Over my career I have witnessed many domestic violence incidents and their after effects. Due to the cycle of domestic violence, many victims find themselves entrapped in their relationship. Domestic violence can take many forms, including emotional, sexual, mental, financial and physical abuse, as well as, threats or intimidation of abusive actions. Domestic violence victims are often assumed to be women; however, domestic violence does not discriminate between gender or sexual orientation. Another assumption is that domestic violence relationships must include physical violence, which is untrue. The abuse focuses on behaviors and tactics to gain power and control over the other partner.

Domestic violence can be difficult to identify due to the various forms of abuse. While some relationships can display apparent abuse from the onset of the relationship, abuse often starts subtly and intensifies over time. A few signs that you might be experiencing domestic violence includes your partner calling you names, insults or putting you down, control your relationships with family and friends, or threats of legal ramifications if you seek help (i.e. loss of custody of your children or that they will have you arrested).

Many other symptoms can be found at www.thehotline.org/is-this-abuse/abuse-defined.

The longer an abusive relationship lasts, the greater the physical and emotional toll. You might become depressed and anxious, or begin to doubt your ability to take care of yourself. You might feel helpless or paralyzed. You may also wonder if the abuse is your fault. A common technique shown by an abuser is called “gaslighting,” which causes a victim to question their own feelings, instincts, and sanity, and increases the abuser’s amount of power.

Despite what the abuser might tell you, it’s imperative to know that it is not your fault and in no circumstances do you deserve to be treated in a harmful way. There is help to get on a path to safety. These include, but are not limited to, emergency services, legal and financial assistance, counseling, housing assistance, and help for children. If you or someone you know is a victim, we encourage you to seek help because YOU CAN BREAK THE CYCLE of abuse.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline is 1−800−799−7233 or via www.thehotline.org.

For more info and links to additional resources please visit www.naperville.il.us/asafernaper.

Until next month, stay aware and stay safe.