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On average, 24 people per minute are victims of rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner or spouse. We tend to think that only women are victims of domestic violence, but as many as 1 in 9 men are also victims of domestic violence. Domestic violence is a serious problem that affects different communities across the United States and the world. Here’s what to know this Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
Domestic Violence Defined
Domestic abuse is a pattern of behaviors used by one partner to maintain power or control over another partner in an intimate relationship. People of any age, race, or gender, or economic status are victims of domestic violence. While we tend to think of violence in physical terms, it can also include threats, stalking, severe emotional abuse, and financial control.
What Signs to Look For
There are different signs to look out for if you think a loved one is a victim of abuse. These include:
· Black eyes
· Bruises on the arm
· Busted lips
· Red or purple marks on the neck
· Sprained wrists
· Covering up when it’s hot outside
· Heavier than normal makeup
· Sunglasses indoors
2. Emotional Abuse
· Agitation, anxiety
· Changes in sleep habits
· Developing a drug or alcohol problem
· Extremely apologetic
· Loss of interest in activities
· Overly defensive of partner
· Low-self-esteem and fearful
· Suicidal tendencies
· Symptoms of depression
How Abuse Changes Behavior
Those in abusive situations tend to change their behavior. Patterns to watch for include:
· Becomes reserved and distant
· Cancels appointments
· Isolates from friends and family
· Excessive privacy about personal life
· Often late to work or other appointments
Psychology of the Abuser
According to experts, the domestic abuser has a set of personality traits that cause him or her to act a certain way. Domestic abusers are controlling, manipulative, and see themselves as victims. If the abuser is male, he tends to think that men have a pre-ordained right to dominate the relationship.
However, the abuser can also be very charming and charismatic at times. He or she may appear to be “truly sorry” after an abusive situation happens, promising never to do it again. There is usually a honeymoon period after the abuse where the abuser acts as though a “new leaf has turned.” After a short time, the entire cycle starts over again.
Why Victims Stay
Many friends and family become frustrated when their loved one refuses to leave an abusive relationship because they can’t understand how the victim can stay in such a volatile situation. Perhaps the family has gone out of their way to provide a haven for the victim and yet the victim decides to go back to the abuser. There are several reasons why victims stay in abusive relationships, including:
A person is afraid of the consequences if he/she leaves the relationship. If children are involved, this can amplify the feelings of fear. The person may not have resources available to support oneself and his/her children. This increases these feelings of hopelessness and a sense of “being trapped.”
· Normalized Abuse
If someone grew up in an environment where abuse was common, he/she may find it acceptable to stay in an abusive situation. They may find this type of relationship to be the only normal one.
Many victims feel like they are responsible for the abuse and are afraid to reach out for help. They are afraid that if they admit the abuse is going on that other people will judge them for staying in the situation. This prevents people from leaving.
· Low-Self Esteem
Many domestic abuse survivors suffer from extremely low self-esteem. They may have suffered from low-self-esteem before the relationship, or it may have developed as a result of the constant abuse inflicted upon them. Either way, they don’t feel like they are “worth” feeling secure and at peace.
· Cultural Concerns and Religious Reasons
Unfortunately, some victims are misled to think that if they leave it will be going against their religion or culture. Some cultures look down on divorce more than others, and religion can be used as a tool by abusers to goad the victim into staying. This is especially true in very radical religious sects.
When children are involved it makes it even more challenging to try and leave an abusive relationship. The abuser may make threats involving the children. This includes threatening to take the victim to court for full custody or holding back financial support if the victim leaves. These threats can be so exhausting that the victim feels trapped and goaded into staying.
How to Get Help
Here are some resources and safe houses in the United States and Orange County area to get help for leaving an abusive situation.
· National Domestic Violence Hotline – #800-799-SAFE
· Lara’s House – #866-498-1511
· Human Options – #877-854-3594
· Interval House – #714-891-8121
· Women’s Transitional Living Center – 877-531-5522
· Straight Talk Counseling Center - #714-828-2000
Are you a domestic abuse survivor? Are you struggling with anxiety, depression, or fear? If so, please contact Straight Talk Counseling at 714-828-2000 or visit our website at straighttalkcounseling.org. One of our professional counselors would be happy to speak with you.