From the desk of Julie Keegan, Unity House Clinical Program Director
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. In the United States, on average, 20 people per minute are abused by an intimate partner. There is an average of 20,000 calls to domestic violence hotlines nationwide daily.
Join domestic violence advocates nationwide on October 21 by wearing purple to honor survivors and victims and begin a conversation about why ending domestic violence is important to you.
What Constitutes Domestic Violence?
Domestic violence or intimate partner violence is a pattern of abusive and coercive behavior. This is a part of a systematic pattern of power and control perpetrated by one partner against another. This can include physical violence, sexual violence, psychological or emotional abuse, stalking, strangulation, financial abuse or manipulation, isolation, and intimidation. Domestic violence is an issue that impacts all individuals regardless of age, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status. With Domestic being so prevalent, one can begin to wonder why this is the case. It is not always easy to determine at the beginning of a relationship if someone will become abusive. The abusive behaviors often begin in ways that can be easily dismissed. At the start of the relationship, abusive partners may appear as the ideal partner, with the controlling and abusive behaviors intensifying as the relationship grows. Below are some of the common types of abuse.
Isolation: The beginning stages of an abusive relationship often start with isolating behaviors. Isolating behaviors can look like controlling who you see and when you see them, this can often look like they like/love you so much they want you to spend all your time with them. This can also be restricting phone access or going through your phone/social media, disliking or discouraging friend/family relationships, wanting to move in quickly, taking or restricting money or access to money, and preventing you from working or attending school.
Intimidation, Coercion, Threats: This manipulation can come in many forms but is often used to garner control over their partner. In one survivor’s story, she disclosed her partner would never physically harm her but created an environment in which she always wondered if she would be harmed and, in turn, always attempted to please him to avoid being harmed. On one occasion, she expressed that she had returned late from work and her phone had died, so she could not notify her partner. Upon arrival home, her partner was sitting at the dining room table with a gun on the table. He never used it against her, but the threat and intimidation were present and enough to manipulate her future behavior with him.
Physical/Sexual Violence: Physical and sexual violence are common types of domestic violence. Some common types of physical and sexual abuse include hitting, shaking, pushing, burning/branding, assault with a weapon, withholding physical needs (food, water, shelter), forcible restraint, forcible sexual contact, rape, and exploiting their partner/selling their partner to another for sexual contact. Another common type of sexual abuse is to force unprotected sexual contact to impregnate their partner. This is used as a tool to control their partner not to leave the abusive individual. Physical and sexual abuse often only escalate in severity upon their partner becoming pregnant. The most lethal times in a domestic violence relationship are when partners are getting married, when a partner becomes pregnant, and the abused partner prepares to leave the relationship.
Emotional Abuse/Gaslighting: Gaslighting is a specific type of emotional abuse in which the abusive partner attempts to make their partner question their thoughts, memory, and reality. One particular survivor’s story explained that their abusive partner would assault her in the days prior and then act as if it never happened. She would question her abusive partner’s behaviors. He would say things like “I don’t know why you are making this a big deal”, “I never would put my hands on you. Why would you think that”. Her partner questioning her on these incidents made her question her perception and believe she was making a larger deal out of the assaults even though they were severe. Emotional abuse and gaslighting are the most common types of abuse in abusive relationships and often have the most deep-rooted long-lasting effects on a survivor’s mental health. Other examples of emotional abuse are insults, taunting, purposeful embarrassment, criticizing their partner, distorting statements that create confusion, telling someone they are unstable or mentally ill, long-lasting ignoring of one’s partner, lying, and neglecting to follow through on stated intentions.
Stalking: Stalking is a common form of domestic violence and can often be different than you initially thought. 60% of stalking victims report being stalked by their current or former intimate partner. While stalking can be a stranger physically following you from location to location, it is more often than not someone you already know and taking place on the internet through social media and phones. Some common types of stalking are requiring someone to share their location services on their phone with them at all times, having and using someone’s passwords for social media to check their accounts and go through their phone, and using these services to pop up wherever their partner may be. Stalking is a common type of abuse and frequently points to dangerous and escalating behaviors that can lead to more lethal forms of abuse down the line in the relationship.
If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence or is looking to speak with someone about a potential domestic violence situation, please reach out to the local and state resources below.
Unity House of Troy Domestic Violence
24 Hour Hotline 518-272-2370
24 Hour Text Chat 518-720-6166
New York State Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Hotline
24 Hour Hotline 800-942-6906
24 Hour Text Chat 844-997-2121
Equinox Domestic Violence Services
24 Hour Hotline 518-432-7865
YWCA of Schenectady Domestic Violence Services
24 Hour Hotline 518-374-3386