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America’s Best-Kept Secret: Domestic Violence, and How it can Affect your Family

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Domestic violence can happen to anyone, regardless of gender, race, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, age, or religion. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), “Nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. During one year, this equates to more than 10 million women and men.”

What is Domestic Violence?

The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence describes domestic violence as, “the willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, and/or other abusive behavior as part of a systematic pattern of power and control perpetrated by one intimate partner against another. It includes physical violence, sexual violence, physiological violence, and emotional abuse.”

Domestic violence can have many appearances, depending on the severity and the type of abuse in the relationship. According to Steven Adams, founder of Not Guilty Adams, “Domestic violence can take many forms, and may not necessarily involve physical force.” The common factor in all of these relationships is on person’s attempt to maintain control and power over another.

Some examples of behaviors commonly liked to domestic violence include:

· Consistent and relentless verbal and/or emotional abuse

· Isolating the victim from friends and/or family

· Excessive control over finances

· Behaving in ways to intentionally scare or intimidate the victim

· Controlling how the victim dresses, where they go, who they talk to, etc.

· Threatening to harm the victim, their family, friends, or pets

· Intentionally harming the victim, their family, friends, or pets

· Manipulating the victim into doing things they don’t want to do

· Pressuring the victim to have sex, use drugs, or use alcohol

· Preventing the victim from attending work or school

· Harassing or stalking the victim

· Destroying the victim’s property

Ending an Abusive Relationship

Many times, a victim will try to end an abusive relationship but the abuser threatens or pursues them anyways. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, victims are in the most danger directly following the escape of the relationship or when they seek help. 20 percent of homicide victims with restraining orders are murdered within two days of obtaining the order, and 33 percent are murdered within the first month.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline has recommended that victims create a safety plan before attempting to leave an abusive relationship. This plan should include safe areas of where you live, safe people, and safe places in which to retreat.

Before leaving, victims of domestic violence should begin to accumulate evidence of abuse and talk to trusted individuals about a plan to leave.

When leaving an abusive relationship, the circumstances may be less than ideal. It is important to make a plan that will allow you to escape as quickly and safely as possible. Consider copying important documents and storing them in a safe place that can easily be accessed when needed. Some documents to include should be: driver’s license, passport, birth certificate, social security card, title or deeds to any property owned, vehicle registration and insurance information, health insurance information, medical records, names and contact information for important people and agencies, and any legal forms such as custody agreements, divorce papers, or restraining orders.

After leaving the immediate danger of an abusive relationship, there continues to be a certain level of risk involved. This risk depends on the abuser’s reactions and the particular circumstances involved in your departure. A safety plan should always include ways to ensure your continued safety after leaving the relationship.

Things to consider implementing in your new life include: obtaining a restraining order against the abuser, changing your workplace or work hours, changing your child’s school, changing regular shopping or social hangouts, getting a new phone number, getting a new vehicle, cutting off contact with individuals who may relay information to the abuser, installing security devices around your new home, and changing your address to a PO Box. These actions will help make you harder to find, as well as help develop a sense of security and stability as you move on with your life.

The most important thing for victims of domestic violence to remember is that they aren’t alone. Talking to someone about the abuse is the first step towards safety.

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