There I was in the middle of the night, being kicked, punched and beaten by the father of my child, and in an attempt to summon a desperately needed rescue, I somehow made it to s street-facing window and loudly yelled, ” Help!”. It was a quiet block, so I was certain that someone would hear my cry. In fact, not one light from across the street, or next door was turned on. It may have gotten darker rather than brighter because I was positive that my cries were heard. No one came to my rescue; no help would arrive-not even one neighbor.
Don’t think that I didn’t try to defend myself or fight back, because I did. When the first punch was thrown, I was caught off guard, blindsided. I didn’t expect that at all, but it happened, and became more violent.
When in trouble, women are advised to scream out, “Fire!”. Social research has shown that people are more likely to take action if they hear the word ‘fire’. I wish I had known that then.
But, I am a survivor, though occasionally wrestle with the haunting memories of the past trauma. I also wonder how I could have gotten myself into such a relationship. Why didn’t I recognize the signs BEFORE I became a victim? I was a college graduate-and a pretty intelligent young woman. A degree in psychology didn’t shield me from the destructive nature of domestic violence.
What is Domestic Violence?
Also known as domestic abuse, spousal abuse, dating violence, battering, and more. Domestic violence is sometimes called intimate partner violence. It is essentially when one person in a relationship uses patterns of coercive behaviors to control and exert power over the other.
That control can be through:
- Emotional abuse and manipulation
- Physical violence, either once or repeatedly
- Stalking or monitoring daily activities
- Controlling the victim’s money or sabotaging their employment
- Harming or threatening to harm their children
- Sexual violence
According to the CDC, 62% of female victims and 18% of male victims of intimate partner violence commonly report feeling fearful and having concern for their safety.
If you suspect that domestic violence is happening, it can be difficult to talk about. The National Domestic Violence Hotline has suggestions of what to look for if you are concerned for a friend or family member:
- Is someone you know always worried that he or she will make their partner angry, or is always fearful about how their partner will react?
- Is someone you know always making excuses for their partner’s behavior or worried that the partner is extremely jealous or possessive?
- Have you seen unexplained bruises, marks or injuries? The explanations always seem to center around ‘clumsiness’?
- Has someone stopped spending time with friends or family?
- Have you noticed changes in this person’s personality?
- Does their partner put them down in front of other people?
- Is this person always ‘anxious’ around their partner?
- Is there an all of a sudden feeling of ‘isolation’ from others?
- If you attempt to visit this person’s home, does the partner allow you to gain entrance? Are you told that he or she is ‘busy’ or ‘asleep’, even in the middle of the day?
- Does the partner seem to ‘lurk’ when you are present? Do you feel as though you, too, are being closely monitored and scrutinized?
Domestic abuse, intimate partner violence[IPV], is all about power and control, as illustrated in the above video detailing the ‘power and control wheel’. It is important to recognize the early signs. Usually before abuse takes on a physical component, the abuse is already verbal and psychological. We want to prevent situations from reaching the stage of violence, because though scars and bruises may heal, the emotional scars may remain for years.
If you know someone who may be in the type of relationships where the aforementioned signs are present, it is important to address it immediately.[The best ways to do so is left for another discussion.] Trust your gut, your instincts, when it feels as though something is not quite right in a relationship.
Offering help is a risky prospect for outsiders and trying to intervene is difficult, but not impossible. If you notice that there are multiple signs of what could be abuse, and they are accompanied by physical signs, you can anonymously report it to professionals who have some authority to investigate and/or intervene safely. Do not attempt to intervene in the presence of the suspected abusive partner. Your own safety may be compromised. But do not stand by in silence either. If this person being battered, is a friend or family[or stranger] be your best self— call for help. Use your best judgment
Consult with a professional, and seek advice as to what the options are to get help for your friend or family member. It is important that women, in particular, have an advocate in these situations-a safety net. By the time relationships become physically abusive, that person has been beaten down emotionally to the point of feeling no sense of control or power. Accompanying those feelings is fear.
In these situations, there must be someone who understands this and will continue to advocate for that ‘powerless’ person, not coerce, for their health, safety and well-being. Power and control is misused, and one cannot expect the person being abused to be strong or confident enough to be completely objective.
If children are involved, it is even more important that someone acts to protect them from the stress of abusive relationships. Children can be traumatized or may even fall victim to abuse, as well.
In order to be proactive and prevent relational violence, it is important to teach girls, young women, to identify the signs of potential violence in relationships. There are behavioral patterns to be mindful of, and women should know what they are and how to recognize them.
My own personal experiences with abuse and domestic violence should not ever be experienced by any women[or man or child], especially with children in that relationship. Abuse can affect anyone regardless of age, race, class, ethnicity, country of origin, etc…. It knows no boundaries.
This highlights the importance of arming women, starting when they are young girls, with the tools and skills to love themselves, know their own worth, understand their personal boundaries. Teach them to identify the signs and symptoms and behavior patterns that lead to abuses and the indicators of abusive behavior. Do it before they enter intimate relationships.
If they are in this type of relationship already, be prepared to advocate for them, offering your strength, and help to prepare to rescue themselves. Then, locate support groups that will enable them to process their experiences, share with others, and know that they are not alone. Last, do not allow them to feel shame or guilt….just your unconditional love and support. Domestic violence: Know the signs.