- What is Domestic Violence?
Domestic violence is a pattern of coercive control in an intimate relationship which may be characterized by isolating and controlling behaviors, manipulation and/or intimidation to create an atmosphere of fear, and other forms of abuse. Domestic violence is a choice; it is about power and control, not love and respect. Domestic violence occurs in all socioeconomic backgrounds, cultures, age groups, sexual orientations, ethnicities, and cultures.
Abusive behavior can take many forms and will be different in every relationship. Abuse can fall under the following categories, but it is important to note that there is more to abuse than what is listed here:
Emotional Abuse: name calling, constant criticizing, jealousy, accusations of imagined affairs, withholding affection, threats to friends/family, public humiliation, blaming the victim for the abuse, minimizing the abuse, verbally abusing the victim, threatening to "out" partners in the GLBT community.
Using Children: threats to harm children, threats to take away the children, involving the children in the abuse, denying parenting-time, prolonged custody cases.
Financial Abuse: being forced to quit a job or being forced to work, having no access to money, being given an allowance, not having any say in how the money is spent, having to beg/ask for more money, having to do “favors” for money.
Physical Abuse: hitting, smacking, kicking, biting, burning, pushing, grabbing, restraining from leaving a room and/or house, threats and/or using abuse with a weapon, strangulation or grabbing the neck.
Sexual Abuse: rape, forced prostitution, forced or unwanted sexual acts, criticizing sexual performance, forcing unprotected sex/pregnancy, the abuser having sex outside the relationship – putting the victim at risk for disease.
- Why doesn't the victim just leave?
There are many reasons a victim may stay in an abusive relationship. The victim and abuser may be in a cycle of violence which is characterized by three stages:
1. The Tension Building (or “Walking on Eggshells”) stage in which the victim and
abuser are both on edge, the victim is trying very hard not to set the abuser off.
2. The Explosive Incident Stage which may start out as verbal abuse in the beginning
of the relationship but progresses to physical and sexual violence.
3. The Honeymoon (or Hearts and Flowers) stage in which the abuser may
make promises, give gifts, apologize, and be the person the victim fell in love with.
Love, hope and fear are the motivating emotions for many abused partners. The victim loves her/his partner, and hopes he/she will keep the promises made, all the while fearing the abuser will carry out threats against her/him, their children, and possibly their friends and family.
And there is more than just the abuser to fear. Victims often fear telling anyone about the abuse because they feel shame; fear that if they do tell, no one will believe them; fear that friends, family, church, or other community support will blame them or tell them what to do. Because of the isolating and controlling behaviors by the abuser, victims may not have access to, or even know about, community resources to help. Victims may also stay because of their children. They may feel it is their responsibility to keep the family together and not upset the home. The victim also may be concerned about providing for their basic needs. A domestic violence advocate can help with these fears and provide safety strategies to the victim.
Every victim has different reasons why they may choose to stay in an abusive relationship, but it is important to remember that the abuse is not the victims fault. She/he is a victim of a crime, regardless of the reasons they stay. The abuser is the one choosing to be violent and use power and control against his/her intimate partner. The question should be, “Why does he batter?” and not “Why does she stay?”
- How are children affected by domestic violence?
Children are affected by domestic violence, even if they are not present during an explosive incident: they may hear the violence from their rooms, see the aftermath of the abuse in bruises, bloodstains, and broken possessions, they may be used as a tool by the abuser, or they become homeless when a parent leaves the abuse.
Children who witness, or are exposed in any way to, domestic violence feel unsafe, isolated, anxious, depressed, angry, and distrustful of authority figures. These children may have behavioral and emotional problems such as low self-esteem, hyper-vigilance, temperament problems, antisocial behavior, eating disorders, unhealthy boundaries, sleep disorders, suicidal ideation, alcohol/drug experimentation, and/or rigid views on gender roles. They may have cognitive and attitudinal problems such as pro-violence attitudes, lack of conflict resolution skills, justification for use of violence, low levels of empathy, and/or lower cognitive functioning. They may also have longer-term problems such as adult depression, PTSD, alcohol/drug addictions, early marriages, and/or perpetrating domestic violence in adult relationships.
What do children learn growing up in a home with domestic violence? They learn that threats and violence get you what you want (and you won’t get in trouble), unequal relationships are normal, you must either be the victim or the perpetrator, the world is a dangerous place and no one can protect you.
Children in homes with domestic violence need certain messages to help them recover from trauma. They need to know that the abuse is not their fault and that no one deserves to be abused, no matter what. They need help with getting and saying safe. We can support a child going through this by enhancing self-esteem and personal empowerment to make positive life decisions.
- Are there any signs that someone will be abusive?
Many people wonder if they can predict or “tell” if someone will be abusive. Below is a list of behaviors (called “Red Flags”) often seen in people who are physically and emotionally abusive to their partners. Some batterers may only have a couple of the below behaviors, but they might be very exaggerated and some batterers may exhibit several or all of these behaviors. Initially the abusive partner will try to explain the behavior as normal signs of love and concern; however, as time goes on, the behaviors can become severe as the batterer attempts to control his/her partner. A batterer can be male or female, come from any socioeconomic, racial, ethnic, and religious background. Batterers represent all different kinds of personalities, family backgrounds, and professions. There is no typical batterer.
1. Quick involvement: Comes on very strong, quickly pressures you for an exclusive
2. Jealousy: Excessively possessive, calls constantly or visits unexpectedly, checks
your car's mileage.
3. Controlling: Interrogates you intensely (especially if you're late) about who you talked
to and where you were, keeps all the money, insists you ask for permission to go
anywhere or do anything.
4. Sudden mood swings: Switches from sweetly loving to explosively violent in a matter
5. Isolation: Tries to cut you off from family and friends, tries to prevent you from holding
6. Blames others for problems/feelings: It's always someone else's fault (often yours) if
anything goes wrong.
7. “Playful” use of force during sex: Baterers may use coercion, intimidation, or
threats to get sexual gratification for themselves. It is another aspect of their partner’s
life that they want to control.
8. Makes everyone else responsible for his/her feelings: The abuser says, "You
make me angry," instead of "I am angry."
9. Cruelty to animals and children: Kills or punishes animals. May expect children to
do things that are beyond their ability or tease them mercilessly.
10. Breaking or striking objects: Batterers will use this behavior to terrorize, threaten,
and intimidate their partner.
11. Threats of Violence: Makes statements like, "I'll break your neck," or "I'll kill you,"
and then dismisses them with "Everyone talks that way," or "I didn't really mean it."
If it has come this far it's time to get help . . . or get out.
Many times victims say these signs were not present early on, but upon reflection, they will see some of the early behavior as these Red Flags. This is because often, these are things that make us feel special and are not looked at critically until things get abusive.
- What are signs that a friend or family member may be a victim of domestic violence?
- She/he worries that their partner will be jealous or suspicious.
- Their partner makes most of her/his decisions.
- Their partner criticizes them frequently, or publicly shames them.
- She/he apologizes frequently for their partner’s behavior.
- She/he withdraws from friends and family
- She/he may change their clothing style, hair or makeup in order to please their partner.
- She/he may quit their job or get fired for missing work
- She/he may stop going to social activities such as church or parties
- She/he is frightened or seems threatened when their partner is angry
- How can I help?
Family Tree offers How to Help: A Workshop for Friends & Family of Domestic Violence Victims every month. Please call 303-420-0412 to sign up for this workshop. In it, you can learn about domestic violence, how to talk to your friend or family member experience domestic violence, and community resources to help.
10 Helpful Things To Do Or Say To Someone Who Is Being Abused:
1. Open a dialogue. “Are you ever afraid of _____________’s temper?”
2. Show concern. “I am afraid for your safety.”
3. Appreciate the danger they are in. “I’m afraid the danger will get worse.”
4. Commit to being supportive. “I will always be here for you.”
5. Listen. “If you ever need to talk, I will just listen and not give advice.”
6. Value the victim. “This is not your fault and you do not deserve to be abused.”
7. Compliment the victim. Help to counter the toll that the verbal abuse may be taking
on their self-esteem.
8. Make observations, not judgments. “I’m worried about you; you don’t laugh as much
9. Offer to help in ways you can. Set clear and fair boundaries you are comfortable with.
10. Ask questions that focus on her/his feelings. “That sounds scary to me, how do you
feel about it?”
5 Things Not To Do Or Say:
1. “Just Leave.” Please see the “Why doesn’t the victim just leave?” section
2. Give an ultimatum. This assists the batterer in isolating the victim further and cuts off
their support system.
3. Bad-mouth the batterer. This may cause the victim to be defensive of the batterer and
will make it “unsafe” to confide in you.
4. Disbelieve or demand proof of the abuse. You are not a judge. If they feel unsafe, that
is all that should matter to you.
5. Tell the victim what they “have to do.” Domestic violence is about power and control,
and if a victim is going to heal, they must regain control themself. Do not give advice, or
tell the victim what they need to do, or what you would do. It is good to help the,
discover their options, but the decision must be theirs alone.
- Facts about Domestic Violence
- Jealousy and possessiveness are signs that the person sees you as a possession.
- The National Crime Victimization Survey has found that 95% of the victims of intimate
partner violence are female. Men can be victims, but it is less frequent.
- Batterers may use drug/alcohol abuse as an excuse, but there are many abusers who
do not use alcohol or drugs and may alcohol and drug users do not abuse their
intimate partners. Alcohol/drug use is a separate issue from domestic violence.
- Domestic violence affects many people in our country. National studies estimate that 3
to 4 million women are beaten every year in our country. Domestic violence is the
leading cause of injury to women between the ages of 15 and 44, and the FBI estimate
that a woman is beaten every 15 seconds.
- Domestic violence occurs at the same rate in GLBT relationships as in heterosexual
relationships (1 in 4).
- Violence and abuse do not necessarily stop when a victim leaves. In fact, she may be
at greater risk after separation. A domestic violence advocate can help victims
plan for safety and access to community resources.
- How can I help someone who may be abusive?