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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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Symptoms of depression
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
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.
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.
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 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:
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:
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.
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.