Domestic Violence refers to a pattern of violent and coercive behavior exercised by one adult in an intimate relationship over another. It is not "marital conflict," "mutual abuse," "a lovers' quarrel," or "a private family matter." It may consist of repeated, severe beatings, or more subtle forms of abuse, including threats and control.
Statistics reflect that 95% of domestic violence victims are women, although men may also be victims. But regardless of who is being victimized, domestic violence is a serious problem. Surveys from the U.S. and Canada indicate that domestic violence occurs in 28% of all marriages.
The four basic types of domestic violence are:
- Physical assault: Includes shoving, pushing, restraining, hitting, kicking or choking.
- Sexual Assault: Any time one partner forces sexual acts, which are unwanted or declined by the other partner.
- Psychological Assault: Includes isolation from family and friends, forced financial dependence, verbal and emotional abuse, threats, intimidation, and control over where the partner can go and what she can do.
- Attacks Against Property and Pets: Destruction of property which may include household objects or treasured objects belonging to the victim, hitting the walls, or abusing or killing beloved pets.
Why does she stay? She stays because she is terrified that he will become more violent if she leaves, that he will try to take the children, that she can't make it on her own.
What can I do to be helpful if an abusive situation is revealed?
- Listen to the woman and believe her. Tell her that the abuse is not her fault.
- Tell her she is not alone and that help is available.
- Let her know that without intervention, abuse often escalates in frequency and severity over time.
- Seek expert assistance. Refer her only to specialized domestic violence counseling programs, not to couples counseling. Help her find a shelter, safe home, or advocacy resources to offer her protection. To suggest that she merely return home places her and her children in real danger.
- Hold the abuser accountable. Don't minimize his abusive behavior. Support him in seeking specialized batterer's counseling to help change his behavior. Continue to hold him accountable and to support and protect the victim even after he has begun a counseling program.
- If restoration of the relationship is to occur, it can be considered only after the above steps have taken place.
For additional information about domestic violence, including lists of shelters, visit the following websites:
Alabama Coalition Against Domestic Violence
National Coalition Against Domestic Violence
National Network to End Domestic Violence
Women's Law Initiative