Domestic violence is real. It’s a monster lurking in all societies across the globe. In America, it is estimated that over 10 Million men and women are abused yearly. The statistics are shocking; with an estimated 1 in 4 women and 1 in 9 men, experiencing abuse at the hands of their partners.
As painful and heartbreaking as domestic violence is, many victims find it hard to escape their abuser. This is due to a number of factors, including lack of support, financial considerations, among others.
The cost of domestic violence goes beyond the abused partner. Many children bear witness to their parent’s abusive behavior, exposing them to a lifetime of emotional, and sometimes physical, trauma.
In most jurisdictions, domestic violence is punishable by law. However, many cases go unreported, perpetuating the cycle of violence and injustice.
Understanding domestic violence
Domestic violence, also known as intimate partner’s violence, happens between two individuals in a love/intimate relationship, and it includes:
- Sexual abuse
- Physical abuse
- Emotional abuse
- Financial abuse
- Threats of abuse
Domestic abuse happens to men and women but is more directed towards women. Additionally, it can happen in same-sex and heterosexual relationships.
Primarily, abuse occurs when a relationship has an imbalance of control and power. As such, the abuser uses the imbalance to intimidate, control, and use hurtful actions towards their partner.
In most relationships, abusive behavior starts early on. It often starts subtly and progresses over time. This can slowly chip away at your self esteem and also make it difficult to identify it for what it is—domestic violence.
What are some actions that are considered domestic violence?
- Name-calling or insults
- Discourages or prevents you from going to work, having friends, visiting your relatives, or even participating in social activities like parties
- Trying to control your daily activities like where you go, how you spend money, your phone conversations, your dress code, etc
- Acts possessive or jealous, highly insecure and constantly accusing you of cheating
- They get angry and become violent when using drugs or taking alcohol
- Threatens you with weapons
- Shoves, kicks, chokes, hits, slaps, or hurts you, your children, or even pets in the name of discipline
- Your partner forces you to engage in sexual acts that seem offensive and against your will
- They blame you for their bad behavior and tell you to deserve their mistreatment.
If in a same-sex relationship, you might be experiencing abuse if your partner:
- Threatens to expose your relationship to your colleagues, neighbors, friends, family, or community members
- Tells you that reporting to the authority won’t help because of your gender and sexual identity
- Justifies their abuse towards you by questioning your gender/sexual identity
Understanding the abuse cycle
The abuser cycle to their victims includes:
- The abuser threatens violence
- The abuser strikes
- They apologize, often with expensive gifts and promise to change or blame you for their violent reaction, thus guilt tripping you to forgive their behavior
- The cycle repeats
Remember, the longer you stay in an abusive relationship, the greater the emotional and physical toll, and the harder it is to leave or call the police.
This can lead to a loss of self esteem, depression, suicidal thoughts, anxiety, and sometimes the abuse is fatal.
Many victims blame themselves for the abuse—this prevents many from seeking help.
In cases of domestic violence, who can call the police?
Domestic violence mostly happens behind closed doors giving the abuser power over the victim, thus preventing them from reporting the abuse.
However, anyone who witnesses domestic violence, whether the victim, children, neighbors, or strangers, can call the police. Timely police intervention can be life-saving and become part of the victim safety plan.
How to deal with the police on a domestic violence call
- The primary duty of an officer responding to a domestic abuse situation is to protect the victim and other properties and also enforce the alleged violation of the law. The police officer may ask specific questions to fully understand your relationship and its nature, living situation, and the reported incident. Some questions, especially sexual ones, may be uncomfortable to discuss; however, it’s advisable to answer them truthfully.
- In case your abuser is present, you can request the officer for a separate interview in a different room or even at the police station. Avoid looking your abuser in the eyes when talking to the police to prevent them from intimidating and shutting you down.
- If you have injuries, don’t hide them. Show the officers so they can record it and organize medical checkups. Some injuries may take time, but if they appear after the officers have left, call them back and allow them to take pictures to be used as evidence in court.
- In case your partner uses signs to threaten you, let the cops know. Do not cover up for your abuser, and don’t allow fear to take over. Keeping quiet only strengthens the abuser.
- If you feel your partner will harm you more after reporting, tell the officer and request to be moved to a safer location.
- In case of destroyed property like TV, utensils or holes in the walls etc, show the officer.
- Show all abusive texts, explicit photos, emails, and other electronic ways your abuser might have used.
- If your spouse owns any firearms and has harassed, injured, or threatened you or someone else, inform the cops. Firearms and domestic violence is a lethal combination.
- Show any vital information that can aid in protecting you like:
- If they have any warranty
- If your partner has other alias names
- Your partner has threatened to harm others and also himself.
What happens next?
- The officer will write a report that will be used in court if charges are laid.
- Request to speak to a victim support team to receive counseling and guidance to help you make your next move.
- Ask the office for a safe house if you feel your life is in danger.
- A mandatory arrest may happen if a severe domestic violence crime was committed and there is probable cause to believe the victim is in further danger.
- The police may issue a mandatory arrest if the abuser has violated Civil Protection Orders or No Contact Orders.
- If the police determine the household members or parties involved have assaulted each other, they may arrest the person they believe is the primary aggressor.
- The abuser is usually arrested and stays in jail until presented to the court, usually the next day. During the court process, the victim has the right to a legal representative, and it’s advisable to deal with experienced criminal lawyers to protect your interest and seek justice for the inhuman act.
- The abuser may be charged with domestic abuse/violence misdemeanor, or even a felony, depending on the state law and circumstances. Additionally, they may receive a No Contact Order upon release.
- It’s the defendant’s responsibility to abide by the No Contact Order, and in case they violate the order, they may face further criminal charges. Remember that even if you invite the offender, they may be arrested and charged.
Final thoughts on domestic violence and seeking help
Every life is precious, and with domestic violence happening in many households, it’s our dutyl to look out for our neighbors, friends, and family, and report abuse.
Keep in mind that many victims of abuse don’t report their abuser due to fear of retaliation, and therefore, the duty falls on all of us to call the police on behalf of the victims.
The impact on domestic violence on society, children and even adults is long-lasting and far-stretching and the foremost step for everyone towards helping the population to understand the widespread domestic violence and save a life is to report any abuse they witness.