Domestic violence presents itself in many different forms, some more apparent than others, but all variations of domestic abuse are extremely dangerous for the victims involved. Generally speaking, domestic violence is defined as a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain control over another intimate partner. The different forms of domestic violence include:
- Physical Abuse: Any type of violent behavior inflicted on the victim, this can include hitting, biting, slapping, battering, punching, shoving, pulling hair, burning, etc. Physical abuse can also include refusing to provide medical treatment to someone or forcing alcohol or drug use on another.
- Sexual Abuse: This type of abuse occurs when someone coerces or attempts to coerce a victim into sexual intercourse without the victim’s consent, this can include marital rape, attacking of sexual body parts, violence following forceful intercourse, or even sexual jokes at the expense of the victim.
- Economic Abuse: Occurs when the abuser makes, or attempts to make the victim financially reliant, meaning the abuser will usually seek to maintain total control over all assets, withholding the victims access to any funds, and/or not allow the victim to leave on their own free will.
- Emotional Abuse: This form of abuse involved any type of insult or joke that degrades or invalidates the victim’s self-esteem or sense of self-worth. This abuse can include constant criticism, injuring relationships the victim has outside of the abusive relationship, or name-calling.
- Psychological Abuse: This form of abuse includes any act the invokes fear or intimidates the victim. This can include the abuser threatening to hurt his/herself, or threatening to hurt the victims loved ones; parents, children, family, friends, pets, etc. The most common form of psychological abuse is isolating the victim from loved ones, the abuser does this to ensure the victim remains distant from anyone who could possibly help the victim escape abuse.
- Threats: Any threat to injure, hit, or use a weapon against the victim is also considered psychological abuse
- Stalking: Following the victim, spying on the victim, showing up and the victim’s home or work place, repeatedly sending gifts or messages, constant phone calls, watching the victim, or harassing the victim can all be considered stalking.
- Cyber-stalking: Refers to repeated online actions or emailing that inflicts emotional distress to the victim.
Examples of domestic violence:
- Beating, hitting, punching, kicking, or slapping your spouse.
- Spitting at your spouse or roommate.
- Physically abusing pets or children in the household.
- Changing the finances in one spouse name in order to ensure the victim cannot obtain access to the funds without consent of the abuser.
- Pulling hair of the victim, using the pulling of hair to throw the victim.
- Attempts to strangle/choke spouse or roommate.
- Threatening spouse or roommate with serious injury or the use of a weapon.
Who can become a victim of domestic violence?
Domestic violence can affect anyone regardless of socioeconomic status, race, religion, gender, age, sexual orientation, or education level. This means it is not only the wife that can be a victim anymore, it can be either spouse, even children, family members, and roommates can become victims of domestic violence.
Signs of domestic violence:
- One major sign of domestic violence in a relationship or any kind is fear; if the victim has a fear of saying how they feel, fear of saying no, or fear of bringing up certain topics, that is usually a red flag for the beginning of domestic violence.
- If you or a loved one has ever wondered if you were a victim of domestic abuse or even felt that you may be, there is a good chance you have been and should seek help for your situation.
- Your partner bullies, intimidates, or controls you.
- Your partner controls your assets.
- Your partner isolates you from friends and family.
- Your partner physically or sexually abuses you.
- Personality changes, like low self-esteem in a normally confident person.
- Wearing clothes that do not fit the season, for example long sleeves in the summer to cover cuts, bruises, or burns
Penalties/ protection against domestic violence:
The penalties for domestic violence depends on the type of abuse that is being brought before the court. Most domestic violence cases are considered federal crimes, and in the Crimes Code of Chester County it is classified under the assault statute. Other charges could include terrorist threats, strangulation, stalking, harassment, simple assault, aggravated assault, attempted murder, or recklessly endangering another person. These charges can include jail time, probation or parole, court ordered therapy or treatment programs, and inability to contact spouse or children due to Protection from Abuse order (PFA). PFA orders can also require the abuser to vacate properties or give up shared assets such as a house or vehicle to the victim.
What to do if you or a loved one feels they are a victim of domestic violence:
If you are being abused by your partner, you can contact the National Domestic Abuse Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 where you can learn about several different resources and organizations that are dedicated to helping violence victims. It is also very important to ensure privacy when seeking help, it can be very dangerous for the victim if their abuser gains knowledge of the victim seeking help before they are able to reach someone. You can also call the police if you are physically abused to ensure there is a criminal record in the system for your abuser and then you are able to obtain a Protection from Abuse (PFA) which is a court issued protective order that can forbid the abuser contact with the victim, children, or victims family/housemates.