuser stops the physical violence, but continues to employ other forms of abuse – emotional, sexual, or financial. Some abusers are able to exert complete control over a victim’s every action without using violence or only using subtle threats of violence. All types of abuse are devastating to victims.
Does domestic violence only affect women?
Men can be victims of domestic violence.
When we talk about domestic violence, we’re not talking about men versus women or women versus men. We’re talking about violence versus peace. We’re talking about control versus respect.
A 2001 U.S. study revealed that 85 percent of victims were female with a male batterer. The other 15 percent includes intimate partner violence in gay and lesbian relationships and men who were battered by a female partner.
One in four women will be the victim of domestic violence at some point in her lifetime.
Women are 90-95 percent more likely to suffer domestic violence than are men.
Domestic violence affects us all, and all of us – women, children and men – must be part of the solution.
Does the economy affect domestic violence?
A sour economy does not cause domestic violence but can make it worse. The severity and frequency of abuse can increase when factors associated with a bad economy are present.
Job loss, housing foreclosures, debt, and other factors contribute to higher stress levels at home, which can lead to increase violence.
As the violence gets worse, a weak economy limits options for survivors to seek safety or escape.
Victims may have a more difficult time finding a job to become financially independent of abusers.
What can I do to help?
Everyone can speak out against domestic violence. The problem will continue until society stands up with one resounding voice and says, “NO MORE!”
Members of the public can donate to local, statewide or national anti-domestic violence programs or victim assistance programs.
We can teach our children how healthy relationships look by example and by talking about it.
You can call on your public officials to support life-saving domestic violence services and hold perpetrators accountable.
Be supportive. Letting your friend know you care and are willing to listen may be the best help you can offer. Remind them that everyone deserves to be in a healthy and safe relationship and you’re concerned about their well-being.
Don’t bad-mouth the abuser; they may want the abusive behavior to stop but they may want to stay in the relationship. Never blame them for what’s happening and never assume you know what’s best for him/her to do.
Be discreet: Sharing resources is so important, but remember that your friend may be in serious danger. Before you do anything, talk to a local domestic violence program about the best way to handle the situation.
Promote safety. Encourage your friend to call Families Living Violence Free. Crisis Lines are open 24/7 in both English 919-693-5700; Español 919-690-0888. Advocates there can help your friend plan for her/his safety and help identify her/his options.
Want more information on domestic violence? Follow these links:
Although your natural impulse may be to “rescue” someone you care about from domestic violence, the person being abused needs to make the ultimate decision of whether (and when) to leave and get help. Keeping this in mind will help ensure that you support them no matter their decision and continue to provide them with a loving and safe friendship.
Make Time for Them
If you decide to reach out to an abuse victim, do so during a time of calm. Getting involved when tempers are flaring can put you in danger. Also, make sure to set aside plenty of time in case the victim decides to open up. If the person decides to disclose years of pent-up fear and frustration, you will not want to end the conversation because you have another commitment.
Start a Conversation
You can bring up the subject of domestic violence by saying “I’m worried about you because …..” or “I’m concerned about your safety…” or “I have noticed some changes that concern me…”
Maybe you’ve seen the person wearing clothing to cover up bruises or noticed that the person has suddenly become unusually quiet and withdrawn. Both can be signs of abuse.
Let the person know that you will be discreet about any information disclosed. Do not try to force the person to open up; let the conversation unfold at a comfortable pace.
Take it slow and easy. Just let the person know that you are available and offering a sympathetic ear.
Listen Without Judgment
If the person does decide to talk, listen to the story without being judgmental, offering advice, or suggesting solutions. Chances are if you actively listen, the person will tell you exactly what they need. Just give the person the full opportunity to talk.
Red or purple marks on the neck
Bruises on the arms
Overly apologetic or meek
Changes in sleeping or eating patterns
Anxious or on edge
Loss of interest in once enjoyed activities and hobbies
Talking about suicide
Becoming withdrawn or distant
Canceling appointments or meetings at the last minute
Being late often
Excessive privacy concerning their personal life
Isolating themselves from friends and family
Believe the Victim
Because domestic violence is more about control than anger, often the victim is the only one who sees the dark side of the perpetrator. Many times, others are shocked to learn that a person they know could commit violence.
Consequently, victims often feel that no one would believe them if they told people about the violence. Believe the victim’s story and say so. For a victim, finally having someone who knows the truth about their struggles can bring a sense of hope and relief.
Offer the victim these assurances:
I believe you
This is not your fault
You don’t deserve this.
Validate the Victim’s Feelings
It’s not unusual for victims to express conflicting feelings about their partner and their situation. These feelings can range from:
Guilt and anger
Hope and despair
Love and fear
If you want to help, it is important that you validate her feelings by letting her know that having these conflicting thoughts is normal. But it is also important that you confirm that violence is not okay, and it isn’t normal to live in fear of being physically attacked.
Some victims may not realize that their situation is abnormal because they have no other models for relationships and have gradually become accustomed to the cycle of violence. Tell the victim that violence and abuse aren’t part of healthy relationships. Without judging, confirm to them that their situation is dangerous, and you are concerned for their safety.
Offer Specific Support
Help the victim find support and resources. Look up telephone numbers for shelters, social services, attorneys, counselors, or support groups. If available, offer brochures or pamphlets about domestic violence.
You’ll also want to help them get information on any laws regarding protective orders/restraining orders and child custody information. You can search state by state for legal information on WomensLaw.org.
If the victim asks you to do something specific and you are willing to do it, don’t hesitate to help.
If you are unable to, try to find other ways the need can be met. Identify their strengths and assets, and help them build and expand upon them, so they find the motivation to help themselves.
The important thing is to let them know that you are there for them, available at any time. Just let them know the best way to reach you if help is needed. If possible, offer to go along for moral support to the police, court, or lawyer’s office.
Help Form a Safety Plan
Help the victim create a safety plan that can be put into action if violence occurs again or if they decide to leave the situation. Just the exercise of making a plan can help them visualize which steps are needed and to prepare psychologically to do so.
Because victims who leave their abusive partners are at a 75% greater risk of being killed by their abuser than those who stay, it is extremely important for a victim to have a personalized safety plan before a crisis occurs or before they decide to leave.
Help the victim think through each step of the safety plan, weighing the risks and benefits of each option and ways to reduce the risks.
Be sure to include the following in the safety plan:
- A safe place to go in an emergency, or if they decide to leave home
- A prepared excuse to leave if they feel threatened
- A code word to alert family or friends that help is needed
- An “escape bag” with cash, important documents (birth certificates, social security cards, etc.), keys, toiletries, and a change of clothes that can be easily accessed in a crisis situation
- A list of emergency contacts, including trusted family or friends, local shelters, and domestic abuse hotline
What Not to Do
Although there is no right or wrong way to help a victim of domestic violence, you want to avoid doing anything that will make the situation worse. Here are some “don’ts” the experts suggest you avoid:
- Bash the abuser. Focus on the behavior, not the personality.
- Blame the victim. That’s what the abuser does.
- Underestimate the potential danger for the victim and yourself.
- Promise any help that you can’t follow through with.
- Give conditional support.
- Do anything that might provoke the abuser.
- Pressure the victim.
- Give up. If they are not willing to open up at first, be patient.
- Do anything to make it more difficult for the victim.
Using the Instructions for completing a DVPO. You may complete the following forms prior to going to the courthouse:
If you are unable to access a printer, the Clerk of Court in your County will provide you with the forms free of cost. It is 100% FREE to file a domestic violence protective order action.
NOTE: None of the content of this page is a substitute for an experienced attorney. However, if you have additional questions about the court process, please consult with a Families Living Violence Free Court Advocate or an attorney. If you are a resident of Granville County and cannot afford an attorney, you may qualify for representation by Legal Aid of North Carolina.
Because the majority of the domestic violence awareness movement has focused on heterosexual relationships, members of the LGBTQ community have been largely left out of the movement. However, recent research shows that LGBTQ members fall victim to domestic violence at equal or even higher rates compared to their heterosexual counterparts.
Statistics about Domestic Violence and the LGBTQ Community
- 43.8% of lesbian women and 61.1% of bisexual women have experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner at some point in their lifetime, as opposed to 35% of heterosexual women.
- 26% of gay men and 37.3% of bisexual men have experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime, in comparison to 29% of heterosexual men.
- In a study of male same sex relationships, only 26% of men called the police for assistance after experiencing near-lethal violence.
- In 2012, fewer than 5% of LGBTQ survivors of intimate partner violence sought orders of protection.
- Transgender victims are more likely to experience intimate partner violence in public, compared to those who do not identify as transgender.
- Bisexual victims are more likely to experience sexual violence, compared to people who do not identify as bisexual.
- LGBTQ Black/African American victims are more likely to experience physical intimate partner violence, compared to those who do not identify as Black/African American.
- LGBTQ white victims are more likely to experience sexual violence, compared to those who do not identify as white.
- LGBTQ victims on public assistance are more likely to experience intimate partner violence compared to those who are not on public assistance.
Types of Domestic Violence Affecting the LGBTQ Community
- 20% of victims have experienced some form of physical violence
- 16% have been victims to threats and intimidation
- 15% have been verbally harassed
- 4% of survivors have experienced sexual violence
- 11% of intimate violence cases reported in the NCADVP’s 2015 report involved a weapon.
Why It Matters
Domestic violence is not limited to heterosexual relationships and can affect individuals of all sexual orientations and genders. WIthin the LGBTQ community, intimate partner violence occurs at a rate equal to or even higher than that of the heterosexual community. LGBTQ individuals may experience unique forms of intimate partner violence as well as distinctive barriers to seeking help due to fear of discrimination or bias.
Although the response to LGBTQ victims of domestic violence is gradually improving, the LGBTQ community is often met with ineffective and victimizing legal responses. Forty-five percent of victims do not report the violence they experience to police because they believe it will not help them. Further more, members of the LGBTQ community may be denied assistance and domestic violence services as a result of homophobia, transphobia, and biphobia.
Every 73 seconds, an American is Sexually Assaulted.
Sexual violence affects hundreds of thousands of Americans each year. While we’re making progress — the number of assaults has fallen by more than half since 1993 — even today, only 5 out of every 1,000 rapists will end up in prison.
Sexual assault can take many different forms, but one thing remains the same: it’s never the victim’s fault.
The term sexual assault refers to sexual contact or behavior that occurs without explicit consent of the victim. Some forms of sexual assault include:
Fondling or unwanted sexual touching
Forcing a victim to perform sexual acts, such as oral sex or penetrating the perpetrator’s body
Penetration of the victim’s body, also known as rape
What is rape?
Rape is a form of sexual assault, but not all sexual assault is rape. The term rape is often used as a legal definition to specifically include sexual penetration without consent. For its Uniform Crime Reports, the FBI defines rape as “penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.”
What is force?
Force doesn’t always refer to physical pressure. Perpetrators may use emotional coercion, psychological force, or manipulation to coerce a victim into non-consensual sex. Some perpetrators will use threats to force a victim to comply, such as threatening to hurt the victim or their family or other intimidation tactics.
Survivors of both stranger rape and acquaintance rape often blame themselves for behaving in a way that encouraged the perpetrator. It’s important to remember that the victim is never to blame for the actions of a perpetrator.
Depending on your situation, you might be planning to leave an abusive relationship, in the process of leaving or maybe you’ve already left. Or, maybe your friend or family member is experiencing abuse, and you are looking for ways to support them. Safety plans come in all shapes and sizes; they should be unique to the survivor’s needs in the moment.
Before You Leave
Because violence could escalate when someone tries to leave, here are some things you might consider before you leave:
Keep any evidence of abuse, such as pictures of injuries, texts, emails, etc.
Keep a journal of all violent incidences, noting dates, events and threats made, if possible. Keep your journal in a safe place.
Know where you can go to get help. Tell someone what is happening to you.
If you are injured, go to a doctor or an emergency room and report what happened to you. Ask that they document your visit.
If you have children, identify a safe place for them, like a room with a lock or a friend’s house where they can go for help. Reassure them that their job is to stay safe, not to protect you.
If you need a safe place to stay, contact your local shelter and find out about laws and other resources available to you before you have to use them during a crisis.
Acquire job skills or take courses at a community college as you can.
Try to set money aside or ask friends or family members to hold money for you.
When You Leave
Make a plan for how and where you will escape quickly. You may request a police escort or stand-by when you leave. If you have to leave in a hurry, use the following list of items as a guide to what you might need to bring with you, depending on your situation. Remember, our advocates can help you come up with a personalized safety plan for leaving.
Birth certificate and children’s birth certificates
Social security cards
Money and/or credit cards (in your name)
Checking and/or savings account books
2) Legal Papers
Copies of any lease or rental agreements, or the deed to your home
Car registration and insurance papers
Health and life insurance papers
Medical records for you and your children
Work permits/green Card/visa
Divorce and custody papers
3) Emergency Numbers
Your local police and/or sheriff’s department
Your local domestic violence program or shelter
Friends, relatives and family members
Your local doctor’s office and hospital
County and/or District Attorney’s Office
Extra set of house and car keys
Pay-as-you-go cell phone
Pictures and sentimental items
Several changes of clothes for you and your children
After You Leave
Your safety plan should include ways to ensure your continued safety after leaving an abusive relationship. Here are some safety precautions to consider:
Change your locks and phone number.
Call the telephone company to request caller ID. Ask that your phone number be blocked so that if you call anyone, neither your partner nor anyone else will be able to get your new, unlisted phone number.
Change your work hours and the route you take to work.
Alert school authorities of the situation.
If you have a restraining order, keep a certified copy of it with you at all times, and inform friends, neighbors and employers that you have a restraining order in effect.
Call law enforcement to enforce the order and give copies of the restraining order to employers, neighbors and schools along with a picture of the offender.
Consider renting a post office box or using the address of a friend for your mail (be aware that addresses are on restraining orders and police reports, and be careful to whom you give your address and phone number).
Reschedule appointments that the abusive partner is aware of.
Use different stores and frequent different social spots.
Alert neighbors and request that they call the police if they feel you may be in danger.
Tell people you work with about the situation and have your calls screened by one receptionist if possible.
Tell people who take care of your children or drive them/pick them up from school and activities. Explain your situation to them and provide them with a copy of the restraining order.
Emotional Safety Planning
People often focus on planning around physical safety (which is important!), but it’s also important to consider your emotional safety as well. Emotional safety can look different for different people, but ultimately it’s about creating a personalized plan that helps you feel accepting of your emotions and decisions when dealing with abuse. Below are some ideas for how to create and maintain an emotional safety plan that works for you.
Seek Out Supportive People: A caring presence such as a trusted friend or family member can help create a calm atmosphere to think through difficult situations and allow for you to discuss potential options.
Identify and Work Towards Achievable Goals: An achievable goal might be calling a local resource and seeing what services are available in your area, or talking to one of our advocates at loveisrespect. Remember that you don’t have to do anything you aren’t comfortable with right now, but taking small steps can help options feel more possible when you are ready.
Create a Peaceful Space for Yourself: Designating a physical place where your mind can relax and feel safe can be good option when working through difficult emotions that can arise when dealing with abuse. This can be a room in your house, a spot under your favorite tree, a comfy chair by a window or in a room with low lights.
Remind Yourself of Your Great Value: You are important and special, and recognizing and reminding yourself of this reality is so beneficial for your emotional health. It is never your fault when someone chooses to be abusive to you, and it has no reflection on the great value you have as person.
Remember That You Deserve to Be Kind to Yourself: Taking time to practice self-care every day, even if it is only for a few minutes, really creates space for peace and emotional safety. It’s healthy to give yourself emotional breaks and step back from your situation sometimes. In the end, this can help you make the decisions that are best for you.
Safety Planning for Family and Friends
As friends and family members, you can help someone in an abusive relationship make a safety plan. Try to remember:
Listen and be supportive. Even when you don’t understand or agree with their decision, don’t judge. They know what’s best and safest for their situation.
Connect them to resources and information in their area. Chat with a peer advocate to find information to share.
Don’t post information about your loved one on social networking sites. Never use sites like Facebook or Foursquare to reveal their current location or where they hang out. It’s possible their partner will use your post to find them. Brush up on your knowledge of digital safety.
Empower the person you’re trying to help to make up their own mind. Leaving an unhealthy or abusive relationship may be difficult and even dangerous. Avoid blaming or belittling comments. Abusive partners usually put down their victims regularly, so your loved one’s self-esteem may already be low.
Don’t give up even though helping is frustrating.
Families Living Violence Free is proud to partner with Legal Aid of North Carolina to bring Granville County and surrounding areas Free Self-Help Clinic.
Attend Legal Aid’s free Self-Help Clinics to learn how to handle certain basic legal issues without hiring an attorney. You will receive all the guidance and paperwork necessary to walk out of the clinic and into the courthouse. Clinics are hosted monthly or quarterly at Legal Aid offices, churches, community centers and other locations throughout North Carolina. All clinics are completely free, but advance registration is required due to space limitations at most locations. The clinics will provide you with general legal information and guidance only. The clinics will not provide you with specific, individual legal advice.