October commemorates National Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM) and was established in 1987 by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. The month was created with the intention of pairing individuals in need with tools from organizations working on domestic violence issues and to raise awareness of this epidemic.
Domestic violence encompasses a spectrum of behaviors that abusers use to control victims. Most people think of domestic violence as only physical abuse, but it can also include mental, emotional, sexual and/or financial abuse. Red flags are troubling because they can build toward larger issues, like ones that could result in domestic violence. The following list includes warning signs that someone may be abusive.
“Red flags” include someone who:
- Wants to move too quickly into the relationship.
- Early in the relationship flatters you constantly, and seems “too good to be true.”
- Wants you all to him- or herself; insists that you stop spending time with your friends or family.
- Insists that you stop participating in hobbies or activities, quit school, or quit your job.
- Does not honor your boundaries.
- Is excessively jealous and accuses you of being unfaithful.
- Wants to know where you are all of the time and frequently calls, emails, and texts you throughout the day.
- Criticizes or puts you down; says you are crazy, stupid, and/or fat/unattractive, or that no one else would ever want or love you.
- Takes no responsibility for his or her behavior and blames others.
- Has a history of abusing others.
- Blames the entire failure of previous relationships on his or her former partner; for example, “My ex was totally crazy.”
- Takes your money or runs up your credit card debt.
- Rages out of control with you but can maintain composure around others.
How to Offer Support:
The following list shares ways you can respectfully support your loved one through such a difficult situation as domestic violence. Tread gently and make active listening a priority. Nobody should ever feel pushed into doing something they are not yet ready, or willing, to do.
This plan is based in part on research findings. Since the overwhelming majority of victims are female we have written this safety plan as if the woman is the victim and the abuser a male. However, victims and perpetrators can be of either sex, and domestic violence occurs in same-sex relationships.
- Don’t judge the victim (you are not in her situation).
- Avoid telling the victim that she needs to leave (she already knows that she needs to leave but she does not feel she can); instead discuss a safety plan.
- Don’t tell her that the abuser is a jerk, that you never liked him, etc. (That might drive her away or make her feel she has to defend him.)
- Become the victim’s confidante. Listen to everything she tells you. (You could be a good witness later by backing up her story.)
- Assure her you will keep what she tells you confidential. (This will help you gain her trust so she will be more likely to call you if she finds herself in a very serious situation, e.g., trying to escape.)
- If it is safe for you to do so (and nobody in your household will tell her abuser), offer to let her store some emergency things in your home in case she (and, ideally, her children) need to leave quickly. These should include information about her abuser’s driver’s license, car registration and workplace address (often needed to get or register an order of protection), and his and her financial data (like credit cards, bank accounts, insurance policies), her emergency and important phone numbers, prescription information (and even an emergency supply of medications), and her children’s immunization records. It should also include information about any firearms he has.
- Tell the victim about her local domestic program and give her its phone number or that the National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-7233) for help in developing a safety plan and obtaining information about emergency shelter/relocation, restraining orders and advocacy programs in or out of her area.
- Be aware that clergy vary, and while some clergy are really helpful in cases of domestic violence, many others are not. The local domestic violence program is likely to know who will be helpful if the victim wants to talk to a member of the clergy.
- If the victim is going to leave her abuser, tell her not to tell her abuser or anyone who might tell him in advance.
- Offer her a safe place, if this is realistic, or help her find one.
When You Should Seek Help:
According to the CDC, 62% of female victims and 18% of male victims of intimate partner violence commonly report feeling fearful and having concern for their safety. If you or a loved one recognize this behavior from a partner, remember: it is not your fault and there are advocates waiting to help. Do not hesitate to contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline, available 24/7, at 800.799.7233.
Local resources for domestic violence victims:
“Red Flags of Abuse.” NNEDV, https://nnedv.org/content/red-flags-of-abuse/.