October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. It's a month where many people take a minute to remember the cost of domestic violence. Every day, men women and children will lose their life at the hands of someone they loved. This month, we remember them. Also this month, we also remember that even if domestic violence does not kill, it damages families every day. We remember the grim statistics remind us that one in four women and one in seven men will report experiencing severe violence at the hands of their intimate partner at some point of their life. Because of these grim reminders, all throughout this month in America there are candlelight vigils where we remember the names of women, men and children who have been killed in incidents of domestic violence. There are marches to raise awareness of this ongoing issue, benefit concerts to raise funds for organizations, speeches will be written, articles posted. It’s important we do this. It’s important we remember and important that we celebrate the lives of brave individuals that reach out for help.
Amidst such awareness, however, more often than not I find a general misunderstanding of the dynamics of domestic violence continues to be prevalent in our culture. Quite often in advocacy we overhear a survivor state “it's not that bad, they never hit me” when referring to the acts of violence that they have lived through. It often makes me wonder, how did we make domestic violence just about physical abuse?
While certainly a crucial component to address, domestic violence is about so much more than just physical abuse. When the focus lies only in viewing physical abuse as the sole definition of domestic violence, we will miss other crucial components. There are many red flags to an abusive relationship outside of physical violence that may help a survivor realize the danger of their relationship before it gets worse. If you’re wondering if your relationship has become abusive, this post is for you.
One of the great resources we’ve found here in advocacy comes from the Manchester (NH’s) Police Domestic and Sexual Violence Unit. In the “Are you Abused?” section of their webpage. On that website they list several important indicators of an abusive relationship and speak to the importance of the cycles of violence (if you have time I highly encourage you to read about the cycles of violence as well). If you are that reader wanting to know some red flags, here are some questions for you to consider:
Does the person you love…
"Track" all of your time?
Constantly accuse you of being unfaithful?
Discourage your relationships with family and friends?
Prevent you from working or attending school?
Criticize you for little things?
Anger easily when drinking ? drugging?
Control all finances and force you to account in detail for what you spend?
Humiliate you in front of others?
Destroy personal property or sentimental items?
Hit, punch, slap, kick, shove, bite you or the children?
Use or threaten to use a weapon against you?
Threaten to hurt you or the children?
Force you to have sex against your will?
In terms of lethality, the three top things we listen for as advocates is:
Has your partner strangled you?
Have they abused animals at any point?
Do they have access to firearms?
If you answer “yes” to one or more of these questions, it’s important to have a well-developed safety plan in place.
If you’re realizing perhaps you are being abused or want to establish a safety plan with an advocate I encourage you to call a trained advocate at your local program. You can even remain confidential if you want! For Caledonia and Southern Essex Counties you can call (802)748-8645. For Orleans and Northern Essex you can call (802)334-0148. If you’re not in those counties but in Vermont check out the Vermont Network Program site to find your local program.
There is a cost to domestic violence-we are aware not just this month but all other months of the year. Know that if you are in an abusive relationship, we care and help is available! You are not alone!