Unfortunately, domestic violence is running rampant in our country. The term is not only attached to an intimate partner as victim, but can also mean violence against a child or an elder. I witnessed domestic violence against a child once in a Fred Meyer parking lot and called authorities. A woman was screaming at and dragging a little boy across the parking lot. I honestly felt his life was in danger. Other people were staring but no one did anything. I tried to block their escape until the police could get there, but I think they would have run over me. I’ll never know if they were caught or if the little boy was okay. Chances are it wasn’t the first time and chances are he will grow up with the need to control someone to make up for the lack of control he is experiencing as a child.
Or maybe he’ll be one of the lucky ones and get help before he hurts someone. If he grows up to be an abuser, he may use these different methods of domestic violence against someone he lives with and thinks he loves.
Physical violence – this is usually the first thing we think of when we hear the term “domestic violence” because we usually only hear about the ones who end up dead or severely injured. It can include pushing, pulling hair, biting, kicking, slapping, hitting, tripping, restraining, breaking bones, assault with a weapon, burning and of course death being the final act of violence.
Sexual violence – This is when the abuser forces sex upon his intimate partner when she doesn’t want it or when it is unsafe or degrading. It’s usually linked to the physical abuse, whether it occurs together or after the physical violence. Just because two people live together in an intimate relationship, it doesn’t mean that either partner has the right to demand sex from the other. If one of the two doesn’t want to have sex and it is forced on that person, it is rape.
The following are other types of domestic abuse, labeled “abuse” instead of “violence” because there are no physical scars or bruises caused from the abuse, yet it is abuse that will eventually lead to violence.
Emotional abuse – Although there are no outward signs indicating that a victim has been emotionally abused, this kind of abuse can be much more damaging than physical violence. It can be verbal or non-verbal and may include:
· yelling and name calling
· non-stop harassment
· belittling and sarcastic comments to the victim
· embarrassing or mocking the partner either alone or in public
· criticizing the victim’s accomplishments
· isolating the partner from her friends and family
· blaming the victim for how the abuser is acting or feeling
· always calling and checking to see if she is where she is supposed to be
· aggression and violence to a pet or an inanimate object to instill fear as a means of control
· making the victim feel she can’t leave the relationship
Spiritual abuse – This involves the abuser manipulating the victim by preventing her from practicing her religious or spiritual beliefs, by making fun of her beliefs or by forcing their children to be raised in a faith that she has not agreed to.
Financial or economic abuse – Taking total control of the finances is a way to take control of an intimate partner and prevent her from leaving the relationship because she has no money to help her escape. This includes:
· withholding money and credit cards
· stealing from a partner or defrauding her of money and assets
· exploiting her resources for personal gain or pleasure
· withholding physical necessities such as food, clothes and medications
· preventing the partner from working or making her quit her job
Stalking – This can be very emotionally distressful since there is seemingly nowhere the victim can go where the abuser can’t follow, either by means of a phone, in person, watching with a hidden camera and even online. This can be done to someone who is still living in the abusive home or to someone who has left, whom the abuser is trying to get back or is hoping to catch alone to do further damage to. This can be a very frightening and dangerous position for a victim to be in.
Understanding the different methods used by an abusive intimate partner to control his significant other may help others to recognize the signs of someone who is possibly being abused and needs help. If you suspect someone is a domestic violence victim, ask her discretely if she needs to talk to someone or if there is anything you can do to help. Don’t be forceful, but give her an open invitation to talk to you if she ever feels like it. Meanwhile, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline to get more information on how you can help the victim. Write this number down and offer it to her if she is receptive.
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