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Domestic Abuse and Violence

Every 9 seconds in the U.S. a woman is assaulted or beaten. One in four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime and an estimated 1.3 million women are victims of physical assault by an intimate partner each year according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence or NCADV. Females between 20-24 years of age are at the greatest risk of nonfatal intimate partner violence and according to NCADV, most cases are never reported to the police

Recent sporting events have made domestic abuse and violence a hot topic in the media. It can happen to anyone and it is usually excused, or overlooked, or even denied. Often, it starts as small little blows to your ego or subtle comments that are demeaning. Over time, the words start affecting your psyche and all of a sudden a previously strong willed individual has succumb to the emotional and psychological insults and you have no idea how you got here. The abuse becomes psychological and often turns violent. Love is never violent, and no one should ever fear the person they love.

Domestic abuse occurs when one partner tries to control or dominate the other partner. When this domination becomes violent, it is now called domestic violence. The abuser often uses guilt, fear, shame, and intimidation to wear down the victim and gain control over them, and this can often lead threats to the victim or those around. This behavior is never acceptable. Everyone should feel respected, valued, and safe.

There are many signs of an abusive relationship, most telling if you fear your partner. Feeling the need to tip-toe around on eggshells to avoid a blow-up, or feeling belittled, or controlled is unhealthy. This can lead to your own feelings of helplessness, self-loathing, manipulation, or desperation. Over time, the abuse can become physical when the abuser uses physical force against you in a way that injures or endangers you. This physical assault is a crime and police have the authority to protect you. Any situation in which you are forced to participate in unwanted, unsafe, or degrading sexual activity is sexual abuse.

Emotional abuse is a big problem that is often minimized or overlooked. The aim of the abuse is to slowly chip away at the victims independence and self-worth until he or she feels that there is no way out of the relationship or no way to survive without the abuser. Emotional abuse can leave scars that run so deep, it can often be even more damaging than physical abuse. There are many excuses that people use to stay in this type of relationship.

The abuser apologies and showers the victim with love, making it difficult to want to leave. They may even make you believe you are the only one who can help them stop and that things will be different; however the dangers of staying are very real. Often the abuse escalates, and can sometimes end in tragedy. Studies have found that children who witness any form of abuse have a much greater chance of being abusers themselves. Boys who witness domestic violence are twice as likely to abuse their own partners and children when they become adults (NCADV). Sadly, 30-60% of perpetrators of intimate partner violence also abuse children in the home (NCADV.) Studies suggest that up to 10 million children witness some form of domestic violence annually as reported by Domestic Violence Statistics.

Getting help is often scary for victims of abuse. Remember that the abuse is not your fault and there is never a good reason for the abuse. There are shelters and supports systems in all communities. Prepare for emergencies to try and keep safe. Come up with excuses to leave the house day or night if you sense trouble is brewing. Identify safe areas in the house that have windows/doors and phones, stay away from rooms with weapons or without exits. Establish a code word to signal to your kids, friends, or neighbors that you are in trouble. Be ready to leave at a moment’s notice with the car fueled and always facing the driveway exit with a spare key hidden but easily accessible. Practice escaping quickly and safely, and have your children practice too. Memorize emergency contacts who would be willing to give you a ride to a safe place.

If you decide to stay in the relationship, there are some options that can try and make to situation better or safer for you and your children. Contact the domestic violence program to get emotional support, peer counseling, and safe emergency housing if you ever should need it. Build as strong a support system as your partner will allow by getting involved in the community and activities outside the home. Encourage your children to get involved in activities also. Be kind to yourself and develop positive words of affirmation in your own vocabulary about yourself to counter the negative comments from the abuser. Please always consider your safety and the safety of your children.

Local help:

Hope Ministries – 532 S. Michigan St. South Bend IN (574)-288-4842

The Center for the Homeless – 813 S. Michigan St. South Bend, IN 46601 (574)282-8870

YWCA Women’s Shelter South Bend – 1102 Fellows St. South Bend, IN 46601 (574)233-9558

*New Hope Sexual Assault program at YWCA – (574)233-9491

*24 hr crisis line 1-866-YES-YWCA

National help:

The National Domestic Violence Hotline – 1-800-799-7233

The National Sexual Assault Hotline – 1-800-656-4673

 

References:

National Coalition Against Domestic Violence – http://domesticviolencestatistics.org/domestic-violence-statistic

Domestic Violence and Child Advocacy Center – http://dvcac.org/

Domestic Violence Awareness Project – http://www.nrcdv.org/dvam/home