How to Recognize if YOU are a Victim of Domestic Violence

First of all, it is important to recognize that there is a difference between domestic abuse and domestic violence. Domestic abuse can take place without actual violence. This abuse takes two primary forms:

1. Verbal abuse- This might be manifested through threats, insults, put downs, name calling and the use of hurtful words.

2. Emotional abuse- This might mean periods in which the abuser ignores the victim for long periods, acts jealous and accuses the victim of unfaithfulness, and exercises control over who the victim spends time with. Emotional abuse can be manifested through manipulation in which the victim is made to feel guilty and shamed. An example of this might be the abuser forcing the victim to engage in sexual practices against their will. Emotional abuse can also take the form of telling the victim how they can spend their money or what kind of clothes they should wear.

Domestic abuse often leads to domestic violence. Domestic violence usually starts with the abuser shoving the victim around, poking the victim, or pulling the victim’s hair. These actions left unchecked can lead to the abuser slapping, punching, or kicking the victim. In extreme cases, the abuser might threaten the victim with some type of weapon while making threats to kill them. Studies have shown that domestic violence only gets worse. Many victims hold to the hope that one day things will get better. The reality is, without professional intervention and help, the level of violence is going to increase.

Relationships always bring challenges. Couples disagree and have arguments. In many cases, these arguments can become heated. At what point does someone become the victim of domestic violence?

In most states in the US, Domestic Violence Law clearly articulates what a violation is. These laws are designed to protect the victim. In my jurisdiction, police officers can make an arrest when they observe visible injuries to the victim. If their lip is busted, if their eye is swollen, or if their is bruising on an arm, the officer can arrest the abuser. Even if the victim did not want the abuser arrested, the officer could still make an arrest based on the injuries.

As a thirty year police veteran, I have been on my share of domestic disputes. I have interviewed hundreds of domestic violence victims over the years. In almost every case, by the time the police became involved, the violence had been going on for a while, possibly even years. My experience, training, and research have led me to several conclusions about domestic violence. First of all, the victim needs to recognize the signs of domestic abuse before they become domestic violence. Everyone is entitled to a bad day and anyone can get angry and say hurtful words. When this becomes a lifestyle, however, this is becoming an abusive situation. The victim should begin seeking help at this point before the violence starts. This help might be in the form of marriage or relationship counseling, police intervention, or even separation.

One last point that is worth noting is this. No one wants to be thought of as a domestic violence victim. It is embarrassing and painful. Many of these victims, both women and men, feel isolated and lonely. One of the smartest things that a victim can do is find a local support group to help them. These support groups provide emotional and spiritual support but also provide information and resources to help the victim get their life sorted out. No one should have to fight this battle alone. There are others that have gone from being victims to moving on with their lives.

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