Abuse & Advice: An Online Resource Guide on Domestic Violence
What is Domestic Violence?
Domestic violence refers to a pattern of behavior that is used to gain or maintain control over an intimate partner. Many people think of physical violence when they hear this term, but domestic violence also includes sexual abuse, financial abuse, emotional and mental abuse, and verbal abuse. Physical abuse involves hitting, punching, kicking, biting, and other physical behaviors used to control a partner. Sexual abuse refers to several different behaviors. Sexually abusive partners may force their partners to have sex or insist that their partners dress in a sexually provocative manner, or criticize their partners sexually.
Perpetrators use financial abuse, also called economic abuse, to maintain control over their partners. Financial abusers may steal money or credit cards from their partners, limit their partners’ access to financial accounts, and take other actions to make it harder for their partners to get out of abusive or controlling situations. Emotional abusers do things like criticizing their partners, humiliating their partners in public, lie to and threaten their partners. This emotional abuse takes a toll on the self-esteem and confidence levels of the victims. Verbal abusers use their words to threaten, intimidate, and control their partners.
Signs of Verbal Abuse in a Relationship
Verbal abuse is not as easy to detect as physical abuse, as not all verbal abusers use threatening words to intimidate or control their victims. Signs of verbal abuse in a relationship include name calling, critical remarks, mocking, swearing, screaming, making threatening remarks, and blaming the victim for the abuse. Partners who are exposed to verbal abuse may lose their confidence, making them doubt their ability to escape the abusive relationships and live independently.
Signs of Physical Abuse in a Relationship
Physical abuse is one of the easiest types of abuse to identify, as it often leaves marks visible to family members, medical professionals, colleagues, friends, and neighbors. Some of the signs of physical abuse include bruises, scratches, bite marks, lacerations, and frequent broken bones or fractures. Victims of physical abuse may dress in long-sleeved clothing or long pants during warm months in an attempt to cover these marks. Another sign of possible physical abuse is missing work or school without an explanation.
Signs of Mental/Emotional Abuse in a Relationship
Abusers use mental abuse as a way to cause emotional pain in their partners. Some emotional abuse takes the form of verbal abuse, with abusers threatening their partners or blaming their partners for problems. Taking control of all the decision-making in a relationship is one sign of emotional abuse. Emotional abusers may treat their partners like children. Isolation is another tactic used by emotional abusers. Abusers may prevent their partners from spending time with friends, family, or colleagues. Some abusers insist that their partners ask for permission before going anywhere or talking to anyone on the telephone. This tactic helps the abuser maintain control of his or her victim.
Signs of Sexual Abuse in a Relationship
Sexually abusive partners use sexual activity as a way to control their victims. If someone forces his or her partner to have sex, take part in sexual activity, or avoid contraceptive use, these are signs of a sexually abusive relationship. Physicians and other health care providers may be able to identify bruising around the genitals and other signs of sexual abuse, but some victims avoid visiting their doctors because they are ashamed or embarrassed about the abuse.
Signs of Financial Abuse in a Relationship
Financial abusers control their victims by cutting off their access to money and rewarding work opportunities. These abusers may forbid their partners from working, steal cash or credit cards from their partners, force their partners to make them authorized users on credit card accounts, force their partners to apply for additional credit accounts, and restrict their partners’ spending. Some financial abusers give their partners an allowance or withhold basic necessities due to their cost.
You Are Not Alone!
Domestic violence victims often feel alone, but there are many resources available to help victims and their children leave abusive situations. One of the most important steps in leaving an abusive relationship is planning ahead and leaving when the abusive partner is not around. This reduces the risk of a violent confrontation with the abuser. Telling a trusted family member or friend about the abuse can help domestic violence victims find ways to cope. If an abusive person controls his or her partner’s phone and Internet use, a trusted friend can research domestic violence resources and find contact information to help the victim escape the situation. There are also several national and state hotlines available for those coping with domestic violence. The Hotline offers free support 24 hours per day, seven days per week. Domestic violence victims can access this support by calling 1-800-799-SAFE. The thought of leaving an abusive relationship may be scary, but no one deserves to be abused in any way.
The following resources explain more about the different types of domestic abuse and the options available for victims of domestic violence.
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