Guest writer: Jennifer Cassetta, clinical nutritionist, personal trainer and self-defense expert.
With the presidential election in full swing taking over the media this October, we might not have noticed that it is also Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Domestic violence, still a very much taboo topic, is happening behind closed doors all over this country. In fact, on average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
Domestic violence is not just limited to someone being hit or battered by his or her partner. Domestic violence is the willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, and/or other abusive behavior as part of a systematic pattern of power and control perpetrated by one intimate partner against another. It includes physical violence, sexual violence, threats, and emotional or psychological abuse.
All genders experience domestic violence from both sides; as the victim and as the abuser. Statistics show that 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have been physically abused by a domestic partner.
Only the abuser is to blame for being abusive. And the emotional rollercoaster that the victim is taken on leads to damaged self-confidence and, many times, downright fear of standing up to or leaving the abuser.
On a positive note, a great stride most recently made about brining domestic violence to the forefront of America’s conversations, happened at a commercial break during Superbowl 50. This No More ad was a powerful reminder that domestic violence is alive and well, yet mostly hidden from public view.
According to the National Coalition of Domestic Violence, if you have a friend, family member or co-worker who is being abused by an intimate partner, it would be wise for you to create a safety plan for that person.
The following are a few things that you can do to help the person you know who is in a relationship plagued with domestic violence.
Don’t judge the victim (you are not in their situation).
Avoid telling the victim that they needs to leave (they already know that they need to leave, but do not feel they can); instead, discuss a safety plan.
Let the victim know that:
- You are afraid for their safety.
- You are afraid for their children’s safety.
- This is not the victim’s fault; no one deserves to be abused.
- Even if the abuser apologizes, it does not mean the abuse will stop.
- Alcohol does not cause abuse: Many alcoholics never abuse, and most abusive alcoholics who stop drinking continue to abuse.
Let the victim know that the abuser will most likely try to isolate them from anyone who is supportive (including children, and even you) by driving a wedge between the victim and their supporter system. Common tactics are to disparage one (or both) to the other, to make it very difficult for the victim to see supporters, and, if all else fails, threaten the victim or their loved ones. Tell the victim if you know the abuser is doing such things. (Be aware that the abuser may be talking to your friends and family, or even snooping on you to find out what you are doing to support the victim.)
Encourage the victim to document everything that happened, including an accurate account of how they were injured. Suggest that the victim get medical treatment.
Tell the victim about her local domestic program and give them its phone number or that of 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 the victim’s area.
More ways to create a safety plan for your friend or loved one.
Need more support and help? Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline.