Domestic Violence 101: Understanding the Basics

Posted by on Jun 10, 2016 in Blog | 1 comment

Domestic violence is an incredibly common crime, but seldom talked about. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence estimates that 1 in 3 women will be a victim of abuse in their lifetime.  However, the sad fact remains that many abuse victims experience fear and shame that keep them from sharing the abuse with their loved ones, let alone report it to the police.  Since we are likely to come across someone who has been a victim of domestic violence in our daily lives, whether we are aware or not, it is important that we be informed as to the truths surrounding domestic violence.

Domestic abuse (or domestic violence or intimate partner violence) is a pattern of behaviors in a relationship that are used by one person to gain and/or maintain power and control over the other.  Domestic abuse can be found throughout many different types and stages of relationships.  Whether the couple is dating, living together, married, homosexual or heterosexual; it does not matter, abuse can still be a painful reality.  Domestic abuse occurs in all families regardless of race, level of education, or financial standing.  Though victims of domestic abuse are typically characterized as women, statistics show that 1 in every 4 men will also experience abuse at the hands of an intimate partner at some point in their lifetime (National Coalition Against Domestic Violence).

The most well known type of domestic violence is physical abuse.  These behaviors commonly include: pushing, shoving, strangulation, and slapping.  However, though it is a tragic and dangerous outlet of abuse, physical attacks only make up one aspect of domestic abuse.  On a day-to-day basis, most men who use abusive behavior choose to demonstrate their power through controlling and intimidating behaviors, or what is known as psychological abuse.  Behaviors consistent with psychological abuse may include: yelling, threatening the victim with violence, ignoring, and isolating the victim from the rest of the world.

Other types of abuse include sexual, emotional, technological, and economic.  Sometimes abusive behavior can begin with minor, controlling actions.  This behavior can last for years, only slowly escalating.  Victims of abuse can become accustomed to the abuse and not realize they are in an abusive relationship until an explosive incident occurs years later.

While it is easy to pass judgement on victims who stay in these abusive relationships – claiming that victims are simply too weak to leave – leaving an abusive relationship can be just as dangerous as staying.  Women are far more likely to become victims of homicide when they separate from their spouse/partner.  In reality most survivors of domestic abuse end up leaving their partners a total of 6-8 times before they are finally able to move on from the relationship.

Any number of factors may keep a victim in an abusive relationship.  One of the most common reasons is a fear of losing their children.  Any relationship with children is more complex by nature; as such, victims may want to keep the family together for their children or may fear losing custody of their children as a result of the separation.  Other reasons for staying include: financial dependency, lack of support, shame, fear of partner suicide, denial, and love.  Many victims of domestic abuse still love their partners and only want to end the abuse, not the relationship.

Domestic violence is a learned behavior. While not an excuse for abuse, often men who use abuse were victims of abuse as children. Because of this, perpetrators, with the proper education and therapeutic support, including taking responsibility for the abuse, can change their behavior and engage in healthy relationships. Victims and witnesses, as well, can benefit from therapy and support to overcome the trauma they’ve experienced and overcome their shame and self-blame.

Want to learn more about domestic violence and how you can help? Visit the education page on our website www.domesticabuseproject.org.  If you know someone who is experiencing abuse call DAP (612-874-7063) or the statewide domestic violence hotline (866) 223-1111.

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