Domestic & Family Violence

Domestic (family) violence is a learned pattern of behaviors used by one person to control the other partner in the relationship. Control can be achieved by using physical, sexual or emotional abuse; threats and intimidation; economic control; social isolation; and the use of children or role privilege. The partners may be dating, married, separated, divorced or in a same sex relationship. Family violence may also involve children and elders and other vulnerable adults.

Domestic violence takes many forms. It can be when someone:

  • puts you down, says mean things, yells, plays mind games
  • blames you for their behavior
  • threatens to leave you or take the children away from you
  • isolates you from your friends and family
  • doesn’t let you have a job, controls money and bank accounts, refuses to pay bills or buy food
  • takes away phone or car keys
  • treats you like a servant, makes all decisions, makes you ask permission
  • watches everything you do, is jealous, checks car mileage
  • hits, chokes, pushes, slaps, holds or ties you down
  • threatens to or does hurt you, the children or the pets
  • destroys your property
  • forces unwanted sex or sex acts
  • won’t let you sleep

Plan ahead for a quick and safer escape:

  • Pack extra clothes and personal supplies for you and your children.
  • Set aside an extra set of car keys, money and copies of important papers for you and the children: birth certificates, social security numbers, financial papers, federal tax returns, health documents and insurance policies.
  • Leave extra clothes, supplies and papers with someone you trust.
  • Try to leave the house every day at a set time (i.e. get mail, then walk the dog). When you are ready to leave, it won’t look suspicious.
  • Plan where you will go and how you will get there. Rehearse your plan.

Why should nurses and other health care providers be concerned about domestic violence? Why should our families, communities, schools, houses of worship or business be concerned? The answer, simply and sadly, is that domestic violence touches all of us, whether we are experiencing abuse personally in our homes, watching a beloved family member or friend struggle in abusive relationships, or we are caring for a patient who has been emotionally, physically or sexually assaulted by domestic violence.

Increasing visibility and awareness helps find a solution to the problem. Raising awareness bears a need to openly talk about these and similar health issues. Awareness in turn, moves us toward positive action and tremendous outcomes.