October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, with efforts in Colorado and across the country to raise awareness of the threat. One in every four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime. An estimated 1.3 million women are victims of physical assault by an intimate partner each year. 85% of domestic violence victims are women. Historically, females have been most often victimized by someone they knew. Females who are 20-24 years of age are at the greatest risk of nonfatal intimate partner violence. And, disturbingly, most cases of domestic violence are never reported to the police.
Domestic violence happens in all races, age groups, sexual orientations, religions, social classes, economic backgrounds and education levels. It can occur in opposite-sex and same-sex relationships; between partners who are married, living together, dating or those who are no longer in a relationship together. Domestic violence is a pattern of abusive behavior used by the agressor to gain or maintain control over the victim. It includes:
- Physical abuse can include hitting, grabbing, shoving, throwing, punching, biting, or hair-pulling. Holding someone down during an argument or blocking a doorway so they can’t leave is also domestic violence. Abusers will often injure a victim in places on her body that can be hidden by clothes, hair or make-up. Physical abuse also includes denying the victim medical attention or forcing the victim to use drugs or alcohol.
- Emotional abuse is still abuse, even if it leaves no bruises. It can include constant criticism, humiliation, name-calling or making the victim think she is crazy.
- Sexual abuse can include forcing a victim to have sex when she does not want to, expecting sex on demand, injuring sexual parts of the body, or forcing the victim to do sexually humiliating acts.
- Economic abuse can force a victim to be financially dependent on her abuser, making it difficult to leave the situation. Economic abuse includes not allowing the victim to work or have access to money, forcing the victim to give her money to the abuser, withholding information about family finances or not allowing the victim to have a say in how money is spent.
If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic abuse, get help through the Colorado Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Common characteristics of domestic abuse:
- The abuser isolates the victim from family and friends, sometimes using jealousy to justify controlling where a victim goes, who she sees or who she talks to.
- The abuser intimidates the victim by smashing things, punching walls, threatening or abusing children and pets, displaying weapons, or even through threatening looks or gestures.
- The abuser makes all big decisions and acts like the “king of the castle” – the victim has little to no say in the relationship or the household.
- The abuser minimizes the abuse by saying it didn’t happen or wasn’t a big deal, blaming the victim for making the abuser angry or saying the victim made the abuser do something because of the victim’s actions or words.
- The abuser threatens to have the children taken away from the victim or uses visitation to harass the victim.
- The abuser threatens suicide if the victim leaves, or threatens to kill the victim if she leaves.