Content/Trigger Warning: Please be advised, the below article might mention trauma-related topics that include sexual assault & violence which could potentially be triggering. If you are facing or witnessing abuse of any kind, the National Domestic Violence Hotline is available. Call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or Text "START" to 88788. You can also use the online chat.
Domestic violence is one of the most silent crimes in our country. We live in a country where violence is theoretically not tolerated, and yet many people do not report violence that goes on within their homes. There are many reasons for this, and this article will explore them. We will explain why domestic violence goes unreported, what constitutes domestic violence, and where you can go for support (like online therapy services) if you or people you know are survivors of domestic violence.
What Is Domestic Violence?
Domestic violence, defined simply, is violence within a household. That said, it generally involves people who are a couple, so it can also take place outside of the home. And while we tend to imagine a married couple when we think of domestic violence, it can also happen with roommates, same-sex couples, and anyone else living in a home. Also, domestic violence can be more than just physical violence. It can be physical violence, sexual violence, emotional violence, financial abuse, and more. We will now take a look at these various forms of abuse.
Physical abuse is any physical activity done to harm another person intentionally. Hitting, kicking, scratching, and anything else to cause pain are examples. Physical abuse is most often a tool used to control a person. If they don't listen, for example, they will be hit.
Survivors of physical abuse may fear leaving because they don't want the partner to find them and hurt them more, or they may fear someone else being hurt.
Pregnancy can also cause physical abuse. It can also end the abuse… temporarily. The abuser may not want the child to be hurt, but once the child is born the physical abuse may recommence. Also, it's possible that the child may be physically abused as well, not be supported in its education, and not have the kind of hope that it should have in its life with an abuser in the family or domestic group.
If you or someone you know is or may be experiencing abuse, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline, available 24/7, at 1.800.799.SAFE (7233) or text "START" to 88788. Live chat is also available on the National Domestic Violence Hotline website.
Sometimes, the abuser doesn't have to lay a finger on the person living with domestic violence to abuse them. In fact, emotional abuse can be more damaging to the person. Bruises fade, but mental scars take longer to heal. Emotional abuse can involve many tactics, including:
Sexual abuse involves unwarranted sexual advances towards a partner. Just because you're married to someone doesn't mean you're obligated to have sex with them. Sexual violence does not only include rape. It can include any sexual advance that makes someone feel uncomfortable, from sexual comments to unwanted touching. If you're having sex with your partner and they do something you don't like, tell them. If they stop, okay. If not, that's a disrespect of consent and another form of sexual violence.
Economic abuse is when one person controls all the assets. For example, they may prevent their partner from spending any of their money or give them an allowance despite the partner being able to contribute money of their own. Economic abuse may involve the abuser claiming most or all of the property as their own and leaving none to the partner. This is a way to control them. If they have a divorce, then the partner may not get anything. Money is a great way to control people, and by acting like their boss instead of a spouse, you can have control over your spouse.
Why It's So Hard To Leave
To an outsider, it's difficult to understand the mentality of people living with domestic violence, particularly sexual violence or other forms of physical violence. If their partner is abusing them or someone else, why don't they get away? Unless you've been in that situation, it can be difficult to understand. Everyone has different reasons, but here are a few.
If someone is being abused, they may fear what will happen if they leave their partner. In many cases, the law is unable to prosecute them due to a lack of evidence, and restraining orders aren't magic. Many people who experience abuse fear to leave due to them being stalked or possibly murdered by the person abusing them. They may even fear that their abuser sees mentions of domestic violence in their browser history. They may fear for their children if they have them. They may also not know what healthy relationships are like.
Sometimes, the abuser is the one who makes more money or makes all the money. If the person leaves, then their revenue source will be damaged or lost altogether. If they have no one to support them, such as friends or family, it can be an even more difficult situation.
Some people do not want to leave because of shame. They do not want to admit that they were abused, and they took the abuse for a long time. While our society is mostly sympathetic toward those living with domestic violence, there are still people who shame and victim blame, making it difficult for people who want to leave.
Shame is especially prominent when it comes to males living with domestic violence. As a group, males living with domestic violence are rarer than females living with domestic violence. There are biological reasons for this, but also societal reasons. Some men don't like admitting they were abused because it's not masculine, and they may imagine them being shamed by other people. Male survivors of domestic violence are not often recognized, and it's difficult to find shelters and resources like a hotline or support group for them.
Know that there is no shame in escaping your domestic violence situation.
Isolation - Lack Of Support
Some people who are living with domestic violence have only the abuser's friends or family as associates. They may feel like they have no one to contact and may be unaware of phone hotlines and what support groups provide. If they end their relationship with the abuser, they worry that everyone they associate with will abandon them. Being isolated and not fulfilling social needs is a common fear, and it's one reason why many people living with domestic violence do not leave.
For those who want to leave, or have left but need support, they can look into joining a support group and seeking counseling so they can begin the healing process. If you are worried that seeing a counselor in-person might be too tricky, you may want to consider online counseling as a safe and secure alternative. For example, you can register from any location where you have a wi-fi connection and computer or other device, browse different counselor options, and start healing.
Living With Domestic Violence Is NOT Your Fault
Abusers usually use tactics to make people living with domestic violence believe the abuse is their fault. It's not uncommon to hear a person living with domestic violence say, "If I had been better at taking care of the house, he wouldn't have had to teach me a lesson." Others protect their abusers with statements such as, "She is very stressed. When she is herself, she is really easy to get along with." If you have ever felt like this, rest assured, you are not alone. There are many resources, programs, and organizations that can offer help. There’s also the possibility of finding a domestic violence support group near you or an online site or other supportive organization that will be interested in providing the important service of helping you start or continue your healing process.
Here are a few examples include:
Many communities and churches offer services to people living with domestic violence. In such a group, participants often participate anonymously. Therefore, you do not have to share your name if you don't want to. Support groups are a great place to find help with your current situation. Many offer assistance with filing police reports or locating a counselor who may be able to help you through this difficult time.
Domestic Violence Shelter
One of the most frightening things about experiencing domestic violence is the thought of leaving and having nowhere to go. Many times, people living with domestic violence do not want to go to a family member or friend's home, even if they are an option. Domestic violence shelters offer an alternative for a safe place to stay. You will be provided food, shelter, and often resources of where counseling services are offered.
Always Have a Plan
If you choose to remain in a potentially violent situation, it's important to have a plan for emergencies. It may seem scary to think about needing to escape quickly, but it's always better to be prepared and not need a plan than to need a plan and not know what to do. Having a safety plan does not mean that you must be prepared to live and support yourself for the next 6 months or more. It is a plan to get you out of a dangerous situation quickly.
Because many abusers try to control the resources of a person living with domestic violence, it is important to plan ahead so that you have immediate resources available. The following is a list of things that you may need if you must escape quickly. Gather these things and keep them in a safe place that you can access in a rush.
Thinking of having an escape plan can be a little scary. Remember, your safety is of the utmost importance. Planning is one way to give yourself some control in an otherwise volatile situation. For more information about safety, you can visit the National Domestic Violence Hotline.
Other Ways To Find Support
Domestic violence may create long-term effects for the survivor. Lack of trust for others and anger toward the abuser or those who should have provided protection or even family members who didn't realize the abuse was happening are emotions that many survivors deal with.
Although support groups are an excellent resource, counseling may also be beneficial. An in-person or online therapist who specialize in domestic violence can offer support and teach ways to process your feelings in a safe atmosphere. If you’re concerned about someone seeing you go to a therapist’s office or if you’re hesitant to start therapy because you might decide to leave your abuser, which could mean you won’t be able to see your therapist again, consider connecting with an online therapist.
A study found that people who sought treatment online for domestic violence and sexual assault saw a significant reduction in their symptoms. They also had a favorable experience of this mode of treatment. Online therapy can also be used to address PTSD, depression, and anxiety.
How BetterHelp Can Support You
With online counseling, such as that offered by BetterHelp, you can connect with licensed, professional counselors who specialize in a variety of mental health and wellness issues, including coping with domestic violence through practices such as talk therapy and self care. Our platform is completely anonymous, and you can access it whenever and wherever you have an internet connection. Below are some reviews of BetterHelp counselors from people experiencing similar issues.
"Dr. Walsh has been very supportive in helping me with abuse issues and depression. She has taken lots of time with me, and I appreciate how far I've come with her guidance."
"Sharon Valentino has helped me through so much! Since we started working together, just a few months ago, I already feel like I have more power and control over my life. I have let go of some very painful things, I have moved away from abusive relationships and really gaining skills and tools I need to keep myself safe and happy. She has taught me that I have the power to control my thoughts, my anxiety, and most of all my company. I really like how direct she is, it helps me get grounded and connect to myself. I can't wait to see where I am after working with her a year!!!"
While domestic violence can leave feelings of fear and uncertainty, there is help. Whether you seek the help of support groups, counselors, or shelters, there are people and organizations available to assist you as you learn to navigate life free of abuse. You deserve to feel safe. You deserve to be fulfilled. Take the first step today.