October: Domestic Violence Awareness Month (part 1)


October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.  Information from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence defines domestic violence as the willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, and/or other abusive behavior as part of a systematic pattern of power and control perpetrated by one intimate partner dominating over another.  Domestic violence is prevalent in every community, and affects all people regardless of age, socio economic status, sexual orientation, gender, race, religion, or nationality.  The devastating consequences of domestic violence can cross generations and last a lifetime.  It includes physical violence, sexual violence, threats, economic, and emotional/psychological abuse.

Psychological abuse involves trauma to the victim caused by verbal abuse, acts, threats of acts, or coercive tactics.  Perpetrators use psychological abuse to control, terrorize, and denigrate their victims.  It frequently occurs prior to or concurrently with physical or sexual abuse.  Tactics include: • Humiliating the victim • Controlling what the victim can or cannot do • Withholding information from the victim • Deliberately doing something to make the victim feel diminished or embarrassed • Isolating the victim from friends and/or family • Denying the victim access to money or other basic resources • Stalking • Demeaning the victim in public or in private • Undermining the victim’s confidence and/or sense of self-worth • Convincing the victim (s)he is crazy.  A number of studies have demonstrated that psychological abuse independently causes long-term damage to a victim’s mental health. Victims of psychological abuse often experience depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, suicidal ideation, low self-esteem, and difficulty trusting others. Subtle psychological abuse is more harmful than either overt psychological abuse or direct aggression.

4 in 10 women and 4 in 10 men have experienced at least one form of coercive control by an intimate partner in their lifetime.  17.9% of women have experienced a situation where an intimate partner tried to keep them from seeing family and friends.  18.7% of women have experienced threats of physical harm by an intimate partner.  95% of men who physically abuse their intimate partners also psychologically abuse them.  Women who earn 65% or more of their households’ income are more likely to be psychologically abused than women who earn less than 65% of their households’ income.

7 out of 10 psychologically abused women display symptoms of PTSD and/or depression.   Psychological abuse is a stronger predictor of PTSD than physical abuse among women.  Are you being psychologically abused?  Does your partner: • Threaten to harm you, your children, your family and/or your pets? • Tell you are worthless and that no one else will ever love you? • Isolate you from your friends and/or family? • Control your behavior and monitor your movements and whereabouts? • Tell you that you are crazy? • Demean you in public or in private? • Constantly criticize you? • Blame you for everything that goes wrong? • Stalk you? • Cause you to feel guilt over things that are not your fault? • Threaten to take away your children?  If so, your partner may be abusing you.  For help, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-SAFE (7233), or visit Domesticshelters.org to access professional help.

On average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. During one year, this equates to more than 10 million women and men. 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have experienced some form of physical violence by an intimate partner.  This includes a range of behaviors such as slapping, shoving or pushing.  1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men have been victims of severe physical violence such as beating, burning or strangling by an intimate partner in their lifetime.  1 in 7 women and 1 in 18 men have been stalked by an intimate partner during their lifetime to the point in which they felt very fearful or believed that they or someone close to them would be harmed or killed.  1 in 5 women and 1 in 59 men in the United States is raped during his/her lifetime.

On a typical day, domestic violence hotlines receive approximately 21,000 calls, approximately 15 calls every minute.

Domestic violence occurs in dating relationships as well as marriages. Women aged 16 to 24 experience domestic violence at the highest rate of any age group, almost 3 times the national average.  Nearly 20.9% of female high school students and 13.4% of male high school students report being physically or sexually abused by a dating partner.  Nearly 1.5 million high school students in the United States are physically abused by dating partners every year.  A 2013 study of 10th graders found that 35% had been either physically or verbally abused; 31% were perpetrators of physical or verbal abuse.

In 2010, 1 in 15 children in the United States were exposed to intimate partner violence for a total of more than 5 million children.  Witnessing intimate partner violence is associated with other forms of violence.  1 in 3 children who witnessed domestic violence were also child abuse victims.  Children’s immediate reaction to experiencing domestic violence include generalized anxiety, sleeplessness, aggression, difficulty concentrating, nightmares, high levels of activity, and separation anxiety.  Abusive partners use children to control victims.  Fathers who batter the mothers of their children are twice as likely to seek sole custody of their children as non-abusive fathers.  Courts award sole or joint custody to fathers in 70% of custody cases.  Abusive parents use child custody as a way to continue to threaten and harass the victim and often threaten to gain sole custody, kill, kidnap or otherwise harm children if victims leave.

Domestic violence creates a violent and hostile environment that can have devastating effects on children, both physical and emotional. Children who have been exposed to domestic violence can become fearful and anxious, concerned for themselves, siblings, and their parents. They may begin to feel worthless and powerless.  Children exposed to violence may have difficulty paying attention and display depression and withdrawal.  In the long run, children who witness or experience violence at home are much more likely to perpetuate the cycle of abuse in their own relationships as they grow into adulthood.  Children who witness intimate partner violence growing up are three times as likely as their peers to engage in violent behavior.  Children raised in abusive homes learn that violence is an appropriate way to solve conflict. These children are more likely than their peers to be in abusive intimate partner relationships in the future, either as victims or perpetrators.  Children who witness incidents of domestic violence (a form of childhood trauma) are at greater risk of serious adult health problems including obesity, cancer, heart disease, depression, substance abuse, tobacco use and unintended pregnancies than peers who did not witness domestic violence.

Stalking is a course of conduct of threatening tactics used by a perpetrator, including intimidation, surveillance or harassment, that places a person in reasonable fear of material harm to their health or safety or the health or safety of an immediate family member, household member, spouse or intimate partner, or pet.

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