Domestic violence is an epidemic in the U.S. with one-third of all women experiencing some degree of abuse from an intimate partner at some time in their lives. Men also experience domestic abuse, but young women are most often the victims. The consequences of domestic violence range from physical injuries to mental illness to substance abuse to death.
It is crucial to be aware of the signs of domestic abuse, both in oneself and in others. It happens often enough that all people should be able to recognize the signs and do something about it. Reaching out in the midst of an abusive relationship is very difficult, so recognizing the signs in others and taking steps to help is so important to ending the cycle of violence and harm.
Domestic Violence Defined
Domestic violence encompasses a broad set of abusive behaviors, all of which are perpetrated by a person against his or her intimate partner. These abusive behaviors may be physical or sexual assault, but may also include psychological, emotional, social, and economic abuse, all behaviors that are part of a pattern of abuse that are designed to control and have power over a partner. This power and control is a consistent element of domestic violence, regardless of how frequently it occurs or what type of abuse takes place. Types of domestic abuse and violence:
- Physical abuse or assault is any kind of violence that causes pain, fear, intimidation, and physical harm. It may result in bruising, broken bones, and other injuries, or even death.
- Sexual violence is any type of non-consenting sexual behavior, including rape. Sexual coercion of any type, even between intimate partners, is sexual assault.
- Psychological abuse is any behavior that is intended to scare or intimidate a partner, such as making threats of violence, threatening to harm a partner’s children, or damaging or harming property or pets.
- Emotional abuse occurs when a partner uses words to undermine a partner’s self-esteem or sense of self-worth or confidence. It may include regular criticism, name-calling, or other instances of trying to make a partner feel intimidated, guilty, worthless, ashamed, or scared.
- Economic abuse is a strategy an abusive partner may use to control through money. It usually involves forcing the other partner to be financially dependent on the abuser by controlling the money in the household, withholding money, or forbidding a partner from working and earning money.
Facts about Domestic Violence
The statistics for domestic abuse in the U.S. are deeply troubling. While women are more often affected, men too are victims of this kind of violence and abuse. One third of all women have been physically abused by a partner at some point in their lives and one quarter of men have been abused. One out of five women, or twenty percent, has been severely abused and one out of seven men has also been severe abused by a partner.
Fifteen percent of all violent crimes in the U.S. are the result of domestic violence. Nineteen percent of domestic abuse situations involve a weapon of some type. Women are the most common victims of domestic violence with those between the ages of 18 and 24 most often the victims. A woman is assaulted or beaten every nine seconds in the U.S. and 20 people are assaulted by a partner every minute.
Signs Your Relationship May Be Abusive
When you are in the midst of an abusive relationship, especially with an intimate partner you love or believe you love, it can be difficult to see the signs of abuse. This is particularly true if the abuse is non-violent, but even when physical violence is involved, it is easy to make excuses or to avoid thinking about what is really happening out of fear of what may happen if you speak up or reach out for help. Abusers are very good at manipulating their partners and preventing them from getting help. The following are some signs your relationship may be abusive:
- You often feel afraid of your partner and avoid topics or places to prevent his or her anger.
- You feel like you can never do anything right in your relationship or home.
- You wonder if you are actually the cause of problems or that you are the crazy one.
- Your partner puts you down often and either yells or humiliates you.
- Your partner ignores your accomplishments and opinions.
- Your partner blames you for his or her anger or violence.
- Your partner has an unpredictable temper.
- Your partner has physically harmed you ever.
- Your partner has threatened you or someone you love.
- Your partner has made threats if you leave, such as committing suicide or taking your children away from you.
- Your partner has destroyed your property.
- Your partner has forced you to have sex when you didn’t want to.
- Your partner controls certain aspects of your life, for example the friends you spend time with.
- Your partner limits your access to things like your phone or car.
- Your partner checks up on you often, looking through your phone or social media sites.
- Your partner is possessive or jealous.
Signs of Domestic Violence in Others
Sometimes it is easier to recognize domestic violence when it is happening to someone else. From the outside, looking into an intimate relationship, things often look clearer. It still isn’t always easy, though, because abusers are manipulative and those being abused are often good at hiding what is really happening in their lives. Here are some signs that you may know someone experiencing domestic violence and abuse:
- She is often injured and makes excuses about having accidents or being clumsy.
- She misses work and other events often.
- She wears clothing to hide bruises, like long sleeves on a hot day.
- She is restricted from socializing and checks in often with her partner.
- She seems like she needs to please her partner and is anxious about it.
- She mentions jealous or possessive behaviors in her partner.
- She rarely goes out without her partner.
- She doesn’t always have access to her car, phone, or money.
- She has low self-esteem, even if previously she seemed confident.
- She shows signs of anxiety or depression.
- She exhibits personality changes, such as going from being outgoing to shy or withdrawn.
Domestic violence has very serious consequences for the victim, both physical and psychological. The physical consequences are often more immediate and more obvious. The most common consequence is physical injury. Depending on the severity of the violence, abuse may cause serious bruising, broken bones, organ damage, or internal bleeding. There may even be brain damage or injury from blows to the head or falls that harm the head. Sometimes the consequence of domestic violence is death.
Studies have also found that the physical consequences of domestic violence go beyond immediate injuries. There are several health conditions associated with domestic violence. Women and men who are abused by a partner are at a greater risk for having kidney or bladder infections, asthma, irritable bowel syndrome, chronic pain, joint diseases, migraines, central nervous system disorders, fibromyalgia, and cardiovascular disease.
Women who are abused by a partner are also at a greater risk for a range of reproductive health issues: sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV, sexual dysfunction, pelvic inflammatory disease, gynecological disorders, unintended pregnancies, poor prenatal care, preterm births, and complications of pregnancy and delivery including low birth weight and miscarriages.
Mental Health Consequences
Domestic violence also causes serious mental health complications for women and men who are abused by an intimate partner. Regardless of whether the abuse includes explicit psychological or emotional abuse, domestic violence and abuse impacts mental well-being. Consequences of domestic abuse include depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, suicide, low self-esteem and self-worth, fear of intimacy, emotional detachment, difficulty sleeping, social isolation, and even substance abuse and addiction.
Getting Help for Yourself or Someone Else
For people who have never personally experienced domestic violence it can be very difficult to understand why a woman would stay in an abusive relationship. There are many reasons:
- Fear for one’s safety or fear for the safety of children, especially when the abuser has made real threats.
- Belief that the abuser can be changed.
- Belief that some degree of abuse is normal in a loving relationship.
- Fear that one’s children will be removed.
- Financial dependence on the abuser.
- Having nowhere else to go.
- Feelings of embarrassment and shame.
- Cultural, religious or family beliefs that prevent leaving.
While there are many reasons women stay, there are so many more reasons to get help. Reaching out is never easy, but there are ways to get the necessary help. The National Domestic Violence Hotline in the U.S. (1-800-799-SAFE) is one way to get help. The line is anonymous and offers information about resources for housing, financial support, counseling, and legal help.
The loved ones of people in abusive relationships can also do their part to help victims. Try talking to this person about what you suspect is happening and let her know that your primary concern is her safety, not gossiping or making her feel bad. Listen and be supportive and be prepared to offer concrete help, such as childcare, transportation, or information about housing for abused women. Encourage her to reach out to a helpline or other resource specifically designed to help women trapped in abusive relationships.
Domestic violence is a terrible epidemic that causes so much harm and even ends in death for too many. Both women and men are victims of domestic abuse and live with the consequences of that abuse for a lifetime. If you or someone you know is being abused, reach out, contact the helpline and find out how you can help a friend or get help for yourself.
- https://ncadv.org/files/National Statistics Domestic Violence NCADV.pdf