When thinking about domestic violence most people first think violence or physical abuse. However, domestic violence can be acted out in many ways.
According to the United States Department of Justice, domestic violence (DV) is a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner. Included under the DV umbrella are: physical abuse, emotional abuse, economic abuse, sexual abuse and psychological abuse. It is important to understand how these types of abuse can look within a relationship to identify early warning signs.
In addition to the typical warning signs for sexual, physical, or emotional abuse, there are many others that are less commonly discussed.
In order to gain or maintain power and control over their partner, an abuser may use intimidation to provoke fear. Throwing or breaking things (especially things of value to the partner), casting angry looks, invading personal space, displaying weapons or hurting pets are all intimidation tactics. The abuser may often use coercion to get what they want and persuade the partner to comply, even though the partner has said no. This can progress into threats to hurt the partner or themselves, leave the partner, or act in any way that may influence the partner.
It is important to know that DV is centered around establishing power and control. Often times, money is used as a tool to maintain control over the relationship and keep the partner reliant on the abuser for finances. Unfortunately, children can also be used or placed in between the parents. Warning signs of the use of children include: interrogating the children about the other partner, using children to relay negative messages, threatening to take the children, etc.
If a partner feels like they are being isolated (another tactic of control) from family and friends and losing a sense of self, or any of the above, it would be beneficial to reach out for support. Abusers will typically rationalize or downplay the abuse or blame their partner for their actions; this can cause the victim to feel helpless and crazy. Because of the abuse, victims may hesitate to reach out for fear of the repercussions. Having a safety plan – including useful phone numbers and places to go for help – is crucial for the victim and children involved.
Often, victims feel as if they have nowhere to turn. Therapy provides a safe and confidential environment where a victim can process what is happening without fear of the abuser knowing. Talking with a therapist can help you identify if there is abuse occurring within your relationship and establish appropriate steps to take. Counselors can assist the victim in making sense of their feelings, as well as fostering autonomy within the individual that may have been diminished within the relationship. Counselors can work with other advocates or community resources to increase the victim’s support system. If the victim leaves the relationship, they can continue to see their counselor throughout the healing process.
The most dangerous time period for a victim of domestic violence occurs when they attempt to leave the relationship, so finding a trained counselor or other resources during this time is necessary. Women’s & Victims’ Centers are great supports and are typically very discreet. For example, if they call the victim and the abuser answers the phone, they will not disclose who they are. Services provided by these centers include support groups, counseling, safety planning, information for shelters (if housing services are not provided at the location), and guidance for leaving the abusive relationship. Individuals who work in these settings are highly trained and assist victims in a way that helps them ensure their safety.
Additionally, The Light Program also offers counseling and therapy to help victims of domestic violence live their life.