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What is Domestic Violence?
How do you know if you are being abused?
Why do victims stay in or return to abusive relationships?
What are the warning signs of an abusive relationship?
How does a potential victim know if she is getting involved with an abuser?
If I believe someone I care about is in an abusive relationship, what can I do?
How does a victim get help?
How widespread is the domestic violence problem in Delaware?
Do incidents of domestic violence increase during economic downturns?
Can abusers be rehabilitated?
What is the impact of domestic violence on children?
What can I do to help bring an end to domestic violence?
Domestic violence is a pattern of abusive behaviors used by one partner to control the other in an intimate relationship. By some estimates, close to 90% of all domestic violence victims are women. Domestic violence takes many forms – physical violence, sexual assault, economic control, psychological/emotional abuse, or a combination of more than one. Domestic violence is a crime that affects thousands of people in the United States every day. Because abusers make it hard for victims to leave these relationships, many domestic violence victims suffer at the hands of batterers for years. Learn more about domestic violence.
Abusers use many ways to isolate, intimidate and control their partners. It may start insidiously and may be difficult to recognize. Early on, your partner may seem attentive, generous, and protective in ways that later turn out to be frightening and controlling. Initially the abuse may include isolated incidents for which your partner expresses remorse and promises never to do again or rationalizes as being due to stress or caused by something you did or didn’t do.
This is one of the most frequently asked questions about domestic violence, and the answer is complicated. The National Network to End Domestic Violence responds to this question best: “Why does the abuser choose to abuse?” The short answer for victims is the power of fear. Fear of being injured or killed keeps many women in abusive relationships, and their concerns are legitimate. The risk of death or injury to a victim is greatest when leaving an abusive relationship or shortly thereafter. NNEDV reports that “on average, three women die at the hands of a current or former intimate partner every day." Other reasons victims stay in abusive relationships are related to economic dependence, children, a sense of isolation, shame, past failures of the system to respond, and religious and/or societal pressures.
Moreover, batterers work hard to ensure that their victims stay. Abusers can place the blame for the violence on the victim so that many victims believe that if they caused the incidents, they can stop them as well. Remember, many victims want the abuse to end – not the relationship. And if an abuser is promising to change, and the victim loves the abuser, then it is hard to walk away.
There are many warning signs. The physical signs are obvious: hitting, kicking, punching – anything that causes injury to a victim. Other signs include extreme jealousy and control, threats, forced sex, destruction of personal property or harm to pets, economic control, repeated contact such as constant text messages or phone calls to the office, refusal to let the victim see family and friends, threats to take away children or initiate deportation, constant criticism, or extreme anger. If you see these warning signs in a relationship, you should consider a safety plan and a means of escape.
There are a few subtle warning signs that can occur early in a relationship. A potential abuser may be eager to move the relationship along too quickly; he may seem “too good to be true”; later, he can repeatedly blame others for things that go wrong, refusing to accept accountability for his actions; he criticizes his partner’s appearance or uses put-downs to control his partner; he may try to limit access to his partner’s friends and family. These are a few noteworthy “early warning signs.”
If she tells you she’s in an abusive relationship, believe her. Give her resources she can use to get help, like a number for a domestic violence hotline. Acknowledge her fear and the risk she takes in speaking with you. If she does not wish to acknowledge the relationship, respect her right to privacy and to refuse help. Don’t force her to discuss the relationship with you if she is not ready. Don’t be judgmental, and don’t tell her to simply leave the relationship. Encourage her to get help in developing a safety plan and a safe means of escape. And above all, don’t encourage others to intervene with the abuser unless she asks for that assistance.
According to NNEDV and many local and national studies, it is significant. Learn more about Domestic Violence in Delaware.
Economic downturns do not cause domestic violence. But domestic violence can become worse when families and relationships are tested by job losses, home foreclosures, high prices, and mounting levels of debt. Other dangers can present themselves to victims as well: it’s harder to find a job and become financially independent of an abuser in a down economy. And budget cuts often strain the ability of direct DV service providers to assist and protect increasing numbers of victims.
Yes, but achieving lasting success is challenging. First, they must be ready and willing to change. Second, they must be willing to relinquish the power and control they’ve held in their relationships, sometimes for many years. And they must be willing not to “trade” physical abuse for other kinds of abuse such as psychological or financial. These kinds of abuse are just as hard on victims.
As many as 10 million children witness domestic violence each year (Teens and Dating Violence). Furthermore, the U.S. Advisory Board on Child Abuse and Neglect suggests that domestic violence may be the single major precursor to child abuse and neglect fatalities in this country, so children who witness domestic violence are at extreme risk to become batterers themselves. Young women ages 16-24 experience the highest rates of relationship violence (Department of Justice, BJS, 2000). Delawareans are affected by this crisis. When asked if they had witnessed domestic violence in their home in the last year, one out of four Delaware eighth graders responded “yes” (Delaware School Survey, 2007).
There is much you can do. It is easy to become educated on the issues. You can visit great websites such as www.nnedv.org and www.safeandrespectful.org and many others on our resource list. You can take a stand against domestic violence in your community by becoming a member of DCADV or joining one of our task forces or committees. You can teach peace at home by setting a healthy relationship example in your own life. Read 15 Ways You Can Help Stop Domestic Violence.
These are just a few examples of how easy it is to take a stand against domestic violence. Learn more about how to support the work of DCADV and its members and partners.