It’s the first day of March, the month where I planned to focus on finances and saving money. However, I’m going to postpone that in order to touch on something that has been weighing on my heart. Just a few short days ago, a local news report released the identities in a tragedy of domestic violence that ended in murder-suicide. I couldn’t believe my eyes. The victim and the perpetrator were in my college circle of friends. The article looked surreal, like some sort of fake news. When you see a tragic news report with faces of people you once knew, the feeling is indescribable. Absolutely heartbreaking.
National Domestic Violence Hotline
I cannot wrap my head around this tragedy. But it happens more often than anyone would like to think. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, in America, one woman is fatally shot by a spouse, ex-spouse or dating partner every 14 hours.
What is abuse exactly?
There are many forms of abuse:
Physical – any type of behavior that causes pain or injury, denying medical care, or forcing drugs/alcohol on a person
Emotional – any pattern of behavior that causes emotional pain or is emotionally neglectful
Sexual – any coercion of sexual behavior without consent
Financial – any attempts to control all financial resources or forbidding work or school attendance
Psychological – any behavior that causes fear, including isolation, intimidation, and threatening physical harm to others, pets, or property
Even digital – online harassment, controlling internet access, etc.
Almost all abuse has the same underlying theme: Power and control of the abuser over the victim. Domestic violence is a pattern of behavior meant to exert control over another person.
What should I do if I’m abused?
Please reach out to a friend, a family member, anyone who can help you. Memorize phone numbers you can call and places you can go in an emergency situation.
Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-7233). 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If you feel unsafe making that phone call from your own phone, try to make the call from a work phone or a friend’s phone. You can also visit their web site and live chat with a person trained in domestic violence situations. However, remember your computer’s web browsing history is nearly impossible to fully delete. It may be safer to use a computer at a friend’s home, a library, or even work or school.
Begin planning a safe escape. You may want to make copies of your car and house keys as well as your credit cards.
Learn your legal rights by reaching out to a local domestic violence agency. Again, do so from a safe place. If children are involved, be sure you understand how custody may be affected from a legal standpoint.
What can we do if we are not in an abusive relationship ourselves?
First, as a society, we can encourage anyone who is experiencing abuse in any form to know that it’s not their fault. Any and all abuse is not okay. There is absolutely no excuse for abusive behavior.
Second, we can learn about domestic violence. This site has a great explanation of the typical cyclical pattern of abuse. Basically there are three phases: the tension phase, the acute (or crisis) phase, and the calm (or honeymoon) phase. The tension phase is when the victim feels like he or she is walking eggshells. Next, the acute phase occurs when tensions boil over. Something sets off the abuser. This phase is often short but volatile, and violence occurs. Last in the cycle is the honeymoon phase, where the abuser is calmer and possibly even regretful. Click here for more on these three phases.
Third, we can teach our children the signs that a relationship is heading towards and unhealthy path. Knowledge is power.
A few indicators of an unhealthy relationship include:
- Preventing contact with others, including friends, family, work, or school
- Controlling finances
- Constantly making unfair accusations of unfaithfulness
- Humiliating, demeaning, or intimidating behavior
- Possessive behavior
- Blaming others for own behavior
- Threating to harm self, others, or pets with or without a weapon
- Shoving, pushing, kicking, choking, or biting
- Forcing sexual activity
- Controlling access to birth control
Fourth, we can learn about warning signs that may indicate a friend or family member are being abused.
According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, these include the following:
- Their partner puts them down in front of other people
- They are constantly worried about making their partner angry
- They make excuses for their partner’s behavior
- Their partner is extremely jealous or possessive
- They have unexplained marks or injuries
- They’ve stopped spending time with friends and family
- They are depressed or anxious, or you notice changes in their personality
What should I do if I know someone who is being abused?
Educate yourself. It is so important to be aware of what you should and should not do in such a complex situation. Please click here to read about how to help a friend or family member.
Encourage them to contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline. 1-800-799-7233
As a friend, be empathetic. Be non-judgmental. Listen. It’s extremely important to understand that leaving an abuser can be extremely difficult and unsafe. Click here for more tips on supporting someone in an abusive situation.
I sincerely hope you never need to know any of this information, but the sad reality is that you very likely know someone who has experienced some form of physical domestic violence. Learning about and bringing awareness to domestic violence could change the trajectory of someone’s life and could very well save a life. No one deserves abuse. Please take a moment to learn more about abuse, to hold your loved ones tightly, and to be grateful for any healthy and loving relationship you have.