The More “Subtle” Domestic Violence
October is Domestic Violence Awareness month. We want to help bring awareness to this topic due to a chronic underestimation of the number of relationships impacted by Domestic Violence and to increase understanding of how to identify Domestic Violence.
This underestimation and need for education of the public is due to a number of dynamics related to this issue, including:
Secrets, Control and The “Subtle” Signs
Due to the heavily secretive nature of the relationship, others may not be aware of the violence. This secret is often maintained by fear of retaliation, shame associated with the victimization, a belief the victim is unable to survive without abuser, or fear the victim will not be believed.
When people are charged with Domestic Violence or a victim discloses, how many times do you hear:
“I couldn’t believe he/she would do such a thing”
“He/she is so kind and laid back, that's impossible”?
Looking beyond the surface, how likely is it one would get involved in a victimizing relationship if they knew the person was violent or they would live with domestic violence? How could the perpetrator avoid interference by those outside the family if they were to outwardly present as someone who was angry, controlling or abusive? Partners who have a pattern of controlling behaviors have a belief system rooted in entitlement, selfishness, superiority, possessiveness, and confusion of love with abuse (i.e. “I am jealous because I love you so much”, “I can’t stand the thought of losing you”). Outside intervention would be unacceptable and would challenge the legitimacy of their belief system. There is a lot about the perpetrator and their self-serving behavior which requires an investment in preventing any knowledge or suspicion they are perpetrating abuse.
For many victims, abusive behaviors have been normalized for them in the relationship through a slow build up of controlling behaviors. The build up is introduced in such a manner it often goes unnoticed until it is extreme. Initially, there may be abuse followed by a “honeymoon” phase where the abusive partner is apologetic, kind, promises to change, and extremely loving. Overtime, this phase slowly disappears.
The main focus of this article is to SPEAK LOUDLY about the more “subtle” behaviors that may go unnoticed and not recognized as domestic abuse.
Together we can SPILL THE SECRETS! BREAK THE CONTROL!
Not all abuse is physical, and the presence of Domestic Violence is not only determined by physical abuse. It includes all forms of control and forms of abuse. The Colorado Department of Human Services offers a wonderful training book to their Caseworkers which outlines a variety of forms of abuse which constitute Domestic Violence which are often overlooked.
Below is a shortened list of their comprehensive descriptions (for a checklist identifying the presence of Domestic Violence, see our resource page):
Psychological: unwarranted and persistent jealousy, instills fear with tone or invasion of space, isolation (interference with communication with supports, picking fights before and/or after seeing or communicating with outside supports to make doing so not worth the trouble), humiliation, destruction of property, relentless attempts to prove the victim is crazy or incompetent
Spiritual: misuse of religious text to justify abuse, forceful conversion, degradation of beliefs
Medical: withholding medical care, preventing medical care, withholding necessary medications and medically related assistive devices
Legal Harassment: Threatens CPS or legal reports to maintain compliance with control, threatens removal of custody of the children, threat or actual retaliation to prevent cooperation with the abusers legal involvement, ignoring court orders including child support and contact orders, persistent frivolous legal battles
Deprivation: prevent sleep to argue, denial of basic needs, interference with supports
Sexual: forced sexual contact or unwanted sexual acts, sex in exchange for privileges, withholding of love if sex is not provided, sexual degradation
Economical: restricts or sabotages employment, full control of finances and financial decision making, declared ownership of shared assets
Stalking/monitoring: constant surveillance of electronic devices, monitoring of daily movements (unknowingly or with required check ins and immediate response to their attempts to contact)
Exploitation of Children: put downs of the parent to the children, interference with or undermining ofparenting, threatens harm to children for the purpose of controlling the other parent, use of children to monitor or provide information regarding the other parent
If you or someone you know is impacted by Domestic Violence, safety is priority. Contacting a professional to help formulate a safety plan is imperative. This can be a counselor, victims advocate, child welfare caseworker, or Domestic Violence shelter.
Other resources are:
Family Tree DV Hotline – (303)420-6752
Mountain Peace Shelter – (303)838-8181
National DV Hotline – (800)799-7233
SafeHouse Denver Inc – (303)318-9989
If you know of a child who is being exposed to Domestic Violence, make a report to the Colorado Department of Human Services Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline:
- Alison Atkins, MS, LPCC