What is Domestic Violence

What is Domestic Violence?  Domestic violence is a systematic pattern of violent, controlling, coercive behaviors that stem from an unequal power relationship.  Domestic abuse can occur in intimate heterosexual, gay, and lesbian relationships.  It is used to frighten, threaten, injure and ultimately control the thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors of its victims.
How is Domestic abuse different from battering?  Battering is perhaps the most pervasive form of domestic abuse.  It is physical and violent, affecting women of all ages, races, educational levels, religious denominations and in all socioeconomic groups.  Anywhere from 25-50% of all women are believed to have been battered at one time or another.
What causes domestic abuse?  It is a learned behavior that is caused by the abuser's own history and problems  It is never "provoked".  Neither alcohol nor drugs are the cause of physical or emotional abuse, although they may exacerbate the problem.  Abusers use violence to exert control, relieve tension and take revenge on the world.
How are children affected?  Whether or not a child is actually struck, he or she will be seriously affected by domestic abuse.  One third of the children who witness the battering of their mothers demonstrate significant behavioral and emotional problems, including psychosomatic disorders, stuttering, anxiety and fears, sleep disruption, excessive crying, and school problems.  In addition, those boys who witness their mothers abuse by her partner are more apt to inflict severe violence as adults.  Data also suggests that girls who witness maternal abuse may tolerate abuse as adults more than girls who do not.  
Examples of abuse include:
  • name calling or putdowns
  • keeping a partner from contacting their family or friends
  • withholding money or access to finances
  • stopping a partner from getting or keeping a job
  • actual or threatened physical harm
  • sexual assault
  • stalking
  • intimidation and threats
  • using the children as part of the threats
  • destroying property
  • using weapons
  • threatened or actual abuse to family pets
Domestic Violence becomes a criminal act when there has been a physical assault (hitting, pushing, shoving, etc.), sexual abuse (unwanted forced sexual activity), and stalking.  Although emotional, psychological, and financial abuse are not criminal behaviors, they are forms of abuse and can lead to criminal violence. 
If you are experiencing abuse remember
-You are not alone
-It is not your fault
-Help is available
Order for Protection (OFP)
If a past or present member of your household has threatened to hurt you, or has actually done so, you can apply for an Order for Protection.  An OFP is issued by the District Court to protect a person from abuse by a family, household member, or intimate partner. Learn how to apply for an Order of Protection
Harassment Restraining Order (HRO)
Harrassment is defined as "repeated, intrusive, or unwanted acts, words, or gestures that are intended to adversely affect the safety, security, or privacy of another, regardless of the relationship between the actor and the intended target."  A HRO is issued by the District Court to protect a person from further harassing behavior. Learn how to apply for a Harassment Restraining Order.

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