Sunday, June 23, 2024

Do you feel safe at home?

Domestic violence has been a plague throughout human history, but only in recent decades has it come to the forefront of medical and legal concerns.

Domestic violence or "intimate partner violence", is a pattern of behavior in any relationship that is used to gain or maintain power and control over an intimate partner. Abuse can be physical, sexual, emotional, or psychological.

While domestic violence most commonly involves a male against a female, the victim can be of any gender or age.

How common is domestic violence? Nearly 3 in 10 women (29%) and 1 in 10 men (10%) in the US have experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by a partner and reported it having an impact on their functioning. In the United States, more than 10 million adults experience domestic violence annually.

Since the abuser is a spouse or companion, and often repeatedly apologizes and promises to stop, the victim is often reluctant to call the police, and the pattern continues.

If there are children, the victim may be even more reluctant to separate, and the children become emotionally (if not physically) traumatized.

Once thought of as a problem among lower socioeconomic classes, we now know that domestic violence is prevalent in every community, and can affect anyone regardless of age, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, gender, race, religion, or nationality.

If you are the victim, or you know someone who is a victim, what can you do? First, know that it is NOT your fault. Disagreements among spouses or other domestic partners are normal and common, but never justify violence.

If you feel you are in immediate danger, call 911 and get help getting away from your abuser.

Find someone you can trust and seek their help. This may be your physician, pastor, or a close friend or relative. You almost certainly cannot solve the problem yourself.

For anonymous, confidential help, 24/7, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE) or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY). Almost every state has 24/7 hotlines and most offer immediate help with shelter and legal resources.

If you suspect a friend or relative may be a victim, you can help. Be aware of clues such as bruising, cut lip or emotional withdrawal. Listen – let them know you want to help – but do not offer concrete advice until asked. Believe them – you may find it hard to believe but know how common the problem is.

Reassure them that you believe them, that it is NOT their fault and that they do NOT “deserve” what is happening. Help the victim create a safety plan that can be put into action if violence occurs again or if they decide to leave the situation.

This should include a safe place to go in an emergency, or if they decide to leave, a way to let family or friends know what is happening and an "escape bag" with cash, important documents (birth certificates, social security cards, etc.), keys, toiletries, and a change of clothes that can be easily accessed in a crisis.

Domestic violence will probably never disappear, but you do not have to accept it.

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