What is Domestic Violence?
Defining Domestic Violence
Domestic Violence is a pattern of abusive behaviors in the context of an intimate relationship. Abusive behaviors are used by one individual to control or exert power over another individual. Domestic Violence typically increased in frequency and severity over time. It often begins as emotional abuse and escalates to physical abuse. Both emotional and physical abuse can be devastating for the individual.
Types of Domestic Violence
Physical abuse is the most commonly recognized form of violence. It ranges from actions like punching, kicking, breaking bones, or using household objects as weapons; denying sleep, nutrition, and medical care; and/or causing internal or permanent injury. In the extreme, physical violence may lead to homicide. Additionally, sexual violence is a specific form of physical abuse.
Emotional abuse is another form of violence and is used to render a person helpless and dependent on the abuser. Examples of emotional abuse include the use of derogatory and degrading names, threats of physical/sexual abuse, denial of an individual’s feelings and abilities, blaming an individual for the violence or accusing the individual of promiscuity.
Environmental abuse also is a form of violence and becomes apparent when the individual is kept economically dependent on the individual’s possessions, abuse of the children, and the driving away of friends and family also fall into the category of environmental abuse.
Social abuse may well be the hidden form of violence that supports and reinforces the other three forms of abuse. Rigid social roles that limit the expression of feelings such as anger or depression, teach individuals that they are not as capable or important as their abuser. Other rigid social roles convey that individuals need to be protected and controlled. These are just a few examples of social norms that can become controlling and abusive. Social abuse exists in the family, the church, the school system, and the media. The police and legal system, medical system, social service, and the economic system also may support social abuse by undervaluing requests for help or blaming the individual experiencing domestic or sexual violence.
Effects of Domestic Violence on Adults
Each individual is unique; responses to trauma vary. Some effects you may recognize or experience are listed below.
- Depression – feeling hopeless and helpless or emotionally numb
- Anxiety attacks
- Low self esteem
- Grief for family and personal losses
- Shame, guilt or self-blame
- Fear of the abuser or living without the abuser
- Confusion and trouble concentrating
- Flashbacks and/or nightmares
- Avoidance of situations reminding the individual of the abuse
- Mood swings and difficulty controlling emotions
- Difficulty in obtaining, maintaining and adjusting to employment
- Jumpiness or agitation
- Self-medication – attempts to cope with or numb feelings with drugs or alcohol
- Isolation from friends or relatives
- Difficulty in trusting others
- Stormy relationships
- Breakup of the family unit
- Court disagreements regarding separation, divorce or custody of children
- Seeking out new relationships to deal with overwhelming feelings of loneliness
- Sleep deprivation
- Somatic, or stomach, complaints, headaches
- Chronic health problems
- Related problems to substance misuse
- Injuries or death resulting from physical abuse
Developing a Safety Plan
When someone is living in an abusive relationship, safety for themselves and their children is the first concern. Leaving the abusive situation to go to a shelter or another safe location may be the safest and best option for many.
However, leaving does not always guarantee safety and may actually increase the danger in some circumstances. Only the victim can decide what option will be the safest for them. If they, for whatever reason, decide to stay with their partner, remember, no one deserves to be abused.
Whether they are developing a safety plan to leave an abusive relationship, a plan to increase their safety while remaining in the relationship or a plan to maintain their safety after they have left, a trained advocate can be helpful in assessing risk.
Advocates can be helpful in considering all factors involved in safety and identifying resources and options. Contact the Women’s Resource Center at 540.639.1123 for assistance with safety planning.
Although every situation is unique and there is no single “perfect” safety plan, the following form(s) may help identify other considerations important to safety:
Supporting a Survivor of Domestic Violence
It can be extremely difficult when you suspect someone you know and care about is being abused. The following information provides suggestions in offering support to those experiencing violence.
Gather all the information you can about your local domestic violence program. The Women’s Resource Center of the New River Valley, Inc. can offer shelter, advocacy, support and 24-hour hotline services at 540.639.1123.
For more information about Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence programs
Lend an empathetic ear
Letting your friend know that you care and are willing to listen may be the best help you can offer. Don’t force the issue, but allow them to confide in you at their own pace. Never blame the person who is being abused for what’s happening or underestimate the fear of potential danger. Remember that your friend must make their own decisions, and support your friend’s right to make those decisions.
Focus on strengths
Some people live with emotional as well as physical abuse. Your friend is probably continually told by the abuser that they are a bad person, partner or parent. Without positive reinforcement from outside the home, your friend may begin to believe they can’t do anything right – that there really is something wrong with them.
Be a friend in deed
Tell them that you are and will be there when they need you. Provide whatever you can – transportation, child care, financial assistance. You may be needed to testify in court. Be willing to get involved.
When to intervene
It cannot be overemphasized that domestic violence is a crime and can result in serious physical injury or even death. If you know that a battering incident is occurring, call the police immediately. This may be the most effective way to help the person who is being abused.
For more information and support, please do not hesitate to call us at 540.639.1123.