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What is Domestic Violence?
Domestic violence (also known as domestic abuse, spousal abuse, or intimate partner violence) occurs when a family member, partner or ex-partner attempts to physically or psychologically dominate another. Domestic violence often refers to violence between spouses, or spousal abuse but can also include cohabitants and non-married intimate partners whether or not they live together, same sex partners, relatives, and parents and their children.
Domestic violence occurs in all cultures; people of all races, ethnicities, religions, sexes and classes can be perpetrators of domestic violence. Domestic violence is a way of acting in an intimate or family relationship in which one partner is forced to change his or her behavior in response to threats or abuse from the other partner. A lot of times, the violence is physical, but it can also be threats, isolation, intimidation, harassment, emotional mistreatment, forced sex or making threats with regard to having you or your children deported if you are illegally in the country. Domestic violence is perpetrated by both men and women.
Domestic violence has many forms, including physical violence, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, intimidation, economic deprivation, and threats of violence. Violence can be criminal and includes physical assault (hitting, pushing, shoving, etc.), sexual abuse (unwanted or forced sexual activity), and stalking. Although emotional, psychological and financial abuse are not criminal behaviors in some legal systems, they are forms of abuse and can lead to criminal violence. There are a number of dimensions including:
Mode: physical, psychological, sexual and/or social.
Frequency: on/off, occasional and chronic.
Severity: in terms of both psychological or physical harm and the need for treatment.
Transitory or permanent injury: mild, moderate, severe and up to homicide.
An important component of domestic violence, often ignored is the realm of passive abuse, leading to violence. Passive abuse is covert, subtle and veiled. This includes victimization, procrastination, forgetfulness, ambiguity, neglect, spiritual and intellectual abuse.
If you are experiencing domestic violence in your home, you are not alone. Even though most domestic violence is usually hidden, it is very common and it probably affects people who you know.
Domestic violence will often get worse with time. It is important to remember that the violence is not your fault; your abuser chooses to use domestic violence to control you. Domestic violence is a crime in the United States. Every person can get help to stop domestic violence even if they do not have legal permission from the Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS), formerly known as Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), to be in the United States.
Are you a victim of Domestic Violence?
Does your Spouse or Partner …
Hit, punch, slap, or kick you, your children, or your pets?
Threaten to hurt or kill you?
Make you have sex when you do not want to?
Threaten to report you to the Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) and have you deported? (illegally residents)
Threaten to take your children away?
Make you feel like a prisoner in your own home?
Make fun of you and insult you in private or in front of others?
Control where you go and whom you can see, talk to, or write to?
Control your access to money, take your money away from you, or make you say how you spend every penny?
Stop you from getting a job or learning English?
Refuse to file immigration papers for you or threaten to withdraw these papers? (illegally residents)
Withhold or destroy your passport and other personal documents?
If you answered "yes" to any of these questions or are experiencing any of the forms of abuse listed below, you may be a victim of domestic violence.
Remember: DOMESTIC VIOLENCE IS NOT YOUR FAULT! You are not alone. There are places you can go and things that you can do to protect yourself and your children.
YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO MAKE YOUR OWN DECISIONS ABOUT YOUR LIFE. NO ONE HAS THE RIGHT TO HURT YOU OR YOUR CHILDREN IN ANY WAY!
Forms of abuse
Domestic violence can take the form of physical violence, including direct physical violence ranging from unwanted physical contact to rape and murder. Indirect physical violence may include destruction of objects, striking or throwing objects near the victim, or harm to pets. In addition to physical violence, spousal abuse often includes mental or emotional abuse, including verbal threats of physical violence to the victim, the self, or others including children, ranging from explicit, detailed and impending to implicit and vague as to both content and time frame, and verbal violence, including threats, insults, put-downs, and attacks. Nonverbal threats may include gestures, facial expressions, and body postures. Psychological abuse may also involve economic and/or social control, such as controlling the victim's money and other economic resources, preventing the victim from seeing friends and relatives, actively sabotaging the victim's social relationships, and isolating the victim from social contacts.
Physical violence is the intentional use of physical force with the potential for causing injury, harm, disability, or death, for example, hitting, shoving, biting, restraint, kicking, or use of a weapon.
Sexual violence is divided into these categories:
use of physical force to compel a person to engage in a sexual act against his or her will, whether or not the act is completed;
attempted or completed sex act involving a person who is unable to understand the nature or condition of the act, unable to decline participation, or unable to communicate unwillingness to engage in the sexual act, e.g., because of underage immaturity, illness, disability, or the influence of alcohol or other drugs, or because of intimidation or pressure; and
abusive sexual contact.
Emotional abuse (also called psychological abuse or mental abuse) can include humiliating the victim privately or publicly, controlling what the victim can and cannot do, withholding information from the victim, deliberately doing something to make the victim feel diminished or embarrassed, isolating the victim from friends and family, implicitly blackmailing the victim by harming others when the victim expresses independence or happiness, or denying the victim access to money or other basic resources and necessities.
Women who are being emotionally abused often feel as if they do not own themselves; rather, they may feel that their significant other has nearly total control over them. Women undergoing emotional abuse often suffer from depression, which puts them at increased risk for suicide, eating disorders, and drug and alcohol abuse.
Economic abuse is when the abuser has complete control over the victim's money and other economic resources. Usually, this involves putting the victim on a strict "allowance," withholding money at will and forcing the victim to beg for the money until the abuser gives them some money. It is common for the victim to receive less money as the abuse continues. This also includes (but is not limited to) preventing the victim from finishing education or obtaining employment, or intentionally squandering or misusing communal resources.
In addition, stalking is often included among the types of Intimate Partner Violence. Stalking generally refers to repeated behavior that causes victims to feel a high level of fear (Tjaden & Thoennes, 2000).
*Some information listed here is from the Office of Crime Victims Advocacy
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