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Domestic Violence: Recognizing the Need for Help and How to Get It

My tears hit the stuffing of the pillow my grandma gave me as a kid. How could he do this? I was going to give this to our daughter! I told him that guy was just asking for directions. I know he loves me and the kids, but sometimes I don’t know who came back from deployment.

I don’t want to lose our family, but I’m afraid he’ll continue to get worse if something doesn’t change. I don’t have anyone that I can talk to since my family and friends won’t have him around anymore. I pick up my phone and start to dial my cousin but hang up before she can answer.  Instead I bring up the web browser and search, help for domestic violence. I pause. I cannot believe I am at this point in my life. I take a breath and hit search.

Over one third of women and more than a quarter of men in the United States have experienced violence in their personal relationships. Domestic violence (DV) has devastating outcomes for victims – It can cause depression, PTSD, and anxiety, and may result in suicide or even death at the hands of an abuser. DV also has severe consequences for families like the disintegration of family structure, as well as complications during pregnancy.

A large proportion of Post 9/11 Veterans have reported experiences of domestic violence. Military personnel of all genders and sexual orientations experience higher rates of domestic violence victimization than civilians do. The stress of military service, such as multiple deployments, family separation and reintegration, demanding workloads, head trauma, mental illness, transitioning to civilian life, and substance abuse can increase the risk of domestic conflict for active servicemembers and Veterans.

“How do I know if I am experiencing domestic violence?” You may be experiencing domestic violence if your partner has done or repeatedly does any of the following to you:

(Note: this list is not comprehensive)

What is Abuse?

Physical Abuse

  • Hair pulling, pinching, punching, slapping, kicking, biting, choking, harming you with weapons
  • Forbidding you from eating or sleeping
  • Harming your pets or children
  • Abandoning you in unfamiliar places
  • Driving recklessly with you in the car
  • Forcing you to use drugs or alcohol

Emotional Abuse

  • Acting jealous and possessive, or controlling
  • Trying to isolate you from family or friends
  • Threating you with weapons
  • Punishing you by withholding affection
  • Threatening to hurt your loved ones
  • Damaging your property
  • Humiliating you

Sexual Abuse

  • Forcing or manipulating you into to having sex or performing sexual acts
  • Demanding sex when you’re sick, tired or after hurting you
  • Hurting you with weapons or objects during sex
  • Involving other people in sexual activities with you against your will
  • Purposefully trying to pass on a sexually transmitted disease to you

Financial Abuse

  • Giving an allowance and closely watching how you spend it
  • Denying you access to your own paycheck
  • Preventing you from having access to bank accounts
  • Forbidding you to work or limiting the hours that you can work
  • Maxing out credit cards in your name without permission
  • Refusing to give you money to pay for necessities/shared expenses

[As compiled from https://www.thehotline.org/identify-abuse/understand-relationship-abuse/ by Natalie Schroeder]

VA Cares! Intimate Partner Violence & LGBTQ Veterans Awareness

Victims of domestic violence (DV) may avoid seeking help for several reasons such as, the fear of having nowhere else to go or losing custody of their children, as well as continued commitment to their relationship and concern for their partner. For men, disclosure of domestic abuse can pose unique challenges. Because male gender norms portray men as dominate and in control, male victims of DV may feel embarrassed or ashamed to report abuse for fear that they will seem like less of a man. In addition, men may also be afraid that they won’t be believed if they report abuse, or that, even if they do report it, there won’t be any appropriate services available for them as men.

For military personnel, there are additional reasons for non-reporting and assistance avoidance. In the military, chain-of-command requirements state that reports must be made to a person in the next higher rank. During this process, information about domestic violence might not be kept confidential. The fear of other people finding out about the report, and the damage it may cause to one’s reputation, is often too great, so the domestic violence is never reported at all. The risk of getting fired or of getting a partner fired is another barrier to reporting domestic violence. If a restraining order is filed against a military service member, their employment will likely be terminated because domestic violence laws prohibit the military person from carrying a weapon.

If you are a victim of domestic violence, remember that the abuse is not your fault.

You should not feel ashamed of yourself for your partner’s abusive behavior towards you. Being a victim does not mean you are weak!

You must also remember that even though you may care about the wellbeing of your partner, they are not giving you the same courtesy.

Not reporting or seeking help is EXTREMELY DANGEROUS to yourself and others.

For victims, developing a safety plan can be very helpful. Safety plans typically outline ways to remain safe, how to tell friends and family about the abuse, plans to leave, steps to be taken in the event of legal action, how to cope with trauma, etc. For help creating a safety plan, click here and here.

If you or a loved one are victims of domestic violence, there are resources that can help

(The following resources are not exclusive to women – men can also benefit from them).

For a guide on transitional housing, click here.

For financial tips for victims, click here.

For help finding a domestic violence shelter in your area, click here.

For free or low-cost legal services in your state, click here.

For information on child custody issues, click here.

To go to the National Domestic Violence Hotline’s website, click here.

To locate domestic violence resources in your state, click here.

In our upcoming articles we will discuss the impacts of domestic violence on children and other family members, as well as resources to help 3rd party victims of domestic violence.

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