Domestic violence can happen to anyone in an intimate relationship — regardless of gender, sexual orientation, age or race. Also called “intimate partner violence,” domestic violence can happen in all types of intimate relationships, whether married, living together or dating. Stop Abuse for Everyone (SAFE) reminds us to not overlook teen dating violence, violence against people with disabilities and violence within gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender relationships. Do you know the behaviors of domestic violence? Do you know what to do if it happens to you or someone you know?
Note that we’re using the pronouns “she” and “her” in some places, but these abusive behaviors can happen to anyone.
WHAT IS DOMESTIC VIOLENCE?
Many people think domestic violence is limited to physical or sexual abuse. But it also includes a pattern of abusive behaviors involving power and control. Many of these behaviors are present early in the relationship, before physical abuse begins. The National Domestic Violence Hotline website highlights the many behaviors of domestic abuse.
- Emotional abuse: Putting a partner down; making her feel bad about herself; name calling; making her feel guilty; humiliating her; playing mind games; making her feel crazy
- Intimidation: Doing things that make a partner afraid; threatening to hurt her; threatening her pets; threatening to destroy her possessions
- Economic abuse: Keeping a partner in the dark about family finances; taking her money; giving her an allowance; making her ask for money; preventing her from getting or keeping a job
- Isolation: Limiting a partner’s outside contacts — controlling who she sees or talks to, where she goes, what she does
- Denying and blaming: Denying the abuse happened; blaming the partner for causing the abuse; not taking her concerns of abuse seriously
- Privilege: Treating a partner like a servant; making all the big decisions; acting like an authoritarian ruler of the household
- Using the children: Threatening to take the children away; using the children to relay messages; making a partner feel guilty about the children
WHAT TO DO IF YOU’RE A VICTIM OF DOMESTIC ABUSE
Seek help as soon as possible. Many organizations offer free, confidential advice. Trained counselors can help you evaluate the situation, make a safety plan, locate local resources and take action in a crisis. Some programs offer emergency shelter or transitional housing. Others provide legal advocacy.
The SAFE Alliance of Austin offers face-to-face support, shelter and housing, education, and advocacy programs. Interpretation services are available for those who speak other languages. You can call, text or chat with a SAFEline advocate free of charge. The amount of information you discuss is up to you; you can even call anonymously.
Keep sensitive communications private. Victims of domestic abuse are sometimes hesitant to seek help because they’re afraid of what their abusers might do. Here are some ways you can keep your sensitive communications private while you’re deciding what to do.
- Use a safe computer for sensitive communications. An abuser may monitor your computer or smart device to exert control. Even if you delete your browsing history, the abuser may be able to see the websites you have visited or access your email. If you’re concerned, find a public computer in a safe location, such as a library, women’s shelter or technology center in a school or college. Set up a separate, free email account for personal use that you keep private and unconnected to your regular email account. Access this email account only from a safe computer.
- Be careful with your cell phone. An abuser may be able to see what calls you make or read your text messages. Consider buying an inexpensive cell phone with a pay-as-you-go plan. Keep it in a safe place.
- Be aware of location tracking. Some abusers track their partner’s location through GPS monitoring via the partner’s cell phone or a separate GPS locator device slipped in a purse or placed in a car. Photos and social media posts also may display GPS locations. Wearable fitness trackers or fitness apps can be used to track location.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU’RE A FRIEND OR FAMILY MEMBER
Don’t try to “fix” the situation. Be supportive and listen. Assure the victim that it’s not her fault. Encourage her to get help. Don’t share information about her on social media or tag her in photos. This could put her in danger. Visit the National Domestic Violence Hotline website for additional guidance.
Brenda Schoolfield is a freelance medical writer who splits her time between Austin and Seattle.
Resources for Victims of Domestic Violence
SAFE (Stop Abuse for Everyone)
National Domestic Violence Hotline
Hope Alliance Crisis Center
National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline
Texas Advocacy Project
Asian Family Support Services of Austin
StrongHearts Native Helpline
Advocacy and Training
Texas Council on Family Violence
National Center of Domestic and Sexual Violence