Domestic Violence Is Not Just Physical
Domestic violence is no stranger to our society and especially not a stranger to our community here in Chautauqua County. The term “domestic violence”, however, has begun to take on a different meaning over the past few decades.
As a society, through many awareness and advocacy efforts, we are starting to break down the stigma behind domestic violence. We are starting to have more and more conversations about this issue. The more we talk about it, the more we see that the way that we look at and understand domestic violence has changed significantly over time.
When most people think about domestic violence, they think about one romantic partner inflicting physical pain on the other. However, domestic violence is more than just physical violence. Domestic violence, also more recently referred to as intimate partner violence, can be defined as any form of abusive behavior that is part of a systematic pattern of power and control, perpetrated by one intimate partner against the other. Abuse can look different for every person and can take on many different forms, some of which that are highlighted below:
Physical Abuse is unwanted, physical contact with another person, or any behavior that causes or has the intention of causing injury, disability, or death. Examples of this include punching, kicking, scratching, biting, choking, throwing items at another person, pulling hair, forcibly grabbing another person or their clothing, preventing another person from leaving, or touching any part of someone without their consent.
Emotional and Verbal Abuse is any non-physical behaviors that are used in a way to coerce or intimidate an intimate partner, such as threats, insults, constant monitoring or “checking in”, humiliation, intimidation, isolation, or stalking. Emotional and verbal abuse can often be just as detrimental as physical violence. Lack of physical violence in an abusive relationship does not mean that the abuser is any less dangerous to the victim, nor does it mean that the victim is any less trapped by the abuser. Examples of this form of abuse include calling an individual names or putting them down, telling them what to do or what to wear, yelling or screaming at them, embarrassing them in front of others, and preventing someone from seeing or communicating with friends or family members. It can also include threatening to have children taken away from someone, damaging property, blaming abusive behavior on the victim, being overly jealous and threatening the physical or emotional well-being of another person.
Sexual Abuse is any type of behavior that pressures or coerces another person to do something sexually that they don’t want to do. Examples of this can include unwanted kissing or touching, unwanted rough or violent sexual activity, refusing to use condoms or restricting access to birth control, sexual contact with someone intoxicated from drugs or alcohol, threatening, pressuring or otherwise forcing someone to have sex or perform sexual acts.
Financial Abuse often operates in more subtle ways than some of the other forms of abuse, but can often be just as harmful. Victims often find themselves trapped in an abusive relationship due to financial restrictions that their abuser has placed on them. Examples of financial abuse can include an abuser giving an allowance or monitoring what the victim buys, or depositing the victim’s paycheck into a bank account that they can’t access. Also, forbidding someone from working or limiting the hours that they can work, preventing someone from going to work by taking their car, keys, or other mode of transportation away from them, or even refusing to provide someone with money, food, rent, medicine or clothing.
Stalking is when someone watches, follows, or harasses another person repeatedly, making that person feel afraid or unsafe. Stalking is commonly seen in abusive relationships, even more so when the victim is trying to leave. Examples of stalking can include showing up at someone’s home or workplace unannounced and uninvited, sending unwanted texts, messages, letters, emails, or voicemails. This can also include leaving unwanted items, gifts, or flowers, using social media or technology to track someone’s activities, or waiting around places that the individual is known to spend time at.
Abuse does not always end when the victim decides to leave their abuser or decides to seek help. This is oftentimes the most dangerous time for the victim, as the abuser feels a loss of control. Abusers will frequently continue to stalk, harass, threaten, and try to control the victim, even after they leave.
As a society, we need to stop placing unfair blame on the victim who is trapped in these types of relationships. The truth is, bringing an end to abuse is not a matter of the victim choosing to leave their abuser; it is a matter of the victim being able to leave safely, the abuser choosing to stop the abuse, or others, like law enforcement and the legal system, holding the abuser accountable for the damage that they have caused.
Anyone can find themselves in an abusive relationship. There is no “typical victim”. Domestic violence does not discriminate against age, sex, gender or gender identity, background, community, education level, socio-economic status, culture, religion, abilities, and lifestyles. It is important to look out for early warning signs. If you have found yourself in an abusive relationship, it is important to understand that you are not alone. There are many different survivor organizations out there and resources locally that can help.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The Chautauqua County Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault has many awareness activities scheduled throughout the month. If you would like an educational in-service training regarding domestic violence, or more information on services, please contact Project Crossroads at 716-483-7718. For additional services, you may contact the Salvation Army Anew Center’s Domestic Violence Hot-line at 1-800-252-8748, or Family Service of the Chautauqua Region at 716-488-1971.