Did you know that 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men will experience abuse at the hands of an intimate partner at some point in their lives? Did you know that 1 in 3 youth will experience dating violence? Domestic violence or domestic abuse is a pattern of violent or coercive behavior that one uses to gain and maintain power and control over their intimate partner. Domestic abuse is not only physical, but can be emotional, economic, or sexual. It also does not discriminate – it can happen to anyone regardless of socioeconomic status, race, age, gender, religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity.
What does an abusive relationship look like? Although each person’s situation is unique, there are some common characteristics of relationships in which there is abuse. An abuser may:
- Stop their partner from talking to or seeing family or friends
- Control what their partner does, who they see or talk to, or where they go
- Prevent their partner from getting or keeping a job
- Take their money, makes them ask for money or refuses to give them money
- Make all the decisions in the relationship
- Tell their partner they are a bad parent and/or threaten to take away their children
- Embarrass their partner with bad names and put-downs
- Treat their partner roughly – grab, shove, push or hit
- Act like abuse is no big deal, it is their partner’s fault, or even deny it
- Destroy their partner’s property
- Intimidate or threaten with guns, knives or other weapons
- Force sexual acts that their partner does not consent to or enjoy
- Threaten to hurt pets or things their partner cares about
- Threaten to kill himself/herself
- Threaten to kill their partner
You may wonder why someone would stay in an abusive relationship. Due to the abuse, the victim is often isolated from family and friends, and because their abuser may control all of the finances, the victim may not have the financial resources to leave. In fact, domestic violence is the third leading causes of homelessness among women and children in the United States. Leaving is also the most dangerous time for a domestic abuse victim, since that is when the abuser loses power and control. A woman is 70 times more likely to be murdered in the few weeks after leaving her abusive partner than at any other time in the relationship.
There is help. In Vermont, there are organizations throughout the state that help those affected by domestic abuse. In Chittenden County, Women Helping Battered Women provides 24/7 support through its hotline, in addition to a wide range of services to those impacted by domestic violence, including emergency and transitional housing, services to children and youth, legal advocacy, economic stability programming and education and outreach.
In recognition of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Women Helping Battered Women will be hosting several events during the month of October. You can also follow Women Helping Battered Women on Facebook and Twitter (@WHBW) for more information about domestic violence throughout October and all year long.
Kelly Dougherty is the Executive Director of Women Helping Battered Women, which is located in Burlington, Vermont, and serves all of Chittenden County.