Employee & Community Health

Domestic abuse awareness gives victims a voice

10/9/2017 by John Mack, LICSW, MSW

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"It's not his fault ..."

"She didn't mean it ..."

"He has been under a lot of stress lately ..."

Violence in a committed relationship is something no one expects to experience, but unfortunately it's all too common in today's society. How common? Take a look at a clock and watch nine seconds tick by. According to the National Coalition against Domestic Violence, in that time another woman just experienced an assault. If you wait 60 seconds, 20 more people (men and women) will have been physically abused at the hands of an intimate partner. 

More than 10 million men and women are the victims of domestic violence in the U.S. each year. With these numbers, domestic violence is not "someone else's problem."

The many forms of domestic abuse

Domestic abuse takes many forms, including: 

  • Physical abuse can include hitting, biting, slapping, battering, shoving, punching, pulling hair, burning, cutting, pinching, etc. (any type of violence inflicted on the victim). Physical abuse also includes denying someone medical treatment or forcing them to use drugs or alcohol. 
  • Sexual abuse happens when the abuser forces or attempts to force the victim into having sexual contact or sexual behaviors without their consent. This often takes the form of marital rape, attacking sexual body parts, physical violence followed by forced sex, demeaning the victim sexually, or even telling sexual jokes at the victim's expense. 
  • Emotional abuse involves validating or deflating the victim's sense of self-worth and/or self-esteem. Emotional abuse often takes the form of constant criticism, name-calling, injuring the victim's relationship with their children, or depreciating the victim's successes and abilities. 
  • Economic abuse takes place when the abuse makes or tries to make the victim financially reliant on them. Economic abusers often seek to maintain total control over financial resources, withhold the victim's access to funds or keep the victim from going to school or work. 
  • Psychological abuse involves the abuser invoking fear through intimidation; threatening to physically hurt themself, the victim, children, the victim's family, friends or pets; destroying property; isolating the victim from loved ones; and keeping the victim from going to school or work. Threats to hit, injure or use a weapon are a form of psychological abuse. 
  • Stalking can range from following, spying on, watching or harassing the victim or sending gifts or collecting information on them to making phone calls, leaving written messages or showing up at their home or workplace. Alone, these acts typically are legal, but any of them done repeatedly becomes stalking. 
  • Cyberstalking refers to online actions or repeated emailing that inflicts substantial emotional distress in the recipient.

Where to turn for help

A safe place to begin talking about your concerns is with an Employee and Community Health (ECH) provider, such as a primary care provider, nurse or social worker. 

  • ECH staff can help create a safety plan, notify law enforcement if you wish (we will never pressure you), as well as connect you with local resources, such as the Women's Shelter or Victim's Services
  • Other options if you are feeling unsafe include talking with a trusted friend, family member or co-worker. 

How to protect yourself

  • Keep a small amount of cash hidden and available for emergencies. 
  • Create an emergency bag that includes copies of important documents (birth certificate, social security card, insurance card), copies of car keys and house keys, and a few day's worth of clothing and toiletries. 

You do not need to suffer in silence. If you recognize any of these examples taking place in your own life or that of a loved one, talk with a member of your ECH care team, such as your primary care provider, nurse or social worker. Or call the National Domestic Violence Hotline, 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Know that we are here to help. 

John Mack, LICSW, MSW, is an Integrated Behavioral Health (IBH) therapist based in the Baldwin Building. As an IBH therapist and emergency department clinical social worker, John has five years' experience working with individuals who have experienced domestic violence.