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Domestic Violence 101: What you need to know

October was domestic violence awareness month which meant that numerous organizations spent the month calling attention to the cause. Social media has been and continues to be an incredibly useful tool in driving further awareness and education on domestic violence. Utilizing mainstream hashtags like #DomesticViolenceAwarenessMonth and #HeDoesntHitMeBut has allowed this awareness and education to reach broader audiences than ever before. While these virtual efforts are important, there are still barriers that contribute to identifying this type of violence and accessing the necessary resources to get help. In continuation of October’s awareness month, we’re highlighting answers to some common questions surrounding domestic violence to help raise further awareness and education.

What is Domestic Violence?

Domestic Violence (which is also commonly referred to as intimate partner violence) is a pattern of behavior by one partner in any relationship that is used as a means of gaining or maintaining power and control over a person. It can include physical and/or mental/emotional violence that can directly result in physical injury, psychological trauma, or-in worst case scenarios-death.

According to the NCADV In the United States, an average of 20 people experience intimate partner physical violence every minute, which adds up to more than 10 million victims of abuse each year. It’s clear that Domestic Violence is unfortunately quite pervasive in the United States.

Can Domestic Violence be more than physical?

Domestic violence is often thought of as only physical in nature, however this is not always the case. Domestic violence includes both physical and mental/emotional abuse. While it can sometimes be easier to identify physical abuse, mental or emotional abuse can be much more difficult to detect. This is what inspired the hashtag #HeDoesntHitMeBut on Twitter, which prompted users to detail ways in which they experienced domestic violence that wasn’t physical in nature. Actions from a partner like isolating a person from their friends and family, demanding to know everything they do or who they see, and/or gas-lighting a person are all examples of domestic violence. See more examples of non-physical domestic violence from this list.

What are the signs of Domestic Violence?

It’s not always easy to recognize domestic violence when it’s happening to you. The first step is to recognize if you are in an abusive or unhealthy relationship. While every person and experience is different, it’s important to keep an eye out for signs that you (or potentially someone you know) is experiencing domestic violence. Questions that are important to consider include:

Does your partner bully, threaten or attempt to control you?

Does your partner control your money?

Does your partner try to cut you off from the people that you love including your friends and family?

Does your partner physically abuse you?

Does your partner sexually abuse you?

If you answered yes to these questions, you are likely to be experiencing domestic violence and may want to seek help immediately if possible. Learn more signs of domestic violence here.

Why don’t people in Domestic Violence situations just leave?

People are often quick to ask why individuals stay in domestic violence situations. They think to themselves “why don’t they just leave?” The reality is that each situation is unique and there are a number of factors that contribute to the reasons why a person cannot easily leave an abusive situation. Leslie Morgan Steiner speaks in her TED talk on her personal experience of why she struggled to leave her abusive partner. Leaving an abusive situation is the most dangerous time for a victim of domestic violence, so a person may fear that by leaving, their partner will respond with a violent attack. Individuals may also stay in an abusive situation because of cultural/religious reasons, lack of money/individual resources, and/or language barriers/immigration status. To learn more about reasons why those who experience domestic violence do not always immediately leave a situation, check out this article from the National Domestic Violence Hotline.

Where can people find help if they are experiencing Domestic Violence?

It’s not always easy to get help if you or a loved one is experiencing domestic violence. The National Domestic Violence Hotline offers a variety of resources including:

  • 24/7 advocates on the phone at the number 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)

  • A Chat Now option online if a phone conversation is not a safe option

  • Information on how to create a Path to Safety

  • Information on Legal Help

If your life is directly in danger do not hesitate to call 9-1-1.

While domestic violence is overwhelming, individuals are never alone. There are people and resources available to help and bring safety to those who are experiencing this violence.

Contributing Writer: Brittany A. Hamilton

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