It could be said that domestic violence not only existed many centuries ago, but was also supported. In the United States, throughout the 1800s, state laws and cultural practices continued to support a man’s right to discipline his wife. In fact, it wasn’t until 1895 that a woman could even divorce her husband on grounds of abuse. Today, domestic violence is a sneaky, yet serious problem affecting millions of Americans. It occurs when one partner in a relationship attempts to exert power and control over another. Victims may suffer obvious symptoms such as physical and psychological trauma, or less obvious ones such as stomachaches, anxiety even post-traumatic stress disorder. Consider a few staggering statistics: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, One in four women (25%) has experienced domestic violence in her life time. Between 600,000 and 6 million women are victims of domestic violence each year, and between 100,000 and 6 million men, depending on the type of survey used to obtain the data. On average, more than three women and one man are murdered by their intimate partners in this country every day.
When you take a look at how many millions of dollars are lost in productivity and wages and further at the cost of direct medical care and mental health care, the effects are staggering. This doesn’t include the statistics of dating violence, or the effects of childhood exposure to domestic violence.
Signs you may be in a domestic violence relationship: The easiest way to tell if you are in a domestic violence relationship is if you fear your partner. You also may be in a domestic violence relationship if your partner is constantly yelling, criticizing, belittling, causing you emotional pain, keeps you from seeing your friends and family and displays extremely controlling behaviors. Physical assaults may include, biting, burning, hitting, choking and even rape. Your partner may withhold money or even basic necessities. The cycle of violence includes a tension building phase, a “blow up” phase and a make-up phase, otherwise known as the “honeymoon” phase. If you think you are in a relationship where these actions occur, you may be in a domestic violence relationship and will want to consider what you can do to keep yourself safe or better… get out if you can. Here is a checklist to assess whether or not you may be in a domestic violence relationship.
How to get help: If you are in an abusive relationship, you can get help. You may even be able to get support with shelter, job training, child care and legal assistance. First, if you are in immediate danger, call 911. Don’t take a chance on your life. Notify authorities so that every incident can go on record. Have a plan set up with your neighbor, such as turning your porch light on in the daytime, so she knows there is trouble and can notify police. Second, have a safety plan set up. Have important documents, paperwork, necessary medications, phone numbers, emergency cash, pre-paid phone cards, extra clothes etc, packed and ready so that you can leave at a moment’s notice. If you have kids, have the escape plan well rehearsed so that in an emergency, they will also be ready to leave. Avoid the use of cellular phones and computers to avoid being “traced.” There are emergency shelters available to assist you. In Orange County, there is Interval House, Human Options, and Laura’s House. All have 24 hour emergency response hotlines ready to assist you.
Remember, your life is your own, not someone else’s. You don’t have to be stay in a domestic violence relationship. You have the right to be safe. Don’t stay in the relationship and try to change the abuser, because he or she has made promises that he or she will change. Act now. The life you save may be your own.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline number is 1.800.799.SAFE (7233) and offers anonymous and confidential help 24 hours a day/ 7 days a week.