About Domestic Violence and Sexual Abuse
Being assaulted by a stranger
is a traumatic experience for anyone, but being abused by someone in
your own family is worse. In addition to the victimization itself, in
a domestic violence and/or sexual abuse situation the victim must also
deal with the emotional conflict which comes from being hurt by someone
who claims to love them or who has promised or is obligated to care
What is domestic violence and sexual abuse?
There are three general categories
of domestic violence which often occur together:
Physical Abuse or Battering of
adults takes many forms including slapping, shaking, shoving, punching,
kicking, hair-pulling, choking, burning, and attack with a weapon.
Battering also includes threats of physical harm. Physical abuse tends
to escalate over time and may lead to more and more serious injuries
ultimately culminating in death.
Psychological Abuse is a powerful
component of domestic violence where the abuser humiliates, intimidates,
and terrorizes their victim by creating an atmosphere of fear. Degradation,
and belittling of the victim's actions, thoughts, and capabilities
are common forms of psychological abuse.
In domestic violence situations, the abuser
attempts to exert power and control over their victim. Possessiveness,
sexual jealousy, intrusiveness, and attempts to isolate the victim are
typical of people who batter and abuse. The victim tends to withdraw
from others, so slowly that she/he doesn't realize it, until she/he
becomes even more dependent upon the batterer. Isolation and lack of
social support makes the victim increasingly vulnerable to the abuser.
This "power and control" pattern is the mortar that perpetuates the
abusive relationship, as the victim feels more and more psychologically
Common reactions to living in a situation
of domestic violence are a variety of intense fears: of retribution,
of losing control, of being blamed, and of not being believed. In addition,
anger, self-blame, shame, guilt, depression, denial, numbness, re-experiencing
the violence in dreams, thoughts, flashbacks, avoiding situations which
are similar to those in which violence has occurred, being hyper-vigilant
and startling easily are widespread responses. Abusing alcohol and drugs
or behaving compulsively in terms of sex, gambling, eating/starving
are also frequent reactions.
What can you do to recover and heal from these experiences?
think you may be in an abusive relationship, the first step is to acknowledge
the abuse. The next step is to develop a plan to keep yourself safe.
Help is available through free and confidential counseling by professionals
at the Personal Counseling Program. There are many resources available,
such as hotlines (1-800-942-6906), shelters, crisis centers, and legal
assistance to which we can direct you. Stop by or call to make an appointment,
if you or someone you know needs help.