Forms of Abuse
Physical abuse is a powerful way that an abusive person gets and keeps their partner under control and it instills an environment of constant fear. While physical abuse is the form of abuse that is most commonly known, it may or may not be a part of an abusive relationship. If physical abuse is present early in the relationship, it commonly gets worse over time. If there is no physical abuse in the relationship, it may begin to occur when the victim is pregnant or when the victim is considering leaving the relationship.
Physical violence may include: hitting, punching, kicking, slapping, strangling, smothering, using or threatening to use weapons, shoving, interrupting your sleep, throwing things, destroying property, hurting or killing pets, and denying medical treatment.
Some form of sexual abuse is common in abusive relationships but it is often the least discussed. It can be subtle or overt. The impact on the victim is commonly feelings of shame and humiliation.
Sexual abuse may include: physically forcing sex, making you feel fearful about saying no to sex, forcing sex with other partners, forcing you to participate in demeaning or degrading sexual acts, violence or name calling during sex, and denying contraception or protection from sexually transmitted diseases.
Emotional abuse occurs in some form in all abusive relationships. It is a very effective tactic used by abusive partners to obtain power and control and it can cause extreme damage to the victim’s self esteem. Commonly, emotional abuse makes the victim feel like they are responsible for the abuse and to feel crazy, worthless and hopeless. It is so damaging that many survivors of domestic violence report that they would have rather “be hit” than endure the ongoing psychic damage of emotional abuse.
Emotional abuse can include: constant put downs or criticisms, name calling, “crazy making”, acting superior, minimizing the abuse or blaming you for their behavior, threatening and making you feel fearful, isolating you from family and friends, excessive jealously, accusing you of having affairs, and watching where you go and who you talk to.
This form of abuse is one of the least commonly known but one of the most powerful tactic of entrapping a victims in the relationship. It is so powerful that many victims of abuse describe it as the main reason that they stayed in an abusive relationship or went back to one.
Some forms of financial abuse include: giving you an allowance, not letting you have your own money, hiding family assets, running up debt, interfering with your job, and ruining your credit.
Source: National Network to End Domestic Violence
Download a personal safety plan.
If you think you are in an abusive relationship, it is important to make a plan to keep yourself and your children safe. Think of a safety plan like keeping an emergency kit in your car. Hopefully you won’t need it but if you do, it could save your life. Here are some things to consider:
In an abusive relationship:
- Plan how you could get out of the house quickly if your partner becomes violent. Try to position yourself near a door where you can escape quickly.
- Put together a suitcase and keep it at a friend or family member’s house. Put in it clothes for you and the children, needed medicines, important papers, car keys, photographs, money, and emergency phone numbers. Add anything else you might need if you have to leave suddenly.
- Tell neighbors about the abuse and have them call the police if they hear noises coming from your house.
- Talk to your children about how they can keep themselves safe as well.
If you are thinking about leaving a battering relationship:
- Identify things that have worked in the past to keep you safe.
- Think about what has happened in the past and how the abuser has acted. Identify clues that indicate when things might become violent (i.e. behavioral — body language, drug/alcohol use, etc. — and event driven — paydays, holidays, etc.)
- Identify what you will do if the violence starts again. Can you call the police? Is there a phone in the house? Can you work out a signal with the children or neighbors to call the police or get help?
- Explore ways to have dangerous weapons (i.e. guns, hunting knives, etc.) removed from the house.
- Plan an escape route and practice it. Know where you can go and who you can call for help. Keep a list of addresses and phone numbers where you can go in crisis and keep them in a safe place.
- If possible, open a bank account or hide money to establish or increase independence.
- Gather together the following items and hide them with a trusted individual or somewhere accessible outside the home:
Credit card/ATM card
Order of Protection
Public Assistance ID
Driver’s license and registration
Social Security card
Your partner’s Social Security number
Record of violence
Children’s school and immunization records
Baby’s things (diapers, formula, medication)
Important telephone numbers
Mobile phone/coins to use a pay phone
- Change the locks on doors and windows (if the abuser has a key or access to a key).
- Increase the police’s ability to find your house by having a large visible street address outside the house
- Obtain a P.O. Box and forward all your mail to it.
- Ensure that utility companies will not give out your information to your abuser.
- Determine the safest way to communicate with the abuser if they must have contact. If you agree to meet, always do it in a public place (preferably a place with a security guard or police officer), and it’s best to bring someone else. Make sure you are not followed home.
- If your partner follows you in the car, drive to a hospital or fire station and keep honking the horn.
- Create a safety plan for leaving work. Talk with your supervisor and building security at work and provide a picture of the abuser, if possible. If you have an Order of Protection, give the security guard or receptionist a copy.
- Teach your children a safety plan, including calling the police or family and friends if they are taken and where to go during an emergency.
- Talk to your schools and childcare provider about who has permission to pick up the children and develop other special provisions to protect the children.
- Keep a journal of harassing phone calls and times you may see your abuser around the work place or neighborhood. Save and/or print any threatening emails. Keep a journal of anything that happens between you, the abuser, and the children regarding visitation.
District Attorney’s Office Observes Domestic Violence Awareness Month
Office Hosts Safe Harbor Speaker and Distributes Purple Ribbons
As part of its observance of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, District Attorney Warren Montgomery’s Office invited Sheri Eastridge, the community educator for the Safe Harbor Domestic Violence Program, to help staff members understand what victims often experience when such cases are prosecuted.
“She may not want prosecution,” Eastridge exlplained. “This is a huge barrier to all of us trying to serve victims.”
“I see it every day,” added an Assistant District Attorney who attended the special presentation on Friday afternoon (Oct. 9) at the Covington office. “It’s either our fault, her fault, or the kids’ fault for calling 9-1-1. It happens every single day.”
Most domestic violence victims are women, and their reluctance to participate in the prosecution is often part of a cycle of abuse that makes her feel trapped, Eastridge said. The cycle usually begins with a so-called “honeymoon period,” when the abuser appears to be the perfect partner, saying and doing all the right things.
As the tension builds, he becomes more controlling, making rules—how to wash the dishes, where she can and cannot go, who she can talk to—and she tries to follow them. She plays close attention to what triggers him and tries to avoid the inevitable explosive argument and physical abuse, which is usually followed by his remorse and pleas for forgiveness.
“A bunch of promises are made,” Eastridge said, but the cycle just keeps on spinning.
The control the abuser exerts is physical, sexual, verbal, emotional, and more often than not, economic, Eastridge said. The abusive husband or boyfriend is frequently the financial provider for the family, which is why many victims may resist helping to send him to jail and may refuse to cooperate with prosecutors. But sensitivity and understanding what the victim is facing can sometimes help her overcome such reluctance, Eastridge said. It helps when prosecutors contact the victim directly and in a timely manner. Providing detailed information about the court system and process also helps to win her confidence in the system.
Domestic violence is prevalent throughout the nation. One in three women has experienced some type of domestic abuse, according to the Violence Policy Center. For the second year in a row, Louisiana has the fourth highest rate in the nation of women killed by men, and the average age of the victim is 36. The state also has the highest rate in the nation of bystanders killed during a domestic violence incident.
Safe Harbor responded to 2,300 crisis calls last year, Eastridge said. The agency also provided temporary shelter to 72 women and referred 565 others to other services because its shelter was full.
Reducing the prevalence of domestic violence in the community will take all parties—victims, service providers, law enforcement, and prosecutors—working together. “It takes a community effort to address this issue,” Eastridge said.
In addition to Eastridge’s presentation, the District Attorney’s Office has provided information about domestic violence on its website to help raise awareness. Purple lapel ribbons also were distributed to staff members to wear in honor of domestic violence victims.
If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence and needs help, call Safe Harbor’s 24-hour crisis line at 985-626-5740 or 888-411-1333.