The Harsh Reality
Are you or someone you know a victim of domestic violence? By national statistics, many women are:
- Every 9 seconds a woman is physically assaulted.
- Between 4 million and 8 million women are battered each year by their significant other.
- 98 percent of the victims are women.
- Battery is the single major cause of injury to women – more than street rapes, muggings, and accidents combined.
- Domestic violence occurs among all races, ages, religious, and socio-economic groups.
Read the following list of questions. If you answer yes to some of them, you are probably in a relationship that involves domestic violence. If you want to speak with someone about your situation, you can contact the Purdue Police Department at (765) 494-8221 or the Greater Lafayette YWCA Domestic Violence and Intervention Program at (765) 423-1118 locally. Or, you can call toll-free nationally (888) 345-1118 to locate the women's shelter nearest you.
- Everyone argues or fights with their partner or spouse now and then. When you argue or fight at home, what happens?
- Do you ever change your behavior because you are afraid of the consequences of a fight?
- Is there anything that goes on at home that makes you feel afraid?
- Has your partner or spouse ever hurt or threatened you or your children?
- Has your partner or spouse ever put hands on you against your will?
- Has your partner hit, pushed, shoved, spit, or kicked you?
- Has your partner or spouse ever forced you to do something you did not want to do?
- Has your partner or spouse ever hurt your pets or destroyed your clothing, objects in your home, or something that you especially cared about?
- Does your partner or spouse throw or break objects in the home or damage the home itself during arguments?
- Does your partner threaten to harm you or your family members?
- Does your partner or spouse act jealously, for example, calling you at home frequently to check up on you?
- Has your partner or spouse ever tried to keep you from taking medication you needed or from seeking medical help?
- Does your partner refuse to let you sleep at night?
- Is it hard for you to maintain relationships with your friends, relatives, neighbors, or co-workers because your partner or spouse disapproves of, argues with, or criticizes them?
- Does your partner or spouse criticize you or your children often?
- Does your partner or spouse accuse you unjustly of flirting with others or having affairs?
- Has your partner or spouse ever tried to keep you from leaving the house?
- Does your partner call you names and make you think you're crazy?
- Does your significant other check the mileage on your vehicle to see if you really went where you said you were going?
- And if there is a discrepancy, do you have to account for it?
- Does your spouse or partner make it hard for you to find or keep a job or go to school?
- Does your significant other call you at work to check up on you?
- Does your partner or spouse withhold money from you when you need it?
- Do you know what your family's assets are?
- Do you know where important documents like bank books, check books, financial statements, birth certificates, and passports for you and family members are kept?
- Does your spouse or partner sometimes spend large sums of money and refuse to tell you why or what the money was spent on?
- Does your significant other give you an allowance and make you account for every cent you spend?
- Has your significant other ever forced you to have sex or made you do things during sex that make you feel uncomfortable?
- Does your partner demand sex when you are sick, tired, or sleeping?
- Has your spouse or partner ever used or threatened to use a weapon against you?
- Are there guns in your home?
- Does your spouse or partner abuse drugs or alcohol?
For someone involved in a relationship fraught with domestic violence, it is wise to have a safety plan.
Work out a safety signal with a neighbor or friend who will call the police if you need them to do so.
Pack and hide a bag with the essentials and keep it at a friend's house.
Some things to include:
- Extra keys to your house and car.
- Social Security cards.
- Checking and savings account numbers.
- Copy of lease.
- Birth certificates.
- Aid to Dependent Children and Social Security insurance cards.
- Change of clothing for yourself and your children.
- Address book with phone numbers of friends, doctors, and lawyers.
- Money including change for a pay phone.
Remember: Avoid long-distance calls if possible when trying to leave the situation, because they can be traced. Advise the school system, court, and social service agencies that you utilize not to give out any information about you or your whereabouts.
Myth: Victims of domestic violence have psychological disorders.
Fact: This characterization of battered women as mentally ill stems from the assumption that victims of domestic violence must be sick or they would not "take" the abuse. More recent theories demonstrate that battered women resist abuse in a variety of ways (Dutton, "The Dynamics of Domestic Violence," 1994). In addition, most victims of domestic violence are not mentally ill, although individuals with mental disabilities are certainly not immune from being abused by their spouses or intimate partners. Some victims of domestic violence suffer psychological effects such as post-traumatic stress disorder or depression as a result of being abused (Dutton, "Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Among Battered Women," 1994).
Myth: Low self-esteem causes victims to get involved in abusive relationships.
Fact: Traditional theories presumed that individuals with adequate self-esteem would not "allow" themselves to be abused by intimate partners or spouses. In fact, studies have demonstrated that victims of domestic violence fail to share common characteristics other than being female (Cahn and Meier, 1995). There is little support for the theory that low self-esteem causes victims to become involved in abusive relationships; however, some victims may experience a decrease in self-esteem as a result of being abused, since perpetrators frequently degrade, humiliate, and criticize victims.
Myth: Victims of domestic violence never leave their abusers, or if they do, they just get involved in other abusive relationships.
Fact: Most victims of domestic violence leave their abusers, often several times. It may take a number of attempts to permanently separate because abusers use violence, financial control, or threats involving the children to compel victims to return. Additionally, a lack of support from friends, family members, or professionals such as court personnel, law enforcement officers, counselors, or clergy members may cause victims to return to the abusive relationship. Since the risk of further violence often increases after victims separate from their abusers, it can become even harder for victims to leave if they cannot obtain effective legal relief. Victims who receive appropriate legal assistance at an early stage increase their chances of obtaining the protection and financial security they need to leave their abusers permanently. While some victims may become involved with other partners who later begin to abuse them, there is no evidence that the majority of victims have this experience.
Myth: Batterers abuse their partners or spouses because of alcohol or drug abuse.
Fact: Alcohol or substance abuse does not cause perpetrators of domestic violence to abuse their partners, though it is frequently used as an excuse. Substance abuse may increase the frequency or severity of violent episodes in some cases (Jillson and Scott, 1996). Because substance abuse does not cause domestic violence, requiring batterers to attend only substance abuse treatment programs will not effectively end the violence. Programs like that may be useful in conjunction with other programs such as batterer intervention programs.
Myth: Perpetrators of domestic violence abuse their partners or spouses because they are under a lot of stress or unemployed.
Fact: Stress or unemployment does not cause batterers to abuse their partners. Since domestic violence cuts across socioeconomic lines, domestic abuse cannot be attributed to unemployment or poverty. Similarly, advocates note that if stress caused domestic violence, batterers would assault their bosses or co-workers rather than their intimate partners. Domestic violence flourishes because society condones spouse or partner abuse and because perpetrators learn that they can achieve what they want through the use of force without facing serious consequences.
Myth: Law enforcement and judicial responses such as arresting batterers or issuing civil protection orders are useless.
Fact: There is a great deal of debate about the efficacy of particular actions by law enforcement or the judiciary. Research on the usefulness of mandatory arrest or civil protection orders has yielded conflicting results (See Buzawa and Buzawa, 1996; Sherman and Berk, 1984; Zorza, 1994). Most experts agree, however, that actions by one piece of the system are only effective when the rest of the criminal justice and civil systems are functioning (Zorza, 1996; Wanless, 1996) and that improved protocols can decrease domestic violence-related homicides (Ann O'Dell, telephone interview, 1996). Thus, law enforcement officers must make arrests, prosecutors must prosecute domestic violence cases, and courts must enforce orders and impose sanctions for criminal convictions. It is important for batterers to receive the message from the community that domestic violence will not be tolerated and that the criminal justice and law enforcement systems will be involved until the violence ceases.
Myth: Children are not affected when one parent abuses the other.
Fact: Studies show that in 50 to 70 percent of cases in which a parent abuses another parent, the children are also physically abused (Bowker et al., 1988). Children also suffer emotional, cognitive, behavioral, and developmental impairments as a result of witnessing domestic violence in the home (Jaffe, 1990). In addition, some children – especially boys – who experience domestic violence in their homes grow up to repeat the same behavioral patterns (Hotaling and Sugarman, 1986). For example, an advocate at a shelter in North Florida reported that one abuser threatened to come to the shelter and kill the victim and anyone who stood in his way. The abuser revealed that he knew where the shelter was because he stayed there as a child when his mother ran away from his father (Hassler, 1997).
Myth: Domestic violence is irrelevant to parental fitness.
Fact: Because children often suffer physical and emotional harm from living in violent homes, domestic violence is extremely relevant to parental fitness (American Bar Association News Release, 1997). A history of domestic violence can indicate that the perpetrating parent physically or emotionally abuses the child as well as the other parent. In addition, abusers frequently use the children as pawns to continue to control the other parent. Further, an abuser's focus on controlling the victim undermines the abuser's ability to parent because the primary concern is not the child. Courts should consider the effects of the abuser's behavior on the children when determining custody and visitation arrangements. Some courts mistakenly penalize the victim in custody cases by assuming that the victim is emotionally unstable because of the violence or because the victim "let the violence happen." In most states, however, custody statutes now recognize that domestic violence is relevant to the abuser's parental fitness. Courts in most states are required to consider domestic violence as a factor in custody determinations or to employ a presumption that perpetrators should not receive custody of the children. (The Family Violence Project of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, 1995).
Help for Abused Children
Children also are often victims of domestic abuse. Assistance is available through Child Protective Services of Tippecanoe County at (765) 429-5100, through the Purdue University Police Department at (765) 494-8211, or through any other local law enforcement agency.
If you suspect child abuse or neglect and you call to report it, these agencies often refer children suspected of being abused to the Heartford House. Heartford House is a child's advocacy center designed to provide a neutral child-friendly, home-like environment where a single comprehensive investigative interview can take place with the child. The aim is to reduce the child's trauma while improving the quality of evidence.
The Purdue Police Department has teamed up with other local law enforcement agencies to provide training investigators for the Tippecanoe County cause.
Emergency, Call 911
Local Law Enforcement
- Purdue University Police Department
- West Lafayette Police Department
- Lafayette Police Department
- Tippecanoe County Sheriff's Department
- Indiana State Police (765) 463-1515
- YWCA Domestic Violence Intervention and Prevention Program (765) 423-1118; toll free for nationwide assistance, (888) 345-1118
- Crisis Center (765) 742-0244
- Rape Survivor Advocacy and Prevention Center (765) 426-7273
- Victim Assistance (Prosecutor's Office)
- Child Protective Services (765) 429-5100