What is Domestic Violence?
Domestic violence is a pattern of coercive behavior used by one person to gain power and control over another. A batterer can use many tactics in order to maintain control such as physical violence, sexual violence, stalking, verbal, emotional, mental/psychological, and economic abuse. Domestic violence is a crime that affects people of all socioeconomic backgrounds and education levels. It is found in both opposite-sex and same-sex relationships and can happen to intimate partners who are married, living together, or dating. Abusive behavior is not caused by an anger management issue, rather, abuse is a choice by the batterer. There is no excuse for any form of abuse and the victim is never to blame.
In New Hampshire it is estimated that 33.4% of women, and 24% of men have experienced a physical assault by an intimate partner. (Sources: 2007 NH Violence Against Women Report, 2009 NH Violence Against Men Report)
Physical violence is only a small part of the abuse. Emotional and psychological abuse can be equally as devastating. Many times the victim blames themselves for the abuse and believes they can end the violence if they change. This is a common form of manipulation and a tactic that leaves no visible marks. The victim begins to lose self respect and self worth, making them extremely vulnerable to the abusers controlling behavior.
There are numerous complex reasons why individuals stay with abusive partners: fear for personal safety, or the safety of their children or pets, economic pressures, feelings of helplessness, lack of resources, compassion for the perpetrator, coercion by family, and religious and cultural beliefs. It is important for everyone to know that leaving a relationship is often the most dangerous time for a victim.
Abuse is rarely ever a one time incident, it is continuous and often referred to as the "cycle of violence". It often begins subtly and will escalate in frequency and severity over time. There are usually three stages that occur in the "cycle of violence". Every stage lasts a different amount of time depending on each situation and the individual relationship.
Typically the stages are:
Tension Building Stage: Walking on eggshells, criticism, yelling, swearing, using angry gestures, coercion, threats, blaming
Abuse Stage: Any form of abuse such as physical and sexual attacks, threats, and intimidation
Honeymoon Stage: Apologies, promises to change, gifts, blames abuse on victim, minimize or denies abuse
What are my options?
If you find yourself in an abusive relationship there is help and options are available to you. Remember if you are ever in immediate danger, call 9-1-1.
You do not have to do this alone. Get connected to the crisis center nearest you by calling the statewide toll-free domestic violence hotline at 1-866-644-3574. Trained advocates are ready to answer your questions, offer support, and safety plan with you. All services are free and confidential.