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10 Things To Do If You Suspect Domestic Violence

According to the U.S. Advisory Board Intimate Partner Violence Is more common than we would imagine. Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury for women ages 15 to 44. Domestic violence may be the single major precursor to child abuse and neglect fatalities in the United States. About 1 in 4 women and 1 in 10 men have experienced contact sexual violence, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner during their lifetime and reported at least one impact of the violence (like being concerned for their safety).Over 43 million women and about 38 million men experienced psychological aggression by an intimate partner in their lifetime.

It is likely that we all know someone who has been a victim of some kind of domestic violence or intimate partner violence.


Physical, emotional, spiritual, social, and/or financial control over another person. It’s not always violence. It’s manipulation. It’s insults. It’s demeaning. It’s controlling. It’s a range of coercive behaviors used to establish power and exert control. The most common precursor to physical violence is what is commonly called “gaslighting.”*

Why do victims stay?

  • Belief that the person will change

  • Belief that the person didn’t mean it

  • Believe that the person is a good person “on balance”

  • They feel obligated

  • They’re loyal

  • They don’t want to break up their family. Staying for the children

  • They’re afraid of making it worse. Fear of serious injury or death

  • Fear that the abuser will spiral downward

  • They think they have no other options

  • They justify and rationalize that it’s not that bad

  • They don’t think it’s domestic violence

  • There is work being done now on brain chemistry and trauma bonds between abusers and those they abuse

  • Guilt

  • They love the abusive person

  • Belief that they are the only one who can help the abusive person

If You Know Someone Who You Suspect Is In A Domestic Violence Situation:

  1. Look for the signs of DV, which include controlling the person’s time, money, movement, decisions, etc.; bruises, personality changes including becoming withdrawn; keeping the person away from friends and family.

  2. Approach the victim at a time and in a place aware from the abuser.

  3. Start by expressing concern. Tell the victim that it is not her fault. Let her know that your primary concern is her safety.

  4. Don’t blame/judge the victim. Build trust by truly listening. If you fail to build trust, the person could isolate and be unwilling to reach out to you or others in times of emergency.

  5. Offer your support. Do you have a place they can stay if they need to? Money they can use if their abuser has made them financially dependent? Are there other ways you can support them?

  6. Help them create an emergency plan for the moment when they decide to leave.

  7. Be patient, and respect the victim’s choices. A victim of domestic violence may attempt to leave their situation many times before they finally succeed. They may go back and forth to their abuser. They will only finally leave for good when they are ready. Be prepared for this, and offer your support no matter what.

  8. Suggest domestic violence support groups, give the national hotline number 1-800-799-7233, and suggest other resources. This will take the strain off the victim, who may be too scared or too isolated to do the research themselves.

  9. Do not confront the abuser. This can place both you and the victim in danger.

  10. Always dial 911 in an emergency.

If You Are in a Domestic Violence Situation

  1. Don’t alert your abuser if you are planning to leave.

  2. Make a list of incidents. If you seek medical attention, keep the paperwork.

  3. Create a safety plan. Is there a way you can put aside some money, clothing, documents and other necessities in case you need to leave? Can you find a place to stay in case of emergency and alert a few trusted friends and family members? Even if you are unsure as to how the situation might escalate, it is important to be prepared for your safety.

  4. Join a support group for survivors of domestic violence: even if you are not prepared to leave the relationship, you can discuss your situation with other survivors and receive group therapy with trained counselors.

  5. Get one-on-one help: many domestic violence centers offer free one-on-one counseling. A domestic violence counselor can help discuss your situation, offer therapy and connect you to resources in your area.

  6. Call the hotline if you need help. Take precautions while calling. If your abuser checks your phone logs, try calling from a pay phone or a friend’s phone. Don’t call while your abuser is within hearing.

  7. Always dial 911 in an emergency.

If you are in a domestic violence situation or know someone who is, you can call the 24-hour National Domestic Violence Hotline at: 1-800-799-7233.

Advice from the professionals

When someone shows you who they are, believe them.” —retired therapist
The first time you’re a victim. The second time you’re a volunteer.” —social worker
If a man is abusive, it is highly unlikely that he will change without wanting to and without intensive mental health treatment. Even then, if the reason they are abusers is tied to a personality disorder such as narcissistic personal disorder, sociopathy, etc, then there is no cure. They will never change, but the behavior can be managed.” —Dr. Annalisa Enrile, clinical social work professor USC School of Social Work


Your local Department of Social Services and local non profit shelters, like The Sheepfold.

Local churches may be a source of help. North Hills Church in Brea, CA is a local Orange County place of comfort.

The book, “Why does he do that?” by Lundy Bancoft, who started the first DV perpetrator groups in the country.

24-hour National Domestic Violence Hotline at: 1-800-799-7233

You have opportunities and choices that you are yet aware of. Reach out for help and options.

*One of the most common forms of DV is “Gaslighting”

There are a variety of gaslighting techniques that an abusive partner might use including:

  • Withholding: the abusive partner pretends not to understand or refuses to listen. Ex. “I don’t want to hear this again,” or “You’re trying to confuse me.”

  • Countering: the abusive partner questions the victim’s memory of events, even when the victim remembers them accurately. Ex. “You’re wrong, you never remember things correctly.”

  • Blocking/Diverting: the abusive partner changes the subject and/or questions the victim’s thoughts. Ex. “Is that another crazy idea you got from [friend/family member]?” or “You’re imagining things.”

  • Trivializing: the abusive partner makes the victim’s needs or feelings seem unimportant. Ex. “You’re going to get angry over a little thing like that?” or “You’re too sensitive.”

  • Forgetting/Denial: the abusive partner pretends to have forgotten what actually occurred or denies things like promises made to the victim. Ex. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” or “You’re just making stuff up.”

(Adapted from: Source)

Gaslighting typically happens very gradually in a relationship; in fact, the abusive partner’s actions may seem harmless at first. Over time, however, these abusive patterns continue and a victim can become confused, anxious, isolated, and depressed, and they can lose all sense of what is actually happening. Then they start relying on the abusive partner more and more to define reality, which creates a very difficult situation to escape.

In order to overcome this type of emotional abuse, start recognizing the signs and learn to trust yourself again.


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