By Tracy Fromm, Mental Health Counselor for Caring Communities
Domestic partner abuse is widespread in the U.S. The phenomenon is also known as intimate partner abuse and battered women’s syndrome.
Those of any socioeconomic class can become victims of domestic abuse. Both heterosexuals and those within the LGBTQ+ community are at risk. Intimate partner abuse also affects individuals of all ethnic/racial backgrounds.
Victims of domestic abuse, in the majority of cases, either live/cohabit with another person who is physically, emotionally, sexually, or financially abusive. These individuals live a very difficult existence. In most cases, the abuser uses assaultive and/or coercive tactics to gain power and control in a relationship.
No one consciously chooses an abusive partner and the initial signs may be subtle. Many abusers begin by making comments, such as criticizing appearance or being verbally demeaning. Over time, the criticism and/or physical abuse escalates, leaving the victim feeling hopeless and lacking in confidence and self-esteem.
Women are most often victims, but not always. Men can and have been abused as well. Women who were abused as children are also at an increased risk of abuse.
Intimate partner abuse can affect both physical and mental health. Ongoing abuse, in any form may result in various physical symptoms such as gastrointestinal issues, arthritis, pelvic pain and migraines, to name a few.
Often, due to an abuser isolating the victim, the victim does not recognize signs of abuse. When the abuse occurs, there will often be an apology, followed by a period of calmness. It may take a victim a long time to realize these are not random behaviors but patterns of abuse.
Primary care staff and emergency room services may be the first to learn about physical and emotional abuse, after a violent argument with resultant injuries. Medical staff are now mandated to ask patients if they are experiencing any form of abuse during routine medical exams. This gives victims the opportunity to open up and obtain advice and assistance from a professional.
Getting out of an abusive relationship is not easy. Those in abusive relationships will likely need help and assistance in order to escape and can’t “just leave.” Women generally leave, or attempt to leave, on average five times. Financial concerns, isolation, and outright fear may prevent a victim from leaving an abuser.
If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, please take advantage of local resources. There are domestic violence shelters, public health services, or hospitals or clinics to go to. It is crucial to develop a personal safety plan, for all concerned.
Please consider leaving if you are with an abuser. Seek out those agencies and professionals who can assist you.
The following is a list of resources to help.
- National Domestic Violence Hotline: Call 1-800-799-7233, Text LOVEIS to 1-866-331-9474, or visit https://www.thehotline.org to live chat with someone who can help.
- National Sexual Assault Hotline: Call 1-800-656-4673 or Text HOME to 741741
- United Way Call for Help 1-800-231-4377