Domestic Violence and Power Imbalances- so whats all the fuss about. Surely there is a mass hysteria about this?! Actually, Domestic Violence and Power Imbalances is as old as time itself.
I want to speak about Domestic Violence in particular and I will leave Power Imbalances for another blog. Power Imbalances can take various forms such as financial, psychological, financial etc. and the perpetrators can be female, male and/or both parties in a relationship.
You may be asking yourself what is Domestic Violence, well to sum it up for you it is any threatening, abusive, and or violent behavior in the home between adults and or toward children. Even if the Domestic Violence is not directed toward the child or children, they will none the less still be affected by it psychologically.
The following extensive information is based on an informative website site called MyPlan. For more information, I invite you to visit www.myplan.org
The following will provide a summary of information found on MyPlan as well as current social science research and knowledge.
There are many types of relationship violence – physical, sexual, emotional, and verbal. Relationship abuse can include controlling behavior, jealousy, stalking, put-downs, threats, financial abuse, and other behaviors. All are harmful, and some can be a red flag for danger. Even without physical violence, abusive relationships are harmful.
TYPES OF ABUSE:
Physical violence may include: Pushing or shoving slapping or hitting, kicking or punching, restraining by force, strangulation, choking, throwing objects, arm-twisting, threats, sexual coercion/rape Physical violence can and often does get worse over time. Any amount of physical violence may increase the risk for severe or deadly violence.
Jealous behaviors by a partner can be a sign of abuse. For example: Following, calling her phone to check up on her, monitoring her phone usage, texts, emails, Facebook etc., making her break off her friendships or keeping her from seeing family, accusing her of flirting or cheating when she wants to spend time with friends. Jealousy should not be mistaken for love. It can make your friend/family member feel alone, afraid or unsafe.
Healthy relationships are built on mutual respect and support. Partners should make each other feel good about themselves. People often think abuse is only physical, but criticism, humiliation, and put-downs ARE abuse and cause damage over time. An abusive partner may blame her, make her feel guilty, and play mind games to make her feel like the abuse is her fault. It is not her fault, and these are red flags for relationship violence.
Stalking is a pattern of behavior that can include following her, coming to her home/work, calling her, sending emails, texts, or mail that threatens her/her friends or family, vandalizing property, other unwanted or harassing contact that causes fear. Stalking often occurs after the relationship ends. If your friend/family member’s partner stalks and/or harasses her, encourage her to write down each event. This will be helpful if she decides to call the police or get a protection order.
Often, what friends/family see is only the “tip of the iceberg” – there can be serious threats and violence happening behind closed doors. Most relationships have some positive aspects to them- most abusers aren’t abusive all the time. They might seem like nice people to others who don’t know them. They might even be great partners and providers in some way shape or form. This makes it confusing to make sense of the relationship but doesn’t make abuse okay or less damaging.
Most people who experience relationship violence will get out eventually, but it can take time- sometimes it can take a very long time. For many reasons, it may be hard or impossible to end the relationship immediately. While ending a relationship with an abusive partner is an important step, it doesn’t always stop the abuse. Stalking, harassment, abuse, and violence often continue after a break-up and can get worse.
In relationships, everyone does something to make a partner or ex-partner mad. But there is no excuse for abuse. Research shows most abusers can and in fact do control their anger such as choosing to not be abusive when other people are around – for example when other people are around.
Relationship violence is about POWER and CONTROL, not anger.
If the abuser drinks a lot or uses drugs, it can escalate their abusive behavior and make an abuse situation more dangerous, to a point of even becoming deadly in nature. However, substance abuse doesn’t cause abuse.
In same-sex partnerships, such as with lesbian couples, women can be physically, sexually, and/or emotionally abusive to their female partners; they may also control, threaten, harass, stalk, put-down, and/or financially abuse a partner/ex. This is also true for homosexual relationships. Thus, domestic violence is not just present in heterosexual relationships.
Relationship violence is common and dangerous. Typically, women are most likely to experience relationship violence. There is shame and secrecy inherent in DV cases.
Healthy relationships typically include the following:
Mutual Respect-Respect for each other’s emotional, physical and sexual boundaries. Safety-Physical, emotional, sexual, and financial safety with each other. Open & Honest Communication-Do they both respect each other’s emotional, physical, and sexual boundaries Compromise-Feeling comfortable disagreeing and resolving problems with compromise. Equality-Both partners have equal say in the relationship and in relationship decisions. Independence & Freedom-Freedom to spend time with family and friends and to do things that make them both happy. Support-Feeling reassured, encouraged, and supported by each other. Privacy-Respect each other’s privacy and give each other space.
Red Flags to Consider:
- Is she spending less time with friends/family, not doing things that she enjoys, or missing work or social occasions with no explanation?
- Does her partner constantly text/call her or expect her to “check in” – and get upset if she doesn’t?
- Does her partner use technology to monitor or harass her?
- Is her partner very jealous or possessive?
- Does her partner put her down or criticize her?
- Does her partner tell her how to act, how to dress, where she can go or who she can spend time with?
- Has she become quiet, seem like a different person, or seem afraid of making her partner angry?
- Does she seem more depressed or anxious than before she began this relationship?
- Has she told you things about her partner that worry you, but she says it’s “not a big deal” or makes excuses for her partner? Or does she have injuries and her explanations for them don’t add up?
- Does her partner threaten to hurt her or has her partner hurt her physically?
- Has her partner pressured or forced her into sex, kept her from using birth control, or made her do sexual things that she doesn’t want to do?
- Is there something you “just don’t like” about her partner or that makes you feel worried, uncomfortable or unsafe?
Things to Consider Regarding Severity of DV:
- Has the physical violence in her relationship increased in severity or frequency over the past year?
- Does her partner own a gun?
- During the past year, has she left him or broken up with him after living together, having sex, or being a couple (even if they got back together)?
- Do they live together?
- Is her partner unemployed?
- Has her partner ever used a weapon against her or threatened her with a lethal weapon?
- Does her partner threaten to kill her?
- Does she have a child that is not his?
- Has her partner ever forced her to have sex when she did not wish to do so?
- Does her partner ever try to choke her?
- Does her partner use illegal drugs?
- Is her partner an alcoholic or problem drinker?
HAVING A SAFETY PLAN IN PLACE-THINGS TO CONSIDER (Things I’ve learned from my own clients):
Pack an Emergency Bag
Keeping a bag packed with things she’ll need if she has to leave quickly and keep it hidden (e.g. in the car, at a friend’s, or somewhere she can get to easily. Items she may want to include: Clothing, medication, extra keys, phone chargers, ATM cards, cash, copies of important documents and things that mean a lot to her such as photos.
Develop a code word or signal for danger
Choose a word, phrase or signal to alert others if she is in immediate danger. There are safety apps that automatically alert others if in danger. The Circle of 6 app can alert friends/family if she needs help: Encourage her to talk to safe friends, family, or neighbors about what she wants them to do if she says/texts the code word or they see the signal. If there are children in the home, rehearse the code word with them and instruct them on what to do when they hear the code word. Choose a code word that is unique but yet simple in nature.
Safety if ending the relationship
Ending a relationship can escalate violence. Suggestions you can make: Breaking up by phone or email may be safer. If breaking up in person, encourage her to do it in a public place. Ask to know where she is or for someone to wait nearby. If she lives with her abuser, ask her to consider not telling him/her of plans to leave and to leave when he/she is gone. She should take her belongings with her. Not to meet her ex-partner alone after breaking up.
Leaving can be dangerous, even if she is only leaving for a little while. Abusers often escalate violence when they know their partner is leaving. If they live together, she should not tell her partner she is leaving. She should choose a time to leave when he/she is gone. If the partner knows where she is staying, this can increase her danger.
A restraining order is a court order that restricts an abuser from coming into contact with a partner/ex. If it is disregarded there are legal consequences. A restraining order doesn’t guarantee a partner will stay away or won’t hurt her again. Having stated this, it is still a useful step to obtain restraining orders.
To apply for an order, you will need to:
- Go to your local courthouse.
- Ask the court clerk how to fill out the necessary forms. She does not need a lawyer and there are no fees.
- Attend a hearing with the judge, who will review the petition and decide whether to give a temporary order and schedule a hearing for a final order.
- Attend a final order hearing. The abuser will be served papers notifying him/her of the hearing and asked to attend.
- She can bring a friend, family member, and/or advocate from a local domestic violence agency for support. These people can’t speak for her in court.
Talking to police
If you or your friend/family member are in an emergency, call 911 or have someone call for you. Police should provide immediate protection and should provide information about legal options and relationship violence services. The officer should fill out a report, and you may be able to get a copy from the police station. Ask for a case number/incident number before police leave. Some jurisdictions require police to arrest someone when there is a domestic violence call. If both people show signs of injury they should not arrest the victim. If they can’t decide who is the victim, they may arrest both people. Your friend/family member can ask officers to: document injuries with photos, remove weapons from the home, arrest her partner, find transportation to a safe place, though they may not always do everything you ask.
Talking to professionals
You may feel more confident helping if you have information from professionals. Professionals can help you talk to your friend/family and plan for her safety and yours. Professionals are domestic violence advocates, hotline workers, clergy, healthcare providers, and counselors. If you talk to someone who isn’t helpful, try someone else! Your loved one’s safety is important; you deserve support and information.
Confidential safety resources
For advice about helping your friend/family member, connect with a domestic violence advocate by phone, text, or online chat. Advocacy is free, confidential, even anonymous. Advocates won’t pressure you or tell you what to do. Call a hotline or contact your local domestic violence agency. National advocacy hotlines can help you find your local agency
Alcohol and Drugs
Research shows alcohol and drug use don’t cause violent behavior – whether it is your friend/family member or her partner or both drinking – but it can increase the danger. Some people who are experiencing abuse from a partner turn to alcohol or drugs to cope with the stress. Sometimes partners may even try to keep them from being sober. This can have negative effects on your friend’s/family member’s health.
SYMPTOMS OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE:
Experiencing domestic violence is stressful, and it is very common to have a mix of feelings – sadness, crying a lot, feeling tired, or nervous. Women may suffer stress, depression and/or coupled with anxiety.
In a healthy relationship, people can be themselves, and their partners value their actions and opinions. If your friend/family member often feels like she is “walking on eggshells” this is a red flag for relationship violence.
Physical symptoms such as nausea, dizziness, sweating, difficulty breathing, chest pain etc. Individuals may experience anxiety, guilt, panic, sadness, irritability, anger, loss of control and even anger. At times, they may even be confused, experience nightmares, hypervigilance and inability to concentrate. Cognitively, they may experience forgetfulness, restlessness, difficulty sleeping, increased or decreased appetite i.e. a change in appetite and a change in activity level. They may even have an increase in drug and/or alcohol use.
As for Domestic Violence or otherwise known as DV, I must say that it tends to be perpetrated by men toward women most of the time. Don’t get me wrong there are men that are assaulted by women and it is incredibly shameful for them to come forward and be open about this. Having stated this, there are few men who fear for their lives. Many men who are able to articulate that they have been subjected to DV are also quick to add that if they wanted to, they could have easily overpowered their wife/girlfriend or partner.
Let me be frank, men and women are equal, but by no means the same. Men are born with greater muscle power and strength than women, that is a biological fact. That is not to say that there are women out there in our society who are stronger than men, but they are in the minority for sure.
It is women, who are generally subjected to DV in relationships. Many of these women, like their male counterparts, are reluctant to reach out to police and doctors and report such instances of physical, sexual, verbal and/or psychological abuse. There are a myriad of reasons, such as concern about being judged, believed, fear of having their children taken away, or abject terror of repercussions from their abuser if the allegations are not dealt with. The repercussions can be deadly, as many abused women will report and statistics would bear out.
Women are all too aware that the most volatile and dangerous time for them is just prior to leaving an abusive relationship or after having just left. Once a woman leaves a relationship or threatens to do so, then the abuser feels that they have nothing now to lose and thus violence and deadly force may be utilized as a means to gain back control.
Professionals in the field of mediation and mediation/arbitration, as well as the Family Courts, need to have a fulsome understanding of DV and its delicate interplay in the families we deal with. To not understand domestic violence would be an injustice to society, women, children and our families at large.