Identifying Domestic Violence
Domestic violence is a pattern of behavior which establishes power and control over another person through fear and intimidation, often including the threat of violence. Not all domestic violence is physical. It can also be emotional abuse, psychological intimidation, threats, verbal abuse, stalking, isolation, and/or economic control.
Domestic violence is not necessarily a marital conflict but a family conflict and it completely changes the family dynamic, affecting every relationship that each member of the family has with each other, and with the outside world, in ways that are difficult for many to comprehend. Often, domestic violence offenders attempt to isolate their partners from friends and family in an effort to reduce outside influences. Victims of domestic violence – and their children – know that they are not to talk about what happens at home.
Victims and their children who witness domestic violence may exhibit what we on the outside think are unusual and puzzling behaviors. They may be quite withdrawn – probably in an effort to avoid contact with others that they think may jeopardize their safety. Although we may have no clue for witnesses, domestic violence is the elephant in the room. Children may appear easily frustrated, have poor social skills, and actually be violent to others. When you think about what they have seen, these behaviors don’t seem unusual at all. Victims of domestic violence are not always sweet, shy, demure and retiring. We know that sometimes by the time a law enforcement officer shows up, it may be hard to tell who the victim is and who the aggressor is. By that time, the victim switches to a different kind of survival mode – taking the blame herself so that she doesn’t get in worse trouble later on with her abuser; or yelling or otherwise being abusive to an offender when the police arrive because now it’s safe to do so.
So what can you do? Tell her it’s not her fault. Do not blame the victim. Listen to her. Don’t take her anger personally. Help her get help.
Domestic Violence is about Power and Control
Abusers (batterers) tend to take their anger out on their intimate partner but it’s not really about anger. It’s about trying to instill fear and to have total power and control in the relationship. Anger therefore is a tool that an abuser will use for manipulation and maintain control.
Though there are no typical victims of domestic abuse, abusive relationships do share similar characteristics. In most cases, the abuser aims to have power and control over a victim. Many times they may turn to physical violence – kicking, punching, grabbing, slapping, or strangulation.
Understanding Why Women Stay
People stay for any number of reasons, but here are some we’ve heard in the past: Economic dependence (no money or property ownership)
Physical or Familial Reasons
- Fear of greater physical danger to themselves and their children if they attempt to leave
- Fear of losing custody of children
- Lack of job skills
- Fear of Isolation
- Fear of the court process
- Cultural and religious constraints
- Fear of retaliation
- Fear of loneliness
- Guilt about failure of marriage
- Fear that mate is not able to serve alone
- Belief that mate will change
- Fear of making life changing decisions
Ideology & Thoughts
- “A violent mate is better than no mate at all”
- “Failure to maintain the marriage equal failure as a person”
- People can even justify the behavior by blaming stress, alcohol/drugs, problems at work, unemployment, etc.
- “The abuser rarely beat me, just once in a while. During nonviolent phases mate may fulfill my dream of romantic love.”
Here are what we recommend taking with you when you leave, though we understand that isn’t always possible and your safety is still the first priority:
- Driver’s License
- Children’s Birth Certificate
- Your Birth Certificate
- Social Security Card
- Other Forms of Identification
- Financial Items
- Money or Credit Cards
- Bank Books
- House and Car Keys
- Change of Clothes
- Pictures of you, your children, and your abuser
- Jewelry/Small Salable objects
- Address Book
- Legal Papers
- Your Restraining Order
- Lease, Rental Agreement, or House Deed
- Car Registration and Insurance papers
- Health and Life Insurance papers
- School Records
- Work Permits, Green Card, Visa Passport
- Divorce and Custody Papers