Understanding and Responding to

Domestic Violence

 

***Domestic violence is a complicated subject, and the information below is only a summary of some key information.  For a more thorough treatment, please be sure to see the resources listed at the bottom of this page.

More Common Than You May Think

Domestic violence - intentionally harming a spouse, domestic partner, or other adult family member - doesn’t just involve football players and celebrities.  It’s all around us.  Victims’ advocates, the people who work with the issue every day, want you to know that we can do something about it.

 

Advocates at MayDay, Inc. in Baker City want you to know that awareness is a first step for dealing with domestic violence. U.S. government statistics show that one in four women, and many men as well, are victims of domestic violence (DV).   Both the victims and the perpetrators are your neighbors, coworkers, family members, and your friends. They can be from any ethnic group, economic level, gender, or sexual orientation.

 

Secrecy and Isolation

Secrecy is the greatest barrier to helping victims of family violence.  Perpetrators can be seen as warm, even charming, in public settings. Their manipulative skills often lead victims to blame themselves for the abuse and to hide the truth from others. Remember, no one deserves to be abused, and the responsibility lies with the abuser. 

 

To maintain both power and secrecy, abusers often isolate their victims from others.  As a result, friends and family members are less likely to see the signs of domestic violence. 

 

Why victims stay in relationships

People who don’t understand domestic abuse often ask, “Why don’t they just leave?”  Or they say, “I wouldn’t put up with that for a minute.”  Advocates say that view puts the responsibility for the violence on the wrong person.  Staying in an abusive relationship, they explain, is a result of a complex blend of factors, including fear, financial dependence, religious and cultural beliefs, hope and love.

 

Victims want to believe their abuser’s apologies and promises, “I’ll never do it again.”  These may be accompanied by expensive gifts.  This is a common pattern in which remorse is later followed by anger and more abuse.

 

Public misunderstanding of domestic violence is partly a result of the perception that it only includes physical “battering” of a spouse.  However, the abuse can be emotional, financial, verbal, or sexual as well.  In spite of the bruises, cuts and other injuries they’ve seen, advocates at MayDay say that the emotional attacks often have the greatest long-term effect on victims. 

 

DV affects the whole family

Domestic violence is not just a women’s issue.  Our advocates frequently work with male clients. But more importantly, they point out that children in DV households experience a broad range of harm, including depression, physical ailments and greater rates of suicide.  These children are also more likely to become perpetrators or victims themselves as they get older.

 

Warning signs

Watch for warning signs early in a relationship.  They often escalate over time.

  • frequent or extreme anger

  • jealousy

  • frequent criticism

  • controlling behavior, isolating the spouse or partner from others

  • limiting or checking on the other person's activities

  • physical aggressiveness

  • forced or coerced sexual activity

  • a reputation for any of the above

  • wants to control bank accounts, taking paychecks, giving back an "allowance"

 

What to do if you're in an abusive relationship

  • Be realistic.  Domestic violence doesn't go away on its own.

  • Stay safe.  Avoid confrontation.

  • Tell someone you trust about your situation.

  • Get help.  MayDay advocates can guide you in building a safety plan and finding resources.

 

What can others do if we suspect someone is in an abusive relationship? 

Advocates suggest the following:

  • Ask if something is wrong; don’t wait for them to bring it up.

  • Express concern, but don’t judge or blame.

  • Listen and validate their feelings; don’t pressure.

  • Offer help but leave advice up to trained counselors or advocates.

  • Support his or her decisions without placing conditions on your support.

  • Don’t let the abuser know your suspicions.

 

Advocates in agencies like MayDay undergo regular training in working with domestic violence and sexual assault.  We'd like to help victims and those who suspect abuse to understand the nature of the problem and the strategies that can help.

 

Other Resources