FFS Friday: Domestic Violence

According to the Bureau of Justice, twenty people are abused by a domestic partner every minute. On average, three women are killed a day by a former or current intimate partner. In eight out of ten cases of violent assault, the victim personally knows their attacker. Six out of ten sexual assaults occur in the victim’s own home. One in three women and one in four men have been victims of physical violence via intimate partner. On a typical day, 20,000 phone calls are placed to domestic violence hotlines. Intimate partner violence accounts for 15% of all violent crime.

Between 2001 and 2012, 6,488 service members were killed in action in Afghanistan and Iraq. In that same frame of time, 11,766 women were killed in America by current or former intimate partners.

Yet only 34% of domestic violence victims ever receive medical attention for their injuries, and it’s estimated that less than 25% of all abuse cases are even reported.

We aren’t just talking just straight women. Hell, we aren’t even talking about just women. Ten million people—regardless of sex or sexual orientation—are abused per year in the United States. Folks, that’s just plain too many. But, if the numbers are so high, why isn’t there a greater percentage of reporting?

Well, there’s lots of reasons. For one, did you even know the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) was a thing? I’ll admit: I didn’t know about it until I started writing this article. Did you know they have a hotline specifically for people suffering domestic abuse? (See the bottom of the article.) Most people don’t know this stuff, and that’s a tragic fact when they suddenly experience potentially life-threatening home violence. The information is out there, but it’s not in the hands of people that need it when the time comes.

Honestly, when you fell head over heels for your boo, did you consider domestic violence as a possibility? If your answer is yes, you might want to consider leaving them. If your answer is no, you aren’t alone. Most people think that the person they love would never be capable of something so horrendous. In many cases, that’s true.

But someone can say they love you and still hurt you. It happens all the time.

Fact is, abuse often starts slow and builds gradually over time. Like becoming unhealthy or vehicle maintenance, the real problems don’t reveal themselves until it’s too late. The signs and symptoms can be hard to spot, and victims can often be blind to red flags because of intimate feelings they have for their partner. That’s totally okay. People are people, and emotions are powerful. In fact, emotions being so powerful are often the very reason domestic violence intensifies over time.

It might start out with depreciating words and seem to suddenly be physical violence in the blink of an eye. It can happen so slowly that being abused becomes a normalized behavior response in the mind of the victim. “This is just how it is,” they’ll say. “He/she just gets this way sometimes. It’s okay. That’s just how they express their love.”

Another big factor: the practical mechanics of confronting a violent domestic partner. When you live with a person willing to hurt you, how do you work up the courage to tell them to stop? In many cases, abusers force their victims to isolate from friends and family, meaning the victim has no one left if/when they try to escape. These problems are even worse when kids are involved.

And what happens when the investigation starts up? If you think that an abuser is removed from home and placed in a cell while the police look into the facts, you’re wrong. In most cases, if the police even do investigate, the abuser oftens remains at home with the very person that just reported them to the authorities. That can spell serious trouble for the victim, usually in the form of worsening abuse. I have a very close female friend that stayed at the house of a man that was not her boyfriend because her boyfriend was being abusive. When she involved the police, the police essentially said, “You stayed at another man’s house! Of course your boyfriend was mad!”

In other cases, loud and violent incidents responded to by authorities are usually because of noise. Neighbors file noise complaints at night, the police arrive to tell everyone to be quiet, and then leave when the victim is unable to speak up to police, right in front of their abuser.

Even if you do trust the authorities, they won’t always help.

There’s a thousand different ways to tackle the problem of domestic violence, y’all. We could talk about victim education, or police education, or healthy anger management for the abusers. The list of reasons why abuse takes place–and continues–is very long. The list of reasons why it isn’t reported is even longer.

I want to cover it all, but I have don’t have much experience from a victim’s standpoint. Admittedly, I have a little experience as an abuser. I’ve never physically hurt a partner, but I’ve learned (as I’ve grown up) that words can do just as much damage as a fist. I’ve tried to apologize for my errors and do what I can to help heal those wounds. Now, I’m trying to provide my expertise to others, as a way to make amends and to stop a problem most people don’t want to address in the open. (Or, worse, can’t address in the open.)

But my real experience lies in being the friend of an abuse victim. Not knowing what to do. Not knowing what to say. Wanting so badly to help, but being afraid that I would make the situation worse by stepping in.

Above all, as I’ve done research on the topic, I’ve come across the same important fact time and again: a victim’s greatest weapon is community. Like with all trauma, having a network of support can mean the greatest difference. Victims of domestic violence have a shockingly high rate of suicide. Had they someone to turn to for help, these incidents could have arguably been prevented. Unfortunately, as I said above, abusers are usually very good at forcing victims to isolate. Victims can be terrified to speak with friends–if they have any friends left at all. At this point in the cycle of abuse, it can be near impossible for the victim to get the help they desperately need.

So, I speak to the friends: we must all educate ourselves on the facts, but we must definitely follow our intuition. Listen to your gut. Everything can have a normal and rational explanation, sure. But it’s hard to rationalize multiple signs at once. If your alarm bells are ringing, you must absolutely take action. Your friend, the victim, may not appreciate your stepping in to help. They might even hate you for it. But, you might just save their life.

To help you all along, I’ve listed below some things that may indicate abuse. Some are obvious. Others are not. Please read through the list carefully.

  • Bruising on the arms or neck
  • Wearing long sleeves or clothing often and outside of the weather pattern. (i.e.: long sleeves or a turtleneck on hot days, or every day of the week, or both).
  • A desire or attempt to linger before returning home. Long goodbyes or hugs are a good sign here. Often, victims will try to say things without saying them.
  • A refusal to talk about the relationship in any way, or strangely overly-positive tone in regards to the partner. This is a huge sign especially if your intuition knows it’s bogus.
  • They are never seen out together, or they are always seen out together.
  • One of the partners always has a hand on the other’s shoulder, back, neck, or arms. There is constant touching.
  • The potential abuser always answers the victim’s phone.
  • The potential abuser sends threatening messages to the victim’s friends over social media or phone or email.
  • Friends are never invited over or never allowed inside the house.
  • The couple shares only one phone or one social media account.
  • A distinct lack of eye contact.
  • A desire to sit with the back against walls.
  • Asking permission to do simple, normally individual things (like ordering another drink or using the restroom).
  • A desire to be next to or with someone else at all times. This includes restroom trips.
  • No or very limited access to money. No debit or ATM card. No cash. Or, that all spending is heavily monitored by the other party.
  • Distance or lack of communication with friends, even dwindling over time.
  • Strange wounds in multiple places over extended periods of time, or “favoring” certain body parts. This could be seen as soreness, and will often be played off as such. Elaborate and nonsensical stories often accompany these wounds.
  • Strange gait or walk.
  • A tendency to “hug” oneself, or high shoulders when sitting or leaning.

Again, none of these signs themselves mean definite physical or mental abuse. But, multiple signs can definitely mean something is going on.

Most importantly here: address dramatic changes in your friend’s “baseline” (usual behavioral patterns) or patterns of life. Are they usually happy-go-lucky and now very sad? Have they stopped going to places they regularly go for no reason? Do they usually spend lots of time out with friends and suddenly disappeared from the scene? Are they usually great at keeping in touch and now have gone silent?

You know your friends. When you see huge shifts in behavior: start asking questions. Start reaching out.

It is important for us as friends to be the voice and the courage that a victimized friend might need. It might not be easy. It might mean that victim friend yelling and screaming at you. They might say you’re ruining their life, or that you don’t understand, or that they never liked you at all.

Personally, I’d rather lose a living friend than have them killed by something I could have tried preventing.

Talk to your friends if you suspect domestic abuse. Be patient with them in communication, but be dependable and quick in your actions. Take them to new places so there’s low risk of running into the abuser or his/her friends. Find a way to communicate in a safe way. Act quickly. If you can’t reach a friend by phone or email or letter, then show up to the house. Show up with lots of people. Show up with cops. The authorities might not always be the reliable force we need, but their presence can do a lot in keeping situations from getting violent or out of control.

If you can, remove the friend from their home situation. Yes, they’ll be displaced. Yes, it’ll be inconvenient for people. But do it. Do not leave the victim at their home and kick out the abuser. Obviously, the abuser knows where they live, and they probably have access to the home. Instead, remove the victim and don’t say where they are going or staying. Give the abuser as little information as possible. Help the victim make their choice for themselves, and try to be consoling. Remember, they’re already dealing with a person that doesn’t take no for an answer. Allow them the power to make the choice. If they’re combative, fight them with kindness and concern.

When you guys are safe, have the victim write down or voice-record everything that has been going on. Have a detailed conversation. This is the best chance to get out all the details before the real shock sets in—before stories start to change, reasons are made, or sympathy develops for the abuser. In many cases, the victim will want to return home, citing the shock of the situation as the reason they left. The abuser may attempt to use threats of suicide or threats to property as leverage. Do not let these threats control your or the victim’s actions. Remember, these threats can be used in court. These threats can be given to the police. And, if these threats are followed through, they are crimes for which the abuser will have to pay. Do not sympathize with an abuser. They need professional counseling, and the only way to get it is through proper authorities.

Victims need people they can depend on, even (and especially if) they are willing to fight against the help. Calling out someone as a domestic abuser can have a serious impact on everyone involved, and it can lead to very deep implications. Do not agree with the victim that it’s in their best interest to say nothing. It isn’t. People are scared of change. Especially people who are being abused.

Guys, gals… there’s never a good reason to hurt someone against their will. Never. There’s never a good reason to avoid helping someone in trouble. Never. There is no excuse on earth that will help you sleep if your friend dies. Remember that.

The most important thing to understand about violence: it’s a virus. Sometimes it works slowly, but it spreads quickly. It can lead to severe psychological contamination. It can lead to death. It can ruin a child’s life, or a friend’s future.

It is not okay.

Change is scary. Death is worse.

Friends, do not back down. If you truly feel like your friend is in danger, waste no time in getting them the help they need. If your intuition is incorrect, then so be it. But don’t chance a life on a maybe. It is always better to say something and be there. You know the adage: have it and not need it than need it and not have it.

Here is a list of hotlines you can call for professional advice:

The National Domestic Violence Hotline (USA): 1-800-799-7233/1-800-787-3224 (TDD)

Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network: 1-800-656-HOPE

Family Violence Prevention Fund: 415-252-8900

National Coalition Against Domestic Violence: 303-839-1852

National Battered Women’s Law Project: 212-741-9480

 

Here is a list of sites you can visit for more education and information:

Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (https://www.rainn.org/)

National Domestic Violence Hotline (http://www.thehotline.org/)

National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (http://www.ncadv.org/)

I love you all. Stay safe, and take care of each other. We are all one, big family. If you are experiencing any domestic violence, abuse, sexual harassment/assault, bullying, violence, or unwanted attention… please contact me directly at: roninwritingofficial@gmail.com, or on any one of my social media platforms listed below. I will help you get the help you need.

— R.

FFS Friday is an opinion article posted every Friday. It is intended to cover issues and topics that are often taboo. It is meant to be a place of convicted opinion, but also one of reasonable neutrality. The author can only speak from his personal experiences. This article is not meant to shame, offend, or attack. It is meant to inform.

Have you had experiences with domestic violence? Share them by commenting, or provide your experience to Ronin. If you’d like these experiences to be made public, but wish to remain anonymous, please let Ronin know. The more we talk about these issues with one another, the more we can educate the people that need it most. Feel free to comment and have discussions. But, remember, this blog does not tolerate hatred, bigotry, or discrimination of any kind.

Ronin writes FFS Friday articles every Friday (except the last) of the month. He also writes science fiction and fantasy, and writer help articles every Wednesday. Follow his InstagramFacebookTumblrTwitter, and WordPress to see his daily musings and travels. Subscribe to his YouTube channel for neat videos every last Friday of the month.

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Teach peace.

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