October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and Health Literacy Month. In the time of COVID-19, awareness and assistance to those struggling with domestic violence is needed now more than ever (Taub, 2020). Due to the isolation and stress of not being able to be around other people or go about daily life, there was a sharp increase in calls to domestic violence hotlines within the first few weeks of the lockdown orders in most countries worldwide (Taub, 2020).
What is Domestic Violence?
Domestic violence is the emotional, verbal, financial, physical, or sexual intimidation or assault inflicted on a victim by a trusted person in their life as a way to demonstrate their power and control over the victim (Department of Justice; National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), 2020; National Domestic Violence Hotline (The Hotline), 2020; Psychology Today, 2020; Smith & Segal, 2019). Domestic violence can occur to anyone, regardless of class, race, sex, gender, religion, or sexual orientation (Smith & Segal, 2019).
Domestic violence is often taught. Abusers commonly start as domestic violence victims or grow up in environments where they frequently see abuse before becoming the abuser (Psychology Today, 2020). Abusers typically cycle through a pattern of a period of calm, followed by a buildup of tension and abuse that hits a peak before calming down and repeating, with each cycle becoming more intense (NCADV, 2020; The Hotline, 2020; Psychology Today, 2020; Smith & Segal, 2019). These cycles may be very short or extremely long periods of time (NCADV, 2020).
The Power and Control Wheel shows how abusers use different tactics (spokes) along with physical and sexual violence to gain and maintain control over their victims (Pence et al., 1984)
Signs of Abuse in a Partner (via NCADV and The Hotline):
- Extreme jealousy and/or possessiveness
- Controlling behavior, including what the victim wears and how they act
- Blaming the victim whenever anything bad happens
- Traditional view of gender roles, especially in heterosexual male abusers
- Control over finances, including withholding money for expenses
The Most Dangerous Time in an Abusive Relationship, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, comes when the victim tries to terminate the relationship in effort to escape the abuser. This often causes the opposite of the intended effect, intensifying the abuse as the abuser feels a sudden loss of control over the victim. To make up for this loss of control, the abuser attempts to reassert their power over the victim in the form of intensified abuse.
Ending abuse does not stop at simply leaving the abuser. The victim needs to have resources to be able to support oneself financially and emotionally, as well as to safely escape the abuser. To end the patten of abuse committed by the abuser, the perpetrator needs to choose to end their patterns of abuse, and people like law enforcement must hold the abuser accountable for their actions (NCADV, 2020).
What to Do if You Are Experiencing Domestic Violence:
- Reach out to friends and family.
- Don’t be afraid to make contact after a long period of silence, they are likely more than willing to give you the love and support you need to get you through this rough time.
- Make a Safety Plan
- The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence recommends making a safety plan in case an incident occurs. Whether others are involved in your plan and how much they know about your specific situation is up to you.
- CLICK HERE to create a safety plan with the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence
- CLICK HERE to create a safety plan with the National Domestic Violence Hotline
- Document the abuse (Celes, 2019), if it is safe to do so. This could be through:
- Police reports created by you or a witness
- Medical reports or dated pictures of injuries from the abuse
- Household objects broken by the abuser
- Pictures of the household in disarray after a violent episode
- Pictures of weapons used by the abuser
- A personal diary or calendar in which the abuse was documented
- Save any digital evidence like voicemails, emails, text messages, missed calls
- Know that the abuse is NOT your fault
- Reach out to a crisis hotline
Arizona Coalition to End Sexual & Domestic Violence. https://www.acesdv.org/domestic-violence-graphics/
Caring For Victims of Abuse. (2020, May 01). https://www.ywcakalamazoo.org/what-we-do/caring-for-victims-of-abuse
Celes. (2019, December 06). I'm in a Domestic Violence Situation. What Should I Do? https://personalexcellence.co/blog/domestic-violence/
Domestic Violence. (2019, May 16). https://www.justice.gov/ovw/domestic-violence
Domestic Violence. (2020). https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/domestic-violence
Domestic Violence. (2020). https://www.safehorizon.org/get-help/domestic-violence/
Domestic Violence Awareness Month - NOMORE.org: Together we can end domestic violence and sexual assault. (2020). https://nomore.org/campaigns/dvam/
National Domestic Violence Hotline. (2020, October 01). https://www.thehotline.org/
NCADV: National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. (2020). https://ncadv.org/learn-more
Power and Control Wheels. https://www.powerandcontrolfilm.com/for-educators/power-and- control-wheels/
Smith, M., M.A., & Segal, J., Ph.D. (2019, June). Domestic Violence and Abuse. https://www.helpguide.org/articles/abuse/domestic-violence-and-abuse.htm
Taub, A. (2020, April 06). A New Covid-19 Crisis: Domestic Abuse Rises Worldwide. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/06/world/coronavirus-domestic-violence.html
Text Us. (2020). https://www.crisistextline.org/text-us/
What is Health Literacy Month? (2020). https://healthliteracymonth.org/
Women In Distress. (2020). https://www.womenindistress.org/we-can-help/24-hour-crisis-hotline/