Are You Safe In Your Home?

This week I am taking on a tough issue; domestic violence. This is a problem that is so fraught with shame, blame and guilt that it is not talked about and victims of domestic violence (DV) often do not receive the support they need. Because of the shame associated with DV, victims are driven to lie and cover up for the perpetrator in their lives, while they themselves continue to endure the many forms of abuse that are contained under the heading of DV: emotional, physical, mental, sexual, and verbal. It seems that in the last four years I have encountered a lot of victims of abuse that do not know thay are participating in an abusive relationship. Because October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, I would like to talk about this issue and give some signs to watch for and information/links that you can use to help yourself or someone in your life.

The U. S. Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) defines domestic violence as a "pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner". The definition adds that domestic violence "can happen to anyone regardless of race, age, sexual orientation, religion, or gender", and that it can take many forms, including physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional, economic, and psychological abuse.

Domestic violence in relationships is a serious issue, with 20% of women reporting they have been assaulted by their partners, and this is true among married adult women as well as dating college women (IPARV, 2002). Stats are that 3 in 10 couples walking the street have had a violent episode at some point in the relationship, but as many as 1 in 2 couples in my office have had an incident of violence.

Following is a compilation of a lot of information. If you need a quick link go to:

Types of Domestic Violence

Not all domestic violence is the same and there are five commonly accepted classifications of DV today:

Common Couple Violence - within the context of a single issue, there is one or at most two incidents of violence, and it is not used as part of a pattern of behavior to control the partner. This is similar to the "family-only" batterer, or someone who is not violent outside the home and is the least likely to be sexually and emotionally abusive. This kind of batterer is evenly split between males (56%) and females (44%).

Intimate Terrorism - as one tactic in a general pattern of control and manipulation, violence may be used, perhaps only in one or two settings, and may be relatively "low severity." Nonetheless, it still involves emotional abuse, and men who show this pattern of abuse are more likely to kill their partners. This is similar to a "generally-violent-antisocial" batterer, and what Jacobson and Gottman (1998) called the "cobra" type of batterer. This kind is more likely to use violence as a way to control; while they may appear extremely distressed, the appearance of almost uncontrollable rage is an act, one tool of many to intimidate and control others. Such batterers are more likely to engage in carefully planned and more violent revenge if the relationship ends, and are thus much more dangerous to their victims.

Violent Resistance - where one partner becomes controlling or frightening, the other partner may respond with violence in self-defense. This kind of violence occurs in response to a perceived threat, and is not part of a pattern of control and manipulation.

Mutual Violent Control - this kind of violence may be what is thought of as mutual combat, or two parties using violence to control each other, a kind of intimate terrorism. In 31% of these couples, the male initiates more violence, as opposed to 8% for the female.

Dysphoric-Borderline Violence - this kind of batterer is a needy, dependent, and emotionally overwhelmed person who resorts to violence in frustration. Jacobson and Gottman (1998) called this the "pitbull" type of batterer, feeling extreme emotional and physical arousal and distress.

Theories Regarding the Causes of Abuse

There are a number of factors typically associated with predicting domestic violence:

• History of Aggressive Behavior - past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior.

• History of Abuse/Witnessing Abuse as a Child.

• SES (socio-economic status) - unemployed and low SES men have a high risk, and this increases if the partner is employed or has a higher SES at the same time; lower education is also associated with domestic violence.

• Isolation and Lack of Resources - this is tied to SES but is a separate factor on its own.

• Mental Illness - this can include ASP, but also alcoholism/drug abuse, or neurological problems.

• Age - couples under 30 have the highest risk.

• Cohabitation - unmarried couples have higher rates of violence.

“Red Flags” to look for if you suspect someone of being a victim of abuse:

• A history of unexplained or poorly explained injuries at various stages of healing.

• A pattern of unexplained failure to meet obligations, such as keeping appointments for parent-teacher meeting.

•Signs of traumatic stress such as depression, insomnia, nightmares, and anxiety.

• Reluctance to provide details about the home life and the family's problems.

• The appearance of strong dependence on the partner to make decisions.

• Alcohol/substance abuse in the partner.

Questions to Ask in the Assessment of Violence

Introductory Questions

• How are things at home? Have they always been that way?

• Are you afraid of anyone at home?

• Are there any problems in your relationship? Has it always been so?

• How serious are these problems? How long have they lasted?

• How often do you argue?

• What kinds of things do you argue about?

• What's the worst argument you've ever had?

• Have things ever gotten physical between the two of you when you're arguing?

Things to ask yourself if you wonder if you are in an abusive relationship:

• Do you feel criticized or controlled by your partner?

• Does your partner interrupt you, swear at you, yell at you, or minimize your contribution to the relationship?

• Does your partner interfere in your work, school, or other relationships?

• (For gays and lesbians) Has your partner ever threatened to "out" you?

• Does your partner seem jealous of you, or accuse you of being unfaithful?

• Does your partner track your time, control your money, or make you explain all of your actions or spending to him or her?

• How does your partner handle anger? Do you ever feel intimidated or frightened by your partner?

• Has your partner ever threatened to hurt loved ones, or threatened to hurt himself/herself?

• Has your partner ever threatened to hurt you?

• Have you talked to anyone about this?

• Have you ever tried to leave your partner? What happened?

• Has your partner ever threatened you if you tried to leave him or her?

• Has your partner ever stalked you?

Physical Violence

• Has your partner ever put his or her hands on you in anger?

• Has your partner ever tried to prevent you from leaving the home?

• Has your partner ever grabbed or slapped you? Ever left a bruise by holding you?

• Has your partner ever pushed or shoved you? Did this lead to injuries?

• Has your partner ever tried to cut, choke, punch, or burn you?

• Has your partner ever cut, choked, punched, or burned you?

• Has your partner ever threatened you with a weapon?

• Has your partner ever been arrested for assault or violence of any kind?

• Have you ever been unable or unwilling to leave the home after a fight?

• Have you ever been unable to get out of bed after a fight?

• Have you ever needed medical care after a fight? What kinds of injuries have you sustained?

• Have you ever sought medical services after a fight?

• Has your partner ever withheld medication or prevented you from seeking medical services?

• Have you ever sought services such as a battered women's shelter or support group?

• Does your partner have access to weapons, like hunting knives or guns?

• How long has the violence gone on? Has it always been this bad? How bad do you think it could get?

Sexual Violence

• Has your partner ever forced you to have sex when you did not want to?

• Has your partner ever pressured you to have "make up" sex after a fight, when you were unwilling or wanted to be alone?

• Has your partner ever had affairs and bragged about them to you?

• Has your partner ever pressured you to engage in sexual activities you felt were humiliating, frightening, or painful?

• Have you ever been worried about contracting HIV from your partner? Has your partner forced you to engage in unprotected sex?

• Has your partner ever threatened to hurt you if you did not agree to have sex when and how he or she wanted?

• Has your partner ever physically restrained or injured you during sex?

• Have you ever sought services such as rape crises counseling?

Substance Abuse

• Does your partner drink or use drugs too much?

• Does your partner have a problem controlling his or her temper soon after using substances?

• Does your partner become frightening, controlling, or more hostile soon after using substances?

• Does your partner have a problem controlling his or her temper the day after using substances?

• Does your partner become frightening, controlling, or more hostile the day after using substances?

• Has your partner been physically or sexually violent after using substances?

• Has your partner ever forced you to use substances?

• Have you ever sought services for codependence or substance abuse?

Child Abuse

• Do your children witness serious arguments between you and your partner?

• Do your children seem scared, upset, and/or angry after these arguments?

• How much violence have the children witnessed? How do they understand it?

• Do the children try to intervene to stop it?

• Does your partner threaten to hurt your children?

• Has your partner prevented you from doing something to care for your children, such as shopping, keeping medical appointments, or contacting a child's teachers?

• Has your partner physically or sexually abused your children? Have you been fearful he or she would?

• Have the children told anyone?

• Have the children needed medical attention as a result of your partner? What kinds of injuries did they sustain?

• Has your partner ever withheld medication or prevented you from seeking medical services for the children?

Batterer Assessment

• How do you think your partner will react to a report against him or her?

• Is there anywhere you can stay while the report is being investigated? What will happen if your partner seeks you out there?

• Do you need to take your children with you?

• Do you have a safety plan?

• Does your partner suffer from emotional problems like severe depression or rage?

• Has your partner ever threatened to kill himself or herself? Has your partner ever threatened to kill you?

• Does your partner have access to a weapon?

• Has your partner ever threatened to harm you if you left the relationship? What did he or she threaten and can they carry out this threat?

If you or anyone you know is a victim of domestic violence of any kind, please call this number. There is a safe escape button on the website below that will not show up in the history on your computer. Remember that you deserve to be safe in your own home!

1.800.799.SAFE (7233) 1.800.787.3224 (TTY)


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