What is Domestic Violence?
Domestic violence is a pattern of behavior that one person uses to gain and maintain power and control over another person. Tactics that abusers use include: physical violence, sexual violence, financial abuse, and psychological and emotional abuse.
Domestic violence can happen to anyone – regardless of gender, sex, age, race, religion, ability, sexual orientation, nationality, or economic status.
It is not always easy to tell that a relationship is going to become abusive. Many abusers are kind and charming in the beginning of a relationship, but they become abusive over time and their controlling and scary behaviors grow in intensity as the relationship goes on. Some behaviors that are normal for new relationships can develop into unhealthy and abusive behaviors as the relationship goes on. What may start out as something that seemed harmless (such as wanting the victim to spend all their time only with them because they love them so much) can escalate into controlling and abusive behaviors (such as threatening to hurt the victim or others if they speak to family, friends).
Abusers may also try to keep their violent behaviors to private spaces by only perpetrating abuse when no one else can see or hear. This tactic makes it so friends and family members of the victim and/or the abuser will not believe the abuse is happening because they have not witnessed it. This tactic can also make the victim question if the abuse is real since no one believes them.
Abusive behaviors can be downplayed or minimized by the abuser, friends, and family of the victim or even by the victim. Name-calling, possessiveness, jealousy, and distrust may be dismissed as temporary loss of control by the abuser, or even as displays of affection (“They only do that because they love you so much.”) Abusers often act remorseful and apologetic after a violent outburst and may convince people that their behavior is going to change, and they will never act that way again.
What are the signs?
Does your partner, family member, or someone you live with:
Destroy things you own.
Belittle you or tell you that you can never do anything right.
Keep you from seeing your family or your friends.
Keep you from leaving the house.
Demand to know where you are and/or who you are with all the time.
Control all the money.
Demand access to your phone or other communication (such as social media or email account).
Put you down constantly.
Make all the decisions.
Make you afraid to disagree with them.
Threaten to kill themselves.
Call you names.
Intimidate you or scare you.
Act extremely jealous of time you spend with other people.
Discourage you from getting a job or taking a class.
Threaten to take your children away or limit your access to them.
Threaten to harm your pets.
Tell you that no one will love you.
Pressure you to use drugs or alcohol.
Physically hurt you (hit you, kick you, throw things at you, pull your hair, choke you)
Doesn’t let you sleep.
Doesn’t let you see the doctor by yourself.
Drive recklessly with you in the car.
Doesn’t let you dress how you like.
Refuse to contribute to the household (either not helping with bills or not helping with housework)
Ignore your boundaries.
Force you to have sex when you do not want to (or badgers you into having sex when you do not want to).
Force you to have sex in a way you do not like.
Refuse to use birth control, such as condoms, when you want them to.
POWER AND CONTROL WHEEL
This visual representation of an abusive relationship was created by the Duluth Model, a violence intervention program in Minnesota. After extensive research, the Power and Control wheel was designed to help describe the most common tactics that abusers use to maintain power and control over their victims – which is why “Power and Control” are in the center of the wheel.
Abusers use threats, intimidation, and coercion to instill fear in their victim. These behaviors are the spokes of the wheel. The threat of physical and/or sexual violence reinforce the spokes of the wheel and allow the abuser to take control of the victim.
What is a safety plan?
A safety plan is a personalized, practical plan that can help you stay safe during an abusive situation, no matter where you are. For example:
If you do not want to, or are unable, to leave an abusive situation, a safety plan can help minimize the effects of the abuse.
If you are leaving an abusive situation, a safety plan can help you find the safest way to leave.
If you have left an abusive situation, a safety plan can help keep you safe, since violence often escalates once the victim has left their abuser.
How can I safety plan?
Memorize important phone numbers. Such as: trusted friends, family members, local police number and your local shelter’s number
Create an emergency go bag and leave it in a place your abuser can not find (you may want to leave it in your car or at a trusted friend or relative’s home). Be sure to pack: medicines, cash, important documents, a spare key, spare cellphone charger and clothes.
Keep copies of important documents in a safe place (such as your emergency go bag).
Documents could include:
Driver’s licenses or other identification
Birth certificates or adoption papers
Social security cards
Naturalization papers or Green cards
Medical insurance card
Financial records (such as bank statements, tax returns and W-2s)
Marriage or divorce papers
Lease or mortgage information
Proof of benefits or disability documentation (or any documentation regarding access to government benefits or assistance)
Important addresses and phone numbers
Any other important documents
Keep your cell phone charged and with you at all times
If you look up resources about abuse, sexual assault or domestic violence, be sure to clear your browser history
If possible, open your own bank account
Stay in touch with friends and relatives. Resist the temptation to isolate yourself even if you do want to be alone
Get to know your neighbors
If you live with an abuser, identify safe areas of your home where there are ways to escape. In arguments or escalating situations, move into the safer spaces in your home so you may escape
Be aware of the things that make your abuser escalate (such as arguments, substance use, financial problems, childcare)
Practice your escape plan
Teach your children to dial 911
Instruct your children to leave home if things escalate
Have a plan of where to meet your children (or other family members) if you have to leave home
Know where any weapons in your home are so you may avoid those areas if the situation escalates
If you own a car, keep the doors locked and keep it fueled
Document evidence of abuse (such as taking pictures of bruises or other physical injuries).
Save abusive communications (do not delete threatening text messages, social media posts, emails or voicemails)
Keep a journal of violent incidents with dates, describe events that happened, any threats that were made. Keep the journal in a safe place
Think of reasons to leave your home (taking out the trash, buying groceries, helping a neighbor, walking the dog, etc.)
After leaving an abusive situation
Change your phone number
Change your routine
Keep your social media accounts private
Stay with others (if possible)
If you have to meet with your abuser for any reason, only do it in public and have a friend or family member accompany you
Change your locks and keep your doors locked
Inform your neighbors that your abuser is not welcome on your property or near your home and ask them to call the police if they see your abuser
Obtain a protective order and keep the documentation with you at all times
Seek counseling, attend support groups, create a supportive network of friends and family members
Make sure the school or daycare your child attends is very clear about who is allowed to pick up your children
Discuss the situation with your employer (if you feel comfortable doing so) to have a plan for what to do if your abuser shows up at your work
Call (907) 766-2105 Becky’s Place
Or call the National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233
What are the signs someone is being abused?
An unhealthy or abusive relationship may not always have obvious signs, like broken bones. But if you are worried about a friend or family member’s relationship, here are some things you can look for:
You are never able to spend time with your friend or family member alone (as in: their partner is always present).
Their partner constantly calls and/or texts to check in on where they are and who they are with.
Their partner calls them names or puts them down.
They apologize for their partner’s behavior.
They frequently cancel plans.
They worry constantly about upsetting their partner.
They stop doing activities that they enjoy.
Their weight or appearance changes.
They use substances (such as alcohol or drugs) more than they used to.
Their partner is extremely jealous.
They cannot make decisions (such as how to spend money) without talking to their partner first.
They have become withdrawn, quiet, or anxious or have other personality changes.
They are reluctant to leave their children alone with their partner.
They have unexplained injuries (or the explanations they give don’t make sense).
There may not always be obvious signs that abuse is happening. If you are still concerned for someone in your life, you should listen to your gut and check in with them.
How do I help?
It’s important to remember that abuse is about power and control. All relationships have rough patches, arguments, and disagreements. In a healthy relationship, all people involved have equal power and are able to safely state their opinions, feelings, boundaries and make their own decisions.
In an abusive relationship, one member (typically a partner or family member) controls the other through threats, violence, intimidation, criticism, and manipulation. One person makes most of the decisions and holds most of the power in the relationship. The other person is often afraid to state their opinions, feelings and set boundaries with the abuser.
The victim of the abuse may feel like the abuse is their fault or that they should stay because the abuse could be worse (i.e., “At least they don’t hit me”). They may excuse the abuse (i.e., “They only act this way because they were abused as a child,” “They have a mental illness,” “Their ex was terrible,” “They’re just having a rough time right now and it’ll get better,” “They’re not like this all the time,” “If I leave, they will hurt themselves.”)
It can be very upsetting and difficult to watch a friend or family member go through an abusive relationship. You may be tempted to rescue them or even become frustrated with them for staying in an abusive relationship. Abusers make it difficult for their victims to leave and victims may return to their abuser many times after leaving.
What you can do:
Stay connected. Abusers isolate their victims to make it hard for the victim to seek help so don’t be afraid to reach out to them.
Be supportive and listen to them. It can be difficult to talk about what they are experiencing so letting them speak freely is important.
Believe them. Research shows that false reports of domestic and/or sexual violence are uncommon. Believing victims is the first step to helping them.
Be non-judgmental. Victims of violence blame themselves for the abuse and there are many reasons why it is hard to leave an abusive situation. Try not to guilt them or criticize their decisions. Don’t imply that they have caused the abuse.
Focus on your friend or family member and not the abuser. Even if they do not leave, or they return to their abuser, stay connected and let them speak about their experiences.
Let them know that the abuse is real, abuse is not normal, and the abuse not their fault. Everyone deserves to feel safe in their relationship.
Do not contact the abuser yourself. Do not post publicly about the abuse or negative things about the abuser. This could be dangerous for the victim or cause the abuser to further limit the victim’s contact with you and others.
Connect them with local resources (Becky’s Place can help)
Encourage them to see a therapist or counselor (SEARHC or independent counselor).
Offer to go with them to local resources.
Help them develop a Safety Plan.
If you feel comfortable, offer to keep an escape bag in your home in case they need to leave their abuser suddenly. This escape bag should have important documents, spare keys, medications, spare clothes, and cash. (You can learn more about escape bags on the Safety Plan page.)
Encourage them to participate in activities outside of the relationship (encourage them to continue doing things they enjoy, such as working, attending classes, attending church, volunteering, connecting with friends and family, or working out).
Offer practical support, such as offering to watch children, cook a meal, or give them a ride.
Help give them reasons to get them out of the house (offer to go for a walk with them, take them to the movies, accompany them shopping). This can make it difficult for the abuser to isolate them.
Consider creating a code word so you know you are speaking to your friend or family member (especially in text messages); or create a code word the victim can use to ask you to call the police for them.
Encourage them to document the abuse (i.e., save verbally abusive voicemails; save abusive text messages, social media posts and emails; take photos of injuries; write down dates and descriptions of violent episodes).
Keep in mind that even little things are helpful. Even if you feel like you are not helping, just by staying connected to someone experiencing abuse, you are doing a lot by letting them know people outside the abusive relationship still care about them and their well-being.
Take care of yourself. It is hard to watch someone you love be hurt. Maintain your own support system and maintain your own boundaries. Be realistic and honest about what you can do to support your friend or family member. Remember that you are not responsible for the abuse.
What is Sexual Assault?
Sexual assault refers to any sexual contact or behavior that occurs without explicit consent of all people involved. Sexual assault can happen to anyone, of any age, race, gender, sexuality, marital status or religion.
There are many different forms of sexual assault and sexual assault does not always involve physical force.
Sexual assault can include:
- Fondling and unwanted touching
- Forcing someone to perform a sexual act (such as oral sex)
- Attempted rape
Forcing someone to perform a sexual act does not have be physical violence. Many perpetrators of sexual assault utilize means other than physical violence in sexual assault, such as:
- Substances (Giving you drugs or alcohol for the purpose of lowering your inhibitions, or seeking out someone who is already impaired by drugs or alcohol)
- Coercion (“If you really loved me, you would have sex with me.”)
- Intimidation (Making you afraid of what will happen if you say no to a sexual act)
- Psychological pressure (Acting very sad, withdrawn, angry, or otherwise upset when you do not engage in a sexual act)
- Badgering (Continuing to ask for a sexual act after being turned down, until you give in to get them to stop asking)
What are the signs?
Does your partner, family member, or someone you live with:
- Destroy things you own.
- Belittle you or tell you that you can never do anything right.
- Keep you from seeing your family or your friends.
- Keep you from leaving the house.
- Demand to know where you are and/or who you are with all the time.
- Control all the money.
- Demand access to your phone or other communication (such as social media or email account).
- Put you down constantly.
- Make all the decisions.
- Make you afraid to disagree with them.
- Threaten to kill themselves.
- Call you names.
- Intimidate you or scare you.
- Act extremely jealous of time you spend with other people.
- Discourage you from getting a job or taking a class.
- Threaten to take your children away or limit your access to them.
- Threaten to harm your pets.
- Tell you that no one will love you.
- Pressure you to use drugs or alcohol.
- Physically hurt you (hit you, kick you, throw things at you, pull your hair, choke you)
- Doesn’t let you sleep.
- Doesn’t let you see the doctor by yourself.
- Drive recklessly with you in the car.
- Humiliate you.
- Doesn’t let you dress how you like.
- Refuse to contribute to the household (either not helping with bills or not helping with housework)
- Ignore your boundaries.
- Force you to have sex when you do not want to (or badgers you into having sex when you do not want to).
- Force you to have sex in a way you do not like.
- Refuse to use birth control, such as condoms, when you want them to.
- Normalization (“I have a high sex drive and I need it.” / “Men need a lot of sex.”)
- Obligation (“You’re my partner so you have to have sex with me.” / “I bought you dinner so I expect sex in return.”)
- Using past experiences (“We had sex before, why can’t we have sex now?”)
- Ignoring boundaries (Consenting to one sexual activity is not consent to all sexual activities)
- Deception (Lying about birth control / STIS / removing condoms after agreeing to use one)
- Authority (Using a position of authority to manipulate someone into a sexual act, such as an employer, coach, teacher, landlord, caretaker, or other authority figure.)
Any sexual act that you do not enthusiastically consent to is sexual assault.
Utilize the acronym “FRIESS” to understand consent. Consent should be:
- Freely Given: You were not pressured into a sexual act.
- Reversible: You have the right to say no at any point, including after sexual activity has begun.
- Informed: You have the right to know what sexual act you are agreeing to, if your partner is using birth control, if your partner has an STI, etc.
- Enthusiastic: Your partner not saying “No” does not mean they are saying “Yes.” Clear, verbal, affirmative consent is the best way to know that your partner is consenting.
- Sober: Substances alter your judgment, the only way to truly know you have consent is for all people involved to be sober.
- Specific: Consenting to one sexual act is not consent for all sexual acts.
In most sexual assault cases, the victim knows the perpetrator before the assault happens. Intimate partners (such as husbands, wives, boyfriends, girlfriends), friends and acquaintances are the most likely perpetrators of sexual violence. Twenty percent (20%) of sexual assaults are perpetrated by a stranger.
I think I was assaulted, what do I do now?
There is no right or wrong way to feel or behave after experiencing sexual violence. However, you feel or react is valid. It is important to know that you did not cause the assault and it is not your fault. You may feel numb, powerless, angry, afraid, guilty, embarrassed, nervous, or depressed. These are all natural reactions to what you’ve experienced, and you have nothing to be ashamed of. You may also experience physical symptoms, such as stomachaches, exhaustion, problems sleeping, rapid breathing, tense muscles, or rapid heartbeat. This is also a normal way for your body to react to a traumatic experience. You may need time to process your feelings.
There are several options you can take after being sexually assaulted:
- You can report the assault to law enforcement; You can report to law enforcement at any time.
- You can report the assault anonymously; You can go to the clinic and be treated without giving law enforcement your name or information.
- You can seek medical care; If you do not want to report to law enforcement, you can still seek medical care for any injuries. Reporting your assault to the ER does not require you to report to law enforcement. No evidence will be gathered and only your injuries will be treated, including pregnancy testing and treatment for potential sexually transmitted infections. Your conversation with medical staff is confidential. You do not have to tell them who assaulted you.
- You can seek a protective order; A protective order prohibits a person from contacting you and requires them to stay away from you. Protective orders are civil matters, but anything you say in a protective order hearing can be used in the criminal case if law enforcement pursue criminal charges.