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LaurelLee Loftsgard, Published September 11 2013

Impact the World: Recognizing, reacting to the signs of domestic abuse

Domestic abuse is all around you.

It could be your friend, cousin, sister, co-worker or a person you pass on the street.

How do you know? Unfortunately, a lot of times you won’t know, but there’s always something you can do.

The first is to understand what domestic abuse is and its signs.

Domestic violence is a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control of another intimate partner, regardless of race, age, sexual orientation, religion or gender, according to the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women.

While the most commonly known type of abuse is physical, there’s more to it than that. There’s also sexual, emotional and psychological abuse.

Keeping or taking your paycheck; stopping you from seeing your friends and family; putting you down; threatening suicide to get you to do something; forcing you to perform sexual acts you don’t want or like — all these are forms of domestic abuse, according to domesticviolence.org.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and The National Institute of Justice, almost 25 percent of women experience at least one physical assault during adulthood by a partner.

According to helpguide.org, there are some ways to recognize the warning signs of domestic violence and abuse.

• They seem afraid or anxious to please their partner.

• They go along with everything their partner says and does.

• They check in often with their partner to report where they are and what they’re doing.

• They receive frequent harassing phone calls from their partner.

• They talk about their partner’s temper, jealousy or possessiveness.

Some other signs of physical abuse, isolation or psychological warnings are:

• They have frequent injuries with the excuse of “accidents.”

• They frequently miss work, school or social occasions without explanation.

• They dress unusually to hide bruises or scars such, as long sleeves in the summer or sunglasses indoors.

• They’ve been restricted from seeing their family and friends.

• They rarely go out in public without their partner.

• They have limited access to money.

• They have very low self-esteem, even if they used to be confident.

• They show major personality changes.

If you suspect someone is being abused, speak up. They probably are scared and confused, so don’t wait for them to come to you.

Talk to them in private and tell them your concerns. Explain what you’ve noticed and why it has made you worried. Just listen, offer help and try and support their decisions.

If you are a victim, the main thing to remember is that you are not alone.

It is not your fault.

There is always someone there to help, places you can go and people you can call. All you need is the strength to say “no.”

LaurelLee Loftsgard is a multimedia producer at The Forum and director of operations of the Diva Connection Foundation. She writes her weekly “Impact the World” columns to inspire women to make a difference in themselves and those around them. Readers can reach her at lloftsgard@forumcomm.com.