top of page

Learn to Recognize, Respond, and Refer When You Witness Domestic Violence

Victims of domestic violence suffer every day of the year. They are assaulted, threatened, insulted, humiliated, isolated, and intimidated by their abusers, whose calculated actions reduce their victims’ lives to rubble. Domestic violence destroys lives and families and it’s time to give victims a voice.

Abusers employ emotional, social, sexual, and economic abuse to control every aspect of their victims’ lives. The scars that remain from verbal and mental abuse often linger long after broken bones and bruises have healed. Domestic violence can vary in severity and frequency and can include single incidents as well as chronic and severe incidents over several years.

Domestic violence can affect anyone regardless of gender, age, race, religion, or sexual preference. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 1 in 5 women and 1 in 7 men experience severe intimate partner physical violence, intimate partner sexual violence, and/or intimate partner stalking.

Domestic violence is a serious public health issue. Approximately 16% of all homicide victims are killed by their intimate partner, and almost half of homicide deaths in women are cause by current or former partners. Domestic violence is associated with increases in depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and substance use. Domestic violence is also related to negative physical health outcomes, such as cardiovascular, reproductive, and gastrointestinal disease. In addition, being a victim of domestic violence increases your risk for engaging in other risky behaviors, such as smoking, binge drinking, and HIV-risk behaviors.

Children living in homes where domestic violence is present are at particular risk. Abusers often hurt children, too. Those who are not physically abused but witness domestic abuse in their homes often experience emotional issues that last long into their lives.

It is important that everyone move out their comfort zones to support victims of domestic violence and teen dating violence and stand up to abusers. October — Domestic Violence Awareness Month — is the perfect time to start. Domestic Violence Awareness Month has been observed since 1981 as a way to rally around victims and change the culture of violence that has thrived in the shadows for generations. Understanding the dynamics of domestic violence is the first step toward helping victims of domestic violence become survivors of domestic violence. Many people believe that domestic violence encompasses only physical violence, such as punching, slapping, pushing, pinching, biting, and choking. While physical assault is a key component of domestic violence, abusers often use other tactics to control, intimidate, and isolate their victims.

Power and Control Wheel

Domestic violence can begin with subtle behaviors that are easy to overlook, such as name-calling, possessiveness, and threats. Abusers may apologize for their behaviors and try to convince the victim that these behaviors are done out of love and affection. Over time this cycle of tension building, abuse, and apology can intensify and escalate to physical violence. Some examples of early abusive behaviors include: accusing the victim of cheating, telling someone they can never do anything right, controlling money, preventing the victim from making their own decisions, and isolating the victim from family and friends.

Cycle of Abuse

There are many planned activities in October to educate the public about domestic violence.