Domestic abuse is the misuse of power by one adult in a relationship over another. It means that one partner uses control and fear to overpower the other. Domestic abuse may be physical, psychological, sexual, social, or financial. It may be regular and continual or it may be occasional. Domestic abuse accounts for some 85% of all violent crime against women.
Because domestic abuse takes many forms, it causes many different types of harm. Violence can cause physical injury as well as emotional. Depending on the form the abuse takes, the victim may experience physical, emotional, social, or spiritual injury. It can have severe repercussions on a woman’s sexual health and overall well-being. Domestic abuse increases the risk of depression and suicide. It disrupts family life and can have serious negative effects on children.
Warning Signs to Look Out For
When you are getting to know someone, any of these behaviors should make you think twice about continuing the relationship.
- Jealousy or controlling behavior
- Pressuring you to make a commitment too soon
- Having unrealistic expectations
- Attempts to isolate you or discourage you from seeing your friends
- Blaming other people for his or her problems or feelings
- Cruelty to animals or children
- Pressuring you to have sex when you don’t want to
- Verbal abuse; saying cruel things meant to hurt you
- Breaking, throwing, or striking objects
- Any use of force during an argument, such as grabbing your arm or holding you down
Why Do the Victims Stay?
It is easy to say you would never stay in an abusive relationship – until you find yourself in one. Abusers are master manipulators. Often women find themselves in situations where they believe they cannot get along, financially or emotionally, without the abusive partner. They feel trapped. They may fear the abuser too much to report the violence; they may be embarrassed and not want others to know about their situation.
Where to Turn for Help
If you find yourself in an abusive relationship, know that you are not alone. Millions of men, women, and teens have found themselves in the same situation: people of all races, socioeconomic statuses, education levels, and sexual orientations.
If you are in immediate danger, call 911 or get to a safe place quickly. Battered women’s shelters typically have various support services such as legal, emotional, and financial. If you have time to make plans, get in touch with friends or family members who will give you the support and help you need. There are many resources available for victims of domestic abuse. Try a national or local helpline. Or talk to your doctor for more information.
The National Domestic Abuse Hotline is 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).
– Yvonne S. Thornton, M. D., M. P. H.