Domestic violence and emotional abuse are behaviors used by one person in a relationship to control the other. Partners may be married or not married; heterosexual, gay, or lesbian; living together, separated or dating. Violence can be criminal and includes physical assault such as hitting, pushing, shoving, etc. Sexual abuse including unwanted or forced sexual activity, and stalking are also forms of domestic violence. Although emotional, psychological and financial abuses are not criminal behaviors, they are forms of abuse and can lead to criminal violence.
If you are being abused, get help. You can take the first step by calling this number: 1-800-799-SAFE
Some examples of emotional abuse are:
- Disrespect, attacks on your self-esteem. The person may call you derogatory names; criticize the way you look and what you do in a destructive way. They make you feel that you can’t do anything right. When something goes wrong they make you feel as if it is your fault. They yell at you, make humiliating embarrassing or belittling remarks in front of others. They erupt into tirades or violent fits of screaming anger.
- Pressure, manipulation and control. The abuser refuses to listen or take anything you have to say seriously. They twist what you say and turn it around against you; they tell you what to do, trying to make you feel bad or wrong if you don’t do what they say. They “pout” if you do not do what they want and they “know what’s best for you” thereby replacing your judgment with theirs.
- Economic control and isolation. They refuse to let you work; they undermine or interfere with your work (this is often subtle or overt); they refuse to let you go to school or start a career; they control the money, refusing to give you any; they take your car or car keys preventing you from getting around; they control your time and who you spend your time with, telling you who you can see and where you can and cannot go, making you account for your time.
- Harassment, repetition, hounding. They make uninvited visits or calls; they refuse to leave when you ask them to; they follow you; they embarrass you in public.
Often these examples of emotional abuse lead to physical abuse. The following behaviors may be leading up to physical abuse:
- Physical menacing or intimidation: Making angry or threatening gestures; towering over you in a menacing way; standing in the doorway or cornering you during an argument, thereby blocking your escape; driving recklessly while you are in the car; throwing or breaking things, punching walls or kicking doors.
- Threats: They threaten you or your family. These threats must be taken seriously
- Pushing and shoving: This is the beginning of more direct physical violence. During this phase, the abuser is testing the limits. If this phase is tolerated the violence will escalate.
- Sexual pressure or assaults: The abuser forces you to perform sexual acts that you feel are degrading; forcing you to have sex when you don’t want to.
The Cycle of Domestic Violence
In the book The Battered Woman, Dr. Lenore E. Walker identified cycles in abuse and violence is the domestic setting. The three phases in the cycle are:
- The build up: This is when you know trouble is brewing. You feel as if you are walking on eggs. Tension is escalating
- The blow up: This is the peak of violence. This can be a tirade, throwing things, or a physical attack.
- Remorse and contrition: Now that the attack has taken place the abuser is sorry for what they have done. They apologize, promise to never do it again, promise to change. Often the abuser will give gifts, being charming, charismatic or persuasive
The Safety Plan
Once you recognize the problem and realize that there is a need for change in your life, you must determine whether or not your safety is at risk as you attempt to exercise your right to live free of fear, violence, and intimidation.
Keep in mind that if you decide to leave your home to protect yourself from physical harm, your husband may view your leaving as betrayal or rejection. He may become even more violent as a result. That is why you need to develop your safety plan with outside counsel and guidance. You may even need the help and protection of the police. Do not make your plans alone. Your safety is the most important thing. Listed below are tips to help keep you safe:
Decide how you would get out
You may end up in a situation where you must get out in a hurry. Doing the following will help you if you need to make that quick or unexpected exit:
- Decide on a pathway if you have to leave at night. Think of public places you can access 24 hours a day. Know the route to police stations, hospitals, fire stations, and 24-hour convenience stores in your area.
- If you leave by car, make sure you lock the car doors immediately.
- Consider making a plan for each room in your home. What can you do to get out of the basement or upper floors of your home?
- Know which doors lock in your home.
- If you live in an apartment building, think of all the ways to get out safely. Is there a fire escape that could get you safely to the ground? Is there a stairwell you could use?
- If you don’t have a car, think of a safe place, close to your home, where your friend could pick you up. Also, know the routes to the subway, bus stop, and train station nearest to your home
Communicate with someone who can help and decide where you would go
This may be difficult especially if your partner has isolated you; however, it is important to confide in a domestic violence advocate or hotline counselor who has been trained to help you.
- An advocate or domestic violence hotline counselor can help you figure out which friends and relatives might be able to help you.
- An advocate or hotline counselor can help you figure out alternatives if you have to leave at a time when your friend is not available.
- You may want to plan a code word or phrase to use on the telephone with a friend if you need to access help when your abuser is present. Tell your friend that when you say the code word or phrase it means you’re in trouble and you need them to dial 911 for you.
- If you feel comfortable, tell your neighbors about the violence and ask if they will call the police if suspicious noises are coming from your home
Important Documents and Other Necessities
Keep important documents together in a safe place – a domestic violence hotline counselor or advocate can help you decide where. These documents and other necessities could include:
- Order of Protection
- ATM card
- money/ cab fare
- check book
- credit card
- green card
- work permit
- welfare ID
- cell phone
- coins to use in a pay phone
- driver’s license & registration
- social security card
- your partner’s social security number
- medical records
- address book
- insurance policies
- important legal documents
- police records
- record of violence
- baby’s things (diapers, formula, medication)
- children’s school and immunization records
- birth certificates
- eye glasses
- anything of sentimental value
- non-perishable snacks for children (e.g. juice and crackers)
Memorize or keep a listing of important telephone numbers:
Leave a written set of important phone numbers with a friend or in a secure place that you will be able to access. The list might include numbers for a shelter, domestic violence counselors, your children’s school, your friends and/or relatives, people you can call and places you can go in an emergency.