This publication was created mostly to help people who have been abused by their intimate partner. But it is not always easy to recognize abuse, even for victims themselves. This publication will try to help you figure out if there is abuse in your relationship and will give you information on how to be safe and get help if there is abuse. If you are not sure, this publication might be for you if:
- Your partner does things that make you afraid.
- Your partner does things to control you.
- Your partner threatens to hurt you.
- Your partner physically abuses you.
- If you think this publication might be for you, please keep reading. As you do, remember:
- You are not alone.
- You are not to blame.
- You do not deserve to be abused.
- There is help available.
- This publication is also for you if you know someone who is being abused or someone you think might be being abused by their partner. You will find information on how you can help a friend, family member, co-worker, neighbor, or acquaintance, including:
- How to talk to them about the abuse.
- How you can be prepared to help.
- How to help them get support and services.
If you are a professional helping victims of domestic violence, you will find helpful information in this publication as well.
If you have picked up this publication and find that it is not for you, please pass it on to someone who might find it helpful if it is safe for them to have it.
- 1 in 4 women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime. (Tjaden, Patrica and Thoennes, Nancy. National Institute of Justice and the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, "Extent, Nature, and Consequences of Intimate Partner Violence." 2000). http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/181867.pdf)
- Almost 1/3 of all female homicides victims in the United States were killed by their intimate partner. (Bureau of Justice Statistics, "Intimate Partner Violence in the United States." December 2007).
- Approximately 450,000 domestic incidents are reported annually to police departments in NYS. (DCJS Domestic Incident Report Data, 2001-2002).
- Only about 48% of all violent victimizations, in 2003, were reported to police (Bureau of Justice Statistics, National Crime Victimization Survey, "Criminal Victimization, 2003." September 2004).
A community agency that offers services to victims of domestic violence, called a domestic violence program, can be your first step to safety and support. There is a domestic violence program in every county of the state. All programs offer services such as support groups, legal advice and children's services. Some programs also offer a safe place to stay. To find the domestic violence program in your area, call the NYS Domestic and Sexual Violence Hotline.
1-800-942-6906 Spanish language: 1-800-942-6908 In NYC: 1-800-621-HOPE (4673) or dial 311 TTY: 1-866-604-5350
Domestic violence is when one person does a variety of things to control another person in an intimate relationship. The shift in power can happen very slowly, over a period of time, so that the other person cannot even remember when it happened. Or it can happen very quickly after there is some sort of commitment or some change in the level of intimacy.
Many people wonder if what is happening to them is domestic violence because their partner has never hit them. Physical abuse is probably what most people think of when they think about domestic violence, but it is just one of the many ways that your partner might try to gain power and control in your relationship.
Ways a person might try to gain power and control over their partner include:
- Isolation - making it hard for you to see your friends and family; telling you that your friends and family cause problems in the relationship or are trying to "come between you."
- Economic abuse - having complete control over the money; making you account for every penny you spend; taking your money from you.
- Verbal, emotional, psychological abuse - calling you names; putting you down or embarrassing you in front of other people; criticizing your abilities as a partner or parent.
- Intimidation - making you afraid with a look, action, or gesture; getting you to do something by reminding you about "what happened last time."
- Coercion and threats - showing you a weapon and threatening to use it on you; threatening to "out" you to family, friends, or employers if you are gay or lesbian; threatening to harm your family, friends, or anyone you might go to for help.
- Physical abuse - pushing, grabbing, hitting, slapping, punching, or kicking you.
- Sexual abuse - forcing you to have sex when you don't want to; making you engage in sexual acts that make you uncomfortable; forcing you to engage in prostitution.
- Using children - undermining your authority with your children; threatening to take the children away from you by kidnapping or getting custody of them; "pumping" your children for information about you.
- Minimizing, denying, blaming - making you think the abuse is your fault; saying the abuse was caused by stress, alcohol, or problems at work; denying that the abuse happened at all.
These are some of the most common ways that abusers try to control their partners, but certainly not the only ones. If your partner does things that restrict your personal freedom or that make you afraid, you may be a victim of domestic violence.
You are not alone. Millions of people are abused by their partners every year. But it is important to know that more resources are available now than ever before to help women and their children be safe.
Many people who are abused by their intimate partner just want the violence and abuse to stop, but they don't want the relationship to end. But even when they do want to get out of the relationship with the abuser, it's hard.
Under the best of circumstances, it is not easy to end a relationship with an intimate partner. Love, family, shared memories, and commitment are bonds that are hard to break. Cultural or religious beliefs may be barriers to ending a marriage. Immigration status may be another obstacle. While ending a relationship is hard for everyone, women who are abused face the added risks of physical, emotional and psychological harm. There are risks that come with every decision an abused woman makes.
Risks of Getting Help or Deciding to Leave
Risks of physical violence and psychological harm
- Threats and violence will get worse, resulting in harm to victim, children, friends, family, or pets.
- Abuser will follow through on suicide threats and harm himself.
- Continued harassment, stalking, and verbal and emotional attacks, especially if the abuser has ongoing contact (such as during court ordered visitation).
- Serious physical harm and/or death.
- Rape or sexual abuse.
Risks to Children
- Emotional, physical, or sexual abuse; possibility of increased risks to children if the abuser has unsupervised or poorly supervised visitation.
- Losing children if the abuser kidnaps them or gets custody of them.
- Negative impact on children as a result of "breaking up the family."
Risks to Finances
- Concern about being able to pay legal fees.
- Reduced standard of living - possible loss of home, possessions, neighborhood.
- Losing income or job - possible loss of partner's income, may have to quit a job to relocate or to take care of the children alone, may be prevented from working because of threats and harassment.
Risks to Relationship
- Losing partner, losing the relationship.
- Losing help with children, transportation, household.
- Losing caretaker (for older women or women with disabilities).
Risks to Relationships with Family, Friends and Community
- Negative responses from friends, family members, and helping professionals.
- Not being believed or taken seriously, being blamed, being pressured to take actions that don't feel right.
- Being judged as a bad wife, partner, or mother.
- Making people feel uncomfortable about "taking sides" or not wanting to get involved.
- Worrying about being a burden to friends and family by asking them for help.
- Being pressured to stay in the relationship because of religious and/or cultural beliefs or because the children "need a father."
- Worry that actions of people trying to help may actually make the situation more dangerous.