What is Domestic Violence?
Domestic violence is defined as any abusive, violent, coercive, forceful, or threatening act or word inflicted by one member of a family or household on another. According to the Domestic Violence Resource Center, one in four women has experienced domestic violence in her lifetime. The Bureau of Justice Statistics cites that on average, more than three women and one man are murdered by their intimate partners in this country every day.
Signs of an Abusive Relationship
If any of the following signs of abuse is apparent in your relationship, it is important that you seek outside help as soon as possible. Further harm can be prevented. No one deserves to be treated with disrespect or violence. You are not alone. Support is available immediately online, by phone and in your community.
Emotional abuse may include name-calling, extreme suspicion or distrust, controlling behavior, intimidation or terrorizing behavior, public degradation or a pattern of humiliation, limiting your contact with family or friends, and wanting to keep track of you at all times.
Physical abuse may include property damage, any physical contact meant to cause discomfort, fear or pain, frightening a passenger with dangerous driving, threatening you with violence or with a weapon, preventing you from leaving your home, and locking you out of your house.
Sexual abuse may include treatment of a person like an object, demanding you wear certain clothing, rape (forcing you to have sex), using objects or weapons to cause you harm during sex, involving other people in sex with you against your will, and extreme jealousy or constant accusations of infidelity.
How to Help
If you suspect a friend or relative is a victim of abuse, tell them you want to help them and that you think they may be in danger.
Listen to them without judging. They may feel embarrassed or somehow to blame for their situation, even though they are not. No one deserves to be abused.
Support friendships and activities that will help them overcome isolation. Abuse gets worse in a vacuum. The more outside connections the person makes, the more opportunities they have to become stronger as an individual.
Offer resources for help. Accompany them if they want to go to the police or a lawyer. Help them find help online or in your community. Reassure them they are not alone.
If they file charges with the police, encourage them to press charges. Also, help them document any physical proof of harm, like bruises, or write down details of abusive incidents. If they receive medical assistance, tell the nurse or doctor that the injuries came from domestic violence so they can enter that in the record, and which can later be used as evidence in court.
Make sure they know you are available to help whenever they are ready to talk or seek additional assistance.
No one deserves to be abused. If someone is experiencing abuse, it is not their fault. See the sidebar for resources available immediately to help you. You are not alone.