Domestic violence (DV) is a systemic and coercive pattern of behaviors that is intended to gain power and control over one’s intimate partner through fear, intimidation and injury. DV can happen in all types of relationships (married, unmarried, heterosexual, gay, living together, separated and dating). The violence that the intimate partner experiences can be criminal and includes physical assault, sexual abuse and stalking. Emotional, psychological, and financial abuse are not criminal behaviors, but they are forms of abuse and can lead to criminal violence.
Nearly one in four women report experiencing violence by a current or former boyfriend at some point in their lives. On average, more than three women a day are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends in the United States. Women age 16-24 experience the highest per capita rate of intimate partner violence. Among 11-14 year olds who have been in a relationship, 62% say they know friends who have been verbally abused by a boy/girlfriend. One in five 13-14 year olds in relationships say they know peers who have been struck in anger.
The DV relationship is usually characterized by the following cycle:
- Survivor feels they are “walking on eggshells”
- Abuser blames other for problems that he/she is experiencing
- Minor incidents become more frequent
- Violence occurs: Physical, verbal, psychological or sexual
- Abuser feels “relief” while the survivor is upset, confused and possible injured
- Abuser will typically apologize and make promises that violence will not occur again
- Abuser may make attempts to maintain the relationship with the survivor
- Abuser may try to “justify” the behavior or blame the survivor
- Survivor often believes that their partner will change and that violence will end
- May then be a period of relative calm; minor incidents may occur at this time
If you know or suspect that someone is going through DV, please keep in mind the following:
- Although denials are common, survivors know their partners well and can usually judge pretty accurately what will increase their risk.
- If a person tells you that something you recommend will escalate the risk, this is probably TRUE.
- If a person tells you that some other option has worked well for the family’s safety in the past, then support him or her in taking that step now.
Indicators of Domestic Violence:
- Most survivors express some level of fear of the abusive person
- General anxiety about seemingly “routine” things
- Noticeable injuries or a history of “accidents”
- Low degree of personal autonomy or privacy
- Deferring to partner for even simple decisions
- History of repeated separation and reconciliation with the batterer
- Limited support outside the home – labeling of high stress without naming the source of the stress
- Presenting as homicidal; feeling they do not have other ways of escaping their partner
How can you help?
- Do not break communication with someone you think is in an abusive relationship.
- Do not push the person to leave the relationship if that person expresses that it is unsafe.
- Let her know that there are community resources to help survivors of DV (DV shelters, housing help, relocation help, therapy, restraining orders, etc).
- For help and information on resources call the National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1.800.333.SAFE. The hotline, as well as a therapist, can help in providing tips and resources on how to safely prepare to leave the abuser.
- Refer batterer, survivor or concerned family members to counselor/therapist to help cope and address this situation in a safe and healthy manner.
Oscar Gomezese is a Licensed Marriage and Therapist with the Coral Gables Counseling Center. Oscar works with individuals, couples and families to help them live a successful life. You can contact Oscar for an appointment at 305-445-0477 or firstname.lastname@example.org.