Domestic Violence - Know the Signs and Offer Support
It’s often an unspoken problem, especially within households welcoming new babies when so many changes are underfoot. When a nurturing, caring cocoon is needed, instead a home is filled with abuse. Disrupted schedules, shifting priorities, and overall fatigue can exacerbate violence within the home and cause great suffering to the entire family. Identifying domestic violence and working to get support are essential tools for victims and their friends and family.
Domestic Violence - Know the Signs & Offer Support
Domestic Violence / By Ingrid Cordano
What is Domestic Violence?
The Department of Justice defines domestic abuse as
“a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner”
Domestic violence abuse can take many forms. Most often we consider physical, sexual, and emotional/psychological abuse but abusers use many tactics.
According to the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV), 99% of victims also experience economic/financial abuse. Technological abuse and litigation abuse are also increasingly common.
Domestic violence is often a fiercely protected family secret. Victims are often scared, isolated, and hesitant to find help because of fear of retaliation and because they are scarred with deep trauma. For families welcoming new babies, this isolation and loneliness can be especially devastating, especially for anyone suffering from postpartum depression.
How to Support A Friend or Acquaintance
Since it can be so dangerous and difficult for victims to break free from an abusive relationship, it’s important for those of us in their network to understand how we can offer support. As we know at BabyBridge - it takes a village. Community is our superpower, especially for families with new babies.
Start a Conversation
It’s not easy, especially in our world where we’re encouraged to “mind our own” and where individualism and self-sufficiency are lauded, but if you suspect domestic violence and abuse for a friend, neighbor, or even yourself, please start a conversation. It can feel monumental and awkward, but starting conversations around this difficult issue can help break the cycle of violence and allow victims, both children and adults, to regain safety in their lives.
The NNEDV has an excellent list of “Abuse Myths” that can be helpful to understand to ensure you will have a productive, supportive conversation about domestic violence.
One of our readers shared: “I heard a friend talk about separating from a violent spouse. Her neighbor asked about why he wasn’t there and she told them. Their response was “Hmm. That’s surprising; he was always so nice.”
When a victim finds the courage to share their experience, our job is to believe them, wholeheartedly.
Only the victim can understand the extent of their abuse so we must not discredit them or dismiss them by implying that they are lying, misjudging the scenario, or somehow provoked the abuse. Remind the victim that it is NOT their fault. It is the sole fault of the abuser, not the abused.
Don’t Offer Advice, Offer Support
If you find yourself in a conversation about domestic violence, check your preconceived notions about what the victim should do or say at the door. Your job is to listen and offer support when asked. You can share resources, offer to help with logistics (hey, a BabyBridge may be in order!), listen, and cheerlead but resist the urge to butt in and oversimplify what needs to be done. Your role is to support while allowing the victim to decide for themselves how to move forward.
Again, the NNEDV list of “Abuse Myths” is helpful for broadening your understanding of what’s helpful conversation and what’s not. If the victim is welcoming a new baby, it can be helpful to also reread our blog post: Support a New Mom By Asking the Right Questions.
Where to Find Help
If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, please seek help. If someone is imminent danger, please share The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 / TTY 1-800-787-3224
There are many local and national organizations that offer services for victims.
- Shelter for Help in Emergency (SHE) - a local Charlottesville organization that provides comprehensive services to victims of domestic violence in Albemarle, Fluvanna, Greene, Louisa and Nelson counties. They offer many services including a hotline, shelters, counseling, and legal services.
- Sexual Assault Resource Agency (SARA) - a local Charlottesville organization that offers free, confidential services to people of all ages and genders who have experienced sexual assault.
- StrongHearts Native Helpline at 1−844-762-8483 (call or text) - for native families
- One Love - an organization founded by the parents of Yeardley Love, a UVA student who was murdered by her boyfriend while at UVA. Its mission is to prevent abuse by teaching the warning signs and empowering people to have healthy relationships.
We all deserve to live in peace.