The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) provides the definition of domestic violence as: “the willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, and/or other abusive behavior perpetrated by an intimate partner against another”. They go on to state that “One in every four women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime” (Domestic Violence Facts, n.d.).
Domestic Violence is one of the most underreported crimes. Although domestic violence has no discrimination (men and children are also victims of domestic violence), “85% of domestic violence victims are women” (Bureau of Justice Statistics Crime Data Brief, 2003).
How to recognize domestic violence, as well as, understanding you are the victim, not the cause and are not to blame, can help you to survive. There are times we make excuses for our abuser. “He’s tired, he’s had a long day at work, well, I was gone longer than I should have been”, and at some point, simply feel or believe, maybe, we are horrible wives or partners and that we probably deserve what they do. These are excuses and justifications for the abuser and will help them to continue the abuse.
For some domestic violence victims, it is too late, domestic violence can, does and will end in death. There was a point in my life in which I realized, the latter result would be mine if I did not change my situation. My life and my children’s lives were at stake, this I knew without a doubt. However, I had to finally admit this abuse is wrong. This hurts and it is domestic violence!
One afternoon, my husband (ex-husband) ask me to meet him for lunch. He had chosen a secluded area for a “picnic”. As we’re walking through the woods, he ask me to sit on some planks that were out in the middle of this forest.
After we had finished our lunch, he requested I move so he could “show me something”. He removed the planks one by one. I stood there not knowing what to expect, in my naivety, I thought he was going to show me something he had found under these planks. He then ask me to look into this hole that he had opened up.
I ask him “what is it”? He stated calmly and as a matter-of-fact: “It’s a well, do you realize I could put you in here right now and no one would EVER find your body”. I turned and ran so fast I could barely hear his voice shouting at me from behind, “it’s a joke, I was just kidding, and I wouldn’t really do it”! That moment of fear and the look in his eyes is indescribable. Would I make out of those woods before he caught me? Is today the day he will carry out his threats?
I did make it out alive and went straight to the police station where he denied any harm and stated he was “joking around with me”. There was no proof of the abuse. Even though he had placed the children’s fish in the sink with the strainer in place just enough for the water to drain out and their fish slowly die, or that he had broken a pet bird’s neck, or that he had grabbed me by my hair and yanked me out of bed in the middle of the night because “if he couldn’t sleep, neither could I”. I cannot describe those moments of sheer terror or the feelings of hopelessness, there was nothing I could do.
He was referred to counseling and I filed for divorce. My children and I lost everything and I did not care. Starting from scratch is worth the safety of my children and of myself. For the longest time I looked over my shoulders.
Today, there are times I will notice a car out of place and wonder if it’s him? Could he still be angry after all these years? Or I will see a figure out of the corner of my eye and have a startled reaction as if it’s him. This is known as PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). The fear is almost always present.
I am not alone, other victims of domestic violence suffer with PTSD. It is the result of years of abuse…
Domestic violence is abuse and that abuse is inflicted on others by what is called the “perpetrator”. These perpetrators are responsible for their own actions. Domestic violence is about power and control. Gaining this power and control through whatever means necessary, gives the perpetrator a sense of security, “you are mine and what I say goes”. Through acts of intimidation, physical acts of violence, emotional control, psychological means, fear, and sexual abuse these perpetrators gain this power and control over their spouses/partner.
The definition of domestic violence is also considered “domestic abuse”! Domestic abuse is well documented and falls into the category of a controlling behavior. Anyone who has ever been involved, myself included, in a domestic violence relationship understands all too well the implications of the abuse. Domestic violence can include, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, psychological abuse, physical abuse. Or the intimidation and threats or fear that you may be harmed constitute the definition of domestic violence.
One of the most important aspects of Domestic Violence is acknowledging that it does exist and you or anyone can become a victim. Many victims, and survivors refuse to acknowledge domestic violence exist or existed in their homes. Domestic Violence may be between spouses, partners; however, also can include parents inflicting this abuse on their children. Children that witness domestic violence in the homes are also traumatized by the abuse.
Domestic violence is abuse and is present in several situations. (Domestic Violence should not happen to anybody…Ever…!, 2014), give examples of abuse which include:
· Name-calling or putdowns
· Keeping a partner from contacting their family or friends
· Withholding money
· Stopping a partner from getting or keeping a job
· Actual or threatened physical harm
· Sexual assault
Emotional abuse, which include statements such as: “you are worthless, I will kill you, I could kill you, open your mouth again and I’ll shut it for you”, etc., are only a few threats victims have stated were used on a weekly, monthly and sometimes daily basis. Sound familiar? The fear your partner/spouse may harm you can sometimes be as severe as using the actual physical harm to hurt you.
Isolation from your family members is a way to continue the violence/abuse. If you aren’t talking to your family members, there’s no one else who knows what’s going on, therefore, you are dependent only on the abuser. A partner/spouse can create scenes or situations which are so unpleasant for your family members to witness, they simply choose not to be around the person being abused. (Especially when the abuser is present.)
It may be difficult for others to understand “why” a person would stay in an abusive relationship, however, many abusers use financial status as another way to gain control. This can be a scary thought in and of itself.
Learning the definition of domestic violence and understanding that any one of us could become a victim, is a first step in dealing with the abuse, ending it. Leading and living, healthy, happy, productive lives is a reality. No one should suffer at the hands of an abuser. There are several organizations and websites which lend support, resources and assistance, for both, the abuser and the abused.
Some of these websites are:
Theduluthmodel.org explains the cycle of violence and ways to receive help.
The “Violence Wheel”, explains the power and control of the domestic violence. Using Coercion and Threats, using emotional abuse, minimizing, denying and blaming, using children, using economic abuse, using male privilege, and using isolation are a means for the abuser to continue the abuse, or justify their power and control.
Statistics also reveal that the cycle of violence will continue for children who witness abuse. If a child (especially males) continue to see abuse inflicted upon their parents, they will assume, this violence is a means to an end. “Intimate partner violence results in more than 18.5 million mental health care visits each year” (Domestic Violence Facts, n.d.).
Womenslaw.org provides legal information and support to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. If your or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, please seek professional assistance. You or they are not alone, there is help; support is available usually within your community. End domestic violence…