Monday, September 17, 2007

Domestic Violence and Abuse: Signs and Symptoms of Abusive Relationships

Domestic Violence and Abuse: Signs and Symptoms of Abusive Relationships
Domestic Violence and Abuse:
Warning Signs and Symptoms of Abusive Relationships
If you think your husband or boyfriend is abusive, or you suspect that someone you know is in an abusive relationship, review the red flags of domestic violence and abuse listed in this article. Recognizing the warning signs and symptoms of spousal abuse is the first step to breaking free.

If you’re afraid for your immediate safety, call 911. For help and advice on escaping an abusive relationship, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or 1-800-787-3224.
In This Article:
Domestic violence or abuse
Cycle of violence
Signs of an abusive relationship
Types of domestic violence and abuse
Domestic violence warning signs
Related links
EmailPrintDomestic violence and abuse
Special note:
Although men also suffer from domestic abuse and violence, women are five to eight times more likely than men to be victimized by an intimate partner. Because men are more often the abusers, abusers are referred to as "he" in this article.
Domestic abuse, also known as spousal abuse, occurs when one person in an intimate relationship or marriage tries to dominate and control the other person. An abuser doesn’t “play fair.” He uses fear, guilt, shame, and intimidation to wear you down and gain complete power over you. He may threaten you, hurt you, or hurt those around you. Domestic abuse that includes physical violence is called domestic violence.

Victims of domestic abuse or domestic violence may be men or women, although women are more commonly victimized. This abuse happens among heterosexual couples and in same-sex partnerships. Except for the gender difference, domestic abuse doesn’t discriminate. It happens within all age ranges, ethnic backgrounds, and financial levels. The abuse may occur during a relationship, while the couple is breaking up, or after the relationship has ended.

Despite what many people believe, domestic violence is not due to the abuser’s loss of control over his behavior. In fact, violence is a deliberate choice made by the abuser in order to take control over his wife or partner.

Violent Behavior is an Abuser's Choice
Reasons we know an abuser's behaviors are not about anger and rage:

He does not batter other individuals - the boss who does not give him time off or the gas station attendant that spills gas down the side of his car. He waits until there are no witnesses and abuses the person he says he loves.
If you ask an abused woman, "can he stop when the phone rings or the police come to the door?" She will say "yes". Most often when the police show up, he is looking calm, cool and collected and she is the one who may look hysterical. If he were truly "out of control" he would not be able to stop himself when it is to his advantage to do so.
The abuser very often escalates from pushing and shoving to hitting in places where the bruises and marks will not show. If he were "out of control" or "in a rage" he would not be able to direct or limit where his kicks or punches land.
Source: Mid-Valley Women's Crisis Service

Spousal abuse and battery are used for one purpose: to gain and maintain total control over the victim. In addition to physical violence, abusers use the following tactics to exert power over their wives or partners:

Dominance — Abusive individuals need to feel in charge of the relationship. They will make decisions for you and the family, tell you what to do, and expect you to obey without question. Your abuser may treat you like a servant, child, or even as his possession.
Humiliation — An abuser will do everything he can to make you feel bad about yourself, or defective in some way. After all, if you believe you're worthless and that no one else will want you, you're less likely to leave. Insults, name-calling, shaming, and public put-downs are all weapons of abuse designed to erode your self-esteem and make you feel powerless.
Isolation — In order to increase your dependence on him, an abusive partner will cut you off from the outside world. He may keep you from seeing family or friends, or even prevent you from going to work or school. You may have to ask permission to do anything, go anywhere, or see anyone. Source: Domestic Abuse Intervention Project, MN
Threats — Abusers commonly use threats to keep their victims from leaving or to scare them into dropping charges. Your abuser may threaten to hurt or kill you, your children, other family members, or even pets. He may also threaten to commit suicide, file false charges against you, or report you to child services.
Intimidation — Your abuser may use a variety of intimation tactics designed to scare you into submission. Such tactics include making threatening looks or gestures, smashing things in front of you, destroying property, hurting your pets, or putting weapons on display. The clear message is that if you don't obey, there will be violent consequences.
Denial and blame — Abusers are very good at making excuses for the inexcusable. They will blame their abusive and violent behavior on a bad childhood, a bad day, and even on the victims of their abuse. Your abuser may minimize the abuse or deny that it occurred. He will commonly shift the responsibility onto you: Somehow, his violence and abuse is your fault.
Cycle of violence
Domestic abuse falls into a common pattern, or cycle of violence:

Abuse — The abuser lashes out with aggressive or violent behavior. The abuse is a power play designed to show the victim "who is boss."
Guilt — After the abusive episode, the abuser feels guilt, but not over what he's done to the victim. The guilt is over the possibility of being caught and facing consequences.
Rationalization or excuses — The abuser rationalizes what he's done. He may come up with a string of excuses or blame the victim for his own abusive behavior—anything to shift responsibility from himself.
"Normal" behavior — The abuser does everything he can to regain control and keep the victim in the relationship. He may act as if nothing has happened, or he may turn on the charm. This peaceful honeymoon phase may give the victim hope that the abuser has really changed this time.
Fantasy and planning — The abuser begins to fantasize about abusing his victim again, spending a lot of time thinking about what she's done wrong and how he'll make her pay. Then he makes a plan for turning the fantasy of abuse into reality.
Set-up — The abuser sets up the victim and puts his plan in motion, creating a situation where he can justify abusing her.
The Full Cycle of Domestic Violence
A man abuses his partner. After he hits her, he experiences self-directed guilt. He says, "I'm sorry for hurting you." What he does not say is, "Because I might get caught." He then rationalizes his behavior by saying that his partner is having an affair with someone. He tells her "If you weren't such a worthless whore I wouldn't have to hit you." He then acts contrite, reassuring her that he will not hurt her again. He then fantasizes and reflects on past abuse and how he will hurt her again. He plans on telling her to go to the store to get some groceries. What he withholds from her is that she has a certain amount of time to do the shopping. When she is held up in traffic and is a few minutes late, he feels completely justified in assaulting her because "you're having an affair with the store clerk." He has just set her up.

Source: Mid-Valley Women's Crisis Service

Your abuser’s apologies and loving gestures in between the episodes of abuse can make it difficult to leave. He may make you believe that you are the only person who can help him, that things will be different this time, and that he truly loves you. However, the dangers of staying are real.

Domestic abuse often escalates from threats and verbal abuse to physical violence and even murder. And while physical injury may be the most obvious danger, the emotional and psychological consequences of domestic abuse are also severe. No one deserves this kind of pain—and your first step to breaking free is recognizing that your situation is abusive. Once you acknowledge the reality of the abusive situation, then you can get the help you need.

Signs of an abusive relationship
There are many signs of an abusive relationship. The most significant sign is fear of your partner. Other signs include a partner who belittles you or tries to control you, and feelings of self-loathing, helplessness, and desperation.

To determine whether your relationship is abusive, answer the questions in the table below. The more “yes” answers, the more likely it is that you’re in an abusive relationship.

Your Inner Thoughts and Feelings Your Partner’s Belittling Behavior
Do you:

feel afraid of your partner much of the time?
avoid certain topics out of fear of angering your partner?
feel that you can’t do anything right for your partner?
believe that you deserve to be hurt or mistreated?
wonder if you’re the one who is crazy?
feel emotionally numb or helpless?
Does your partner:

humiliate, criticize, or yell at you?
treat you so badly that you’re embarrassed for your friends or family to see?
ignore or put down your opinions or accomplishments?
blame you for his own abusive behavior?
see you as property or a sex object, rather than as a person?

Your Partner’s Violent Behavior or Threats Your Partner’s Controlling Behavior
Does your partner:

have a bad and unpredictable temper?
hurt you, or threaten to hurt or kill you?
threaten to take your children away or harm them?
threaten to commit suicide if you leave?
force you to have sex?
destroy your belongings?
Does your partner:

act excessively jealous and possessive?
control where you go or what you do?
keep you from seeing your friends or family?
limit your access to money, the phone, or the car?
constantly check up on you?

Types of domestic violence and abuse
There are different types of domestic abuse, including emotional, physical, sexual, and economic abuse. Many abusers behave in ways that include more than one type of domestic abuse, and the boundaries between some of these behaviors may overlap.

Emotional or psychological abuse
Emotional or psychological abuse can be verbal or nonverbal. Its aim is to chip away at your feelings of self-worth and independence. If you’re the victim of emotional abuse, you may feel that there is no way out of the relationship, or that without your abusive partner you have nothing. Emotional abuse includes verbal abuse such as yelling, name-calling, blaming, and shaming. Isolation, intimidation, and controlling behavior also fall under emotional abuse. Additionally, abusers who use emotional or psychological abuse often throw in threats of physical violence.

You may think that physical abuse is far worse than emotional abuse, since physical violence can send you to the hospital and leave you with scars. But, the scars of emotional abuse are very real, and they run deep. In fact, emotional abuse can be just as damaging as physical abuse—sometimes even more so. Furthermore, emotional abuse usually worsens over time, often escalating to physical battery.

Physical abuse
When people talk about domestic violence, they are often referring to the physical abuse of a spouse or intimate partner. Physical abuse is the use of physical force against someone in a way that injures or endangers that person. There’s a broad range of behaviors that come under the heading of physical abuse, including hitting, grabbing, choking, throwing things, and assault with a weapon.

Physical assault or battering is a crime, whether it occurs inside or outside of the family. The police have the power and authority to protect you from physical attack.

Sexual abuse
Sexual abuse is common in abusive relationships. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, between one-third and one-half of all battered women are raped by their partners at least once during their relationship. Any situation in which you are forced to participate in unwanted, unsafe, or degrading sexual activity is sexual abuse. Forced sex, even by a spouse or intimate partner with whom you also have consensual sex, is an act of aggression and violence. Furthermore, women whose partners abuse them physically and sexually are at a higher risk of being seriously injured or killed.

Economic or financial abuse
Remember, an abuser’s goal is to control you, and he will frequently hurt you to do that. In addition to hurting you emotionally and physically, an abusive partner may also hurt you in the pocketbook. Economic of financial abuse includes:

Controlling the finances.
Withholding money or credit cards.
Giving you an allowance.
Making you account for every penny you spend.
Stealing from you or taking your money.
Exploiting your assets for personal gain.
Withholding basic necessities (food, clothes, medications, shelter).
Preventing you from working or choosing your own career.
Sabotaging your job (making you miss work, calling constantly)
Domestic violence warning signs
Take Precautions
Call 911 or the police in your community if you suspect a case of domestic violence.
It's impossible to know with certainty what goes on behind closed doors, but there are some telltale signs and symptoms of domestic violence and abuse. If you witness a number of warning signs in a friend, family member, or co-worker, you can reasonably suspect domestic abuse.

Frequent injuries, with the excuse of “accidents”
Frequent and sudden absences from work or school
Frequent, harassing phone calls from the partner
Fear of the partner, references to the partner's anger
Personality changes (e.g. an outgoing woman becomes withdrawn)
Excessive fear of conflict
Submissive behavior, lack of assertiveness
Isolation from friends and family
Insufficient resources to live (money, credit cards, car)
Depression, crying, low self-esteem
Reporting suspected domestic abuse is important. If you're afraid of getting involved, remember that the report is confidential and everything possible will be done to protect your privacy. You don’t have to give your name, and your suspicions will be investigated before anyone is taken into custody. Most important, you can protect the victim from further harm by calling for help.

Continue Reading...
Click here to learn more about:

Protecting yourself from domestic violence
Leaving an abusive relationship safely
Restraining orders
Domestic violence shelters
Staying safe after you’ve left
Dealing with the trauma of domestic abuse
Related links for domestic abuse and violence
Domestic violence hotlines and help
National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY) – A crisis intervention and referral phone line for domestic violence. (Texas Council on Family Violence)

State Coalition List – Directory of state offices that can help you find local support, shelter, and free or low-cost legal services. Includes all U.S. states, as well as the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. (National Coalition Against Domestic Violence)

Abusive relationships and domestic violence
Domestic Violence Awareness Handbook – Guide to domestic violence covers common myths, what to say to a victim, and what communities can do about the problem. (U.S. Department of Agriculture)

Domestic Violence: The Cycle of Violence – Learn about the cycle of violence common to abusive relationships. (Mid-Valley Women’s Crisis Service)

Equality Wheel (PDF) – A “wheel” that gives guidelines for a healthy, nonviolent intimate relationship between a man and a woman. (Domestic Abuse Intervention Project)

Warning signs and symptoms of domestic violence and abuse
The Problem – Offers a checklist of behaviors and feelings that will help you assess whether you are in an abusive relationship. (National Coalition Against Domestic Violence)

Domestic Violence Warning Signs – Describes common warning signs that a woman is being emotionally abused or beaten. (Safe Place, Michigan State University)

Workplace Domestic Violence– Information for recognizing, preventing, and responding to domestic violence in the workplace. (National Work~Life Alliance)

For men
Intimate Partner Abuse Against Men – Learn about domestic violence against men, including homosexual partner abuse, sexual abuse of boys and male teenagers, and abuse by wives or partners. (National Clearinghouse on Family Violence, Canada)

For gay men and women
Abuse in Same-Sex Relationships – Describes myths about same-sex abuse; unique problems of the victims of same-sex abuse; and what society and professionals can do to help. (Education Wife Assault)

For immigrant women
Information for Immigrants – Domestic violence resources for immigrant women. En Español:Información para Inmigrantes. (Women’s Law Initiative)

For teens
Dating Violence – Guide to teen dating violence, including early warning signs that your boyfriend or girlfriend may become abusive. (The Alabama Coalition Against Domestic Violence)

Teens: Love Doesn’t Have To Hurt (PDF) – A teen-friendly guide to what abuse looks like in dating relationships and how to do something about it. (American Psychological Association)

Delving deeper into domestic violence and abuse
Violence Against Women – Domestic violence resource provided by the federal. Includes a list of state resources and a fact sheet on identifying abuse. (The National Women’s Health Information Center)

Minnesota Center Against Violence and Abuse – Electronic clearinghouse of information about domestic violence and abuse, including a searchable online library of articles.

Pat Davies, Melinda Smith, M.A., Tina de Benedictis, Ph.D., Jaelline Jaffe, Ph.D., and Jeanne Segal, Ph.D., contributed to this article. Last modified on: 8/20/07.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Tennessee: Urge Gov. to Sign Pet Protective Order Bills!

Great news! On May 17, TN SB 196 passed the Senate Floor, and its companion bill, HB 1161, has passed the House. These bills specifically include animals in protection orders and grant custody of the animals in question to the person who gets the protection order. Please email Governor Bredesen asking him to sign these bills into law.

HB 1161/SB 196Pets Included in Orders of Protection

Sponsor(s): Rep. Janis Sontany, Senator Tim Burchett
ASPCA Position: Support
Action Needed: Please contact Governor Phil Bredesen and ask him to sign H.B. 1161/S.B. 196 into law.

span style="font-size:115%;">Up to 40 percent of battered women delay going to a shelter because they fear what will happen to their left-behind pet.

One in Four


Will experience

Domestic Violence

In her lifetime.

Update, 5/17/07: Both bills have successfully completed their journeys through the Tennessee Legislature, and now await the Governor's signature. Great job, advocates! HB 1161/SB 196 will give the courts the power to protect pets by including them in protective orders, thereby helping to break the cycle of domestic abuse and violence. Sadly, animals often are used as pawns in domestic disputes. Batterers abuse animals for a variety of reasons—to demonstrate power and control, to retaliate for acts of independence and to coerce a victim to return.

In recent years, a strong and surprising connection has been documented linking animal abuse and domestic violence. In a survey conducted by The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence of those living in shelters for battered women and children, incidents of pet abuse were reported by 85.4 percent of the women and 63 percent of the children. Sixty percent of women who are the victims of domestic violence have had a pet killed by violence.

Please contact members Governor Bredesen ask him to sign H.B. 1161/S.B. 196.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Protecting Yourself if You are Being Stalked


To help determine whether you or someone you know is a victim of stalking, see if anything on the following checklist of sample stalking behaviors matches your situation.

Does a current or former spouse or boyfriend, friend, coworker, neighbor, casual acquaintance or complete stranger . . .

Leave harassing, threatening or obscene messages on your answering machine at home or at your workplace?

Call you repeatedly at your home or workplace, even when asked to stop?

Insist on giving you unwanted gifts, cards, notes or letters?

Watch you or follow you at a distance?

Appear at or drive by your workplace, home or any other place you frequent in your daily activities?

Harass or question your family members, friends, acquaintances or co-workers as to your whereabouts?

Repeatedly send you unwanted e-mail messages?

Photograph or video you repeatedly?

Vandalize or deface your property, car, mail, etc.?

Repeatedly confront you (or your family members) with verbal or physical threats?

Act in some other manner so that your own personal safety feels compromised on a continuing basis?

Stalking can encompass a wide range of behaviors, only some of which are listed above. A stalker may employ very subtle forms of harassment that can, nonetheless, cause a great deal of fear.


Although no solution is foolproof, the strategies listed below can help reduce the potential danger of stalking.

Some require dealing with the legal system and the courts, while others are self-help techniques that you can do on your own. A few of the strategies will help you prepare for taking legal action. Remember, even if you do not anticipate involving the police or the courts at this time, it is best to keep your options open in case something changes. You do not want to disregard a strategy now that may help you take future action. You should also keep in mind that not all strategies will be right for you at all times. Some strategies may impose risks or costs that you do not want to take on, or you may find that different strategies are more or less helpful as your circumstances change. Only you can decide what is appropriate for you.

1. Keep Records

Maintain a stalking log. This can be a crucial part of your self-protection and can prove invaluable should you decide to take legal action. Keep a record of all of the stalker’s activities or actions, noting the dates, and if possible, the times at which they occurred. This is an essential step to take because, in most states, you cannot obtain a conviction for a crime without knowing the date on which the crime occurred. Because you may need to give the police or your attorney a copy of your recrds,do not keep the log as part of your personal diary.
For an example of a stalking log, you can visit the National Center for Victims of Crime website at www.ncvc.org.

Save all evidence documenting the stalking: letters, e-mails, notes, gifts or messages left on your answering machine. Take pictures of destroyed property. Make copies of everything you can, and keep the copies in a safe place or with someone you trust. Evidence of the stalker’s acts can help establish the “intent” requirement present in many states’ stalking statutes, facilitating a conviction.

2. Protect Yourself

Change phone numbers. Have the phone company keep your number unlisted or install caller identification on your telephone. If possible, have coworkers or the receptionist at work screen your calls. You may want to have your name and number removed from the automated phone directory at work.

Try to keep the stalker from gaining personal information about you. Particularly if the stalker does not have your address or if you have moved, consider removing your home address from all checks, business cards and letterheads. Change your mailing address to a private post office box. Place property titles in a trust so that the stalker cannot obtain your address from public records. If your state or county authorizes it, request that voter registration and driver's license information remain confidential. If your local or state agencies do release addresses to anyone who requests them, you should request in writing that your address not be released to anyone but the authorities.

Change your passwords for e-mail or other computer access often and do not tell anyone your passwords or use passwords that a stalker or anyone else could easily guess. Pick a user identification that does not use your real name. Do not reveal any personal information in public spaces on-line, such as chat rooms.

You may want to protect your confidentiality online by not selecting any of the options for your Internet service to remember the user’s name or password. You may also want to clear the search history on your browser to keep the stalker from knowing what sites you have recently viewed. You may want to consult the police or other experts in dealing with stalkers before exercising this option, because knowledge of the stalker’s behaviors may, in some cases, assist in anticipating future threats and potential danger.

In cases of cyberstalking, contact the stalker’s Internet Service Provider (ISP). Many ISPs prohibit harassment through use of their system and will sometimes respond by closing the stalker’s account. Identify the ISP through the domain name following the “@” sign, and contact the system administrator through the company’s web site. Remain aware of your surroundings. This will help you detect and prevent uncomfortable or dangerous situations.

Vary daily routines, driving and walking routes, and places where you shop. It is a good idea to change any social habits that the stalker knows. You may want to go to a new church, a different gym, and change which bars or clubs you frequent.

Try to avoid traveling alone especially in places where you will be away from the public. If you are being followed while driving, do not drive directly home. If the stalker does not know where you live, do not risk revealing it to him. If possible, when you leave work, have a security guard escort you to your car or to the nearest public transportation stop.

Consider informing friends, family and neighbors of the situation, as they could help keep you out of danger and/or serve as potential witnesses. If they do not know what the stalker looks like, show them any pictures you may have. If you do not have a picture, consider carrying a camera with you in the event that the stalker approaches you again.

Warn any friends, neighbors, family, landlords, security guards, employers, etc. that any cooperation with the stalker acts as encouragement. Request that they
not cooperate or encourage the stalker in any way; and realize that if they cooperate with or encourage a stalker, they may be held liable for any subsequent action that the stalker takes against you.

Do not give out information about friends, confidantes, or potential new partners to the stalker. Be leery of please for discussion, meetings or attempts to reconcile; this can put you within physical reach of a potentially dangerous person.

If you work in a large company, you may want to ask your supervisor for a transfer to another office area or branch. Depending on the specifics of the case, your employer may provide additional security measures to reduce your exposure to the stalker. Informing coworkers also can be useful, as they may be more aware of unusual or suspicious activity in the workplace and may later be able to confirm your account of the stalking.

You may want to provide a copy of any protection orders that you have to your employer. You may want to give copies to your supervisor, the legal department, and
security personnel. In some states your employer may also be able to get a protective order for you. (See below for more information on protective orders.)
Consider adding additional home protection, such as dead bolts, outdoor lights and, if possible, a home security system. Change your locks if the stalker has
access to your keys.

You might also consider enrolling in a self-defense class
and participating in support groups.

Involve the Police and the Courts

If it is safe for you to do so, report any and all threats to the police and notify the police of any illegal acts. If possible, contact the police as soon as an incident occurs.

Should the police seem unhelpful, unresponsive or unwilling to help you don’t panic. Simply get their names and badge numbers and report them to their supervisor and attempt to report your complaint to another officer.

You may want to obtain a protective order or restraining order. These orders can prohibit the stalker from coming within a specified distance of you, your home or your workplace.

§ Contact a local domestic violence program or go to your local courthouse and find out if you qualify for a protective order; if you do, apply for an order immediately. If you are told that you do not qualify, make absolutely sure (e.g., speak to a supervisor), because the person you see initially may not have adequate training or awareness of recent changes in the law. A list of some state domestic violence coalitions is available on the National Coalition

Against Domestic Violence website, www.ncadv.org.
§ Note that in some states, protective orders can be obtained in either criminal court or civil court.

§ Be sure not to place your home address or telephone number on the actual order, as this will probably become a public record and can easily be obtained by anyone, particularly a stalker who did not previously know your current address.

§ State laws vary. Consequently, after obtaining the order, find out what will be required of you if your stalker violates the order, and what type of proof or documentation you will need to begin prosecution, if necessary. Find out what a police officer who comes to your aid is obligated to do if the stalker violates the order. Also, find out when the order will be served on the stalker, as you may want to take special precautions for yourself and your family at that time.

When possible, file criminal charges against your stalker. Insist on your rights even if the police seem dismissive. After being encouraged to file charges by a female prosecutor, one woman encountered a police employee who only begrudgingly allowed her to file the complaint while another cracked jokes about it. She noted, however, that filing the complaint saved her life. “Last May, [the stalker] was caught by police on my block with a loaded gn. When the officers learned that I had lodged formal complaints, it made a crucial difference: They could arrest [the stalker] without his actually attacking me.”

If possible, bring a civil suit (a suit brought by you and your attorney, not by the state) against the stalker even if you decide not to press criminal charges. If you win your lawsuit, a court may order the defendant to pay you money to compensate for medical and other expenses that resulted from the stalking or for the resulting pain, suffering and physical and mental injuries. Some states have statutes pertaining specifically to stalking behavior that enable you to sue for monetary damages.

In states that lack these provisions, potential claims include “assault and battery” (someone has touched you without your consent),“intentional infliction of emotional distress” (a person acted in a shocking way and intended for you to suffer severe emotional harm or knows that acting in that manner would cause you to suffer such harm) and invasion of privacy. Talk to an attorney about these options.

The strategies listed above provide useful tools for dealing with stalking. Some of them are relatively easy to undertake in terms of time and money.

Unfortunately, though, some of the strategies may be costly and time-consuming. Similarly, regardless of cost, only certain strategies may be appropriate for you in your specific circumstances. Remember, though, that you are not alone. The lists provided at the end of this kit include contact information for organizations that may be able to assist you.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Domestic and Sexual Violence

Domestic and Sexual Violence

Domestic and intimate partner violence involves physical and sexual attacks against women in the home, within the family or within an intimate relationship. Women are more at risk of experiencing violence in intimate relationships than anywhere else.In no country in the world are women safe from this type of violence. Out of ten counties surveyed in a 2005 study of the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 50 per cent of women in Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Peru and Tanzania reported having been subjected to physical or sexual violence by intimate partners, with figures reaching staggering 71 per cent in rural Ethiopia. Only in one country (Japan) did less than 20 per cent of women report incidents of domestic violence.

An earlier WHO study puts the number of women physically abused by their partners or ex-partners at 30 per cent in the UK, and 22 per cent in the US.Based on several surveys from around the world, half of the women who die from homicides are killed by their current or former husbands or partners. Women are killed by people they know and die from guns violence, beatings and burns among numerous other forms of abuse. A study conducted in Sao Paulo, Brazil reported that 13 per cent of deaths of women of reproductive age were homicides, of which 60 per cent were committed by the victims’ partners.In the USA, 700,000 women are raped or sexually assaulted each year, with 14.8 per cent of women reporting having been raped before the age of 17. In a randomly selected study of nearly 1,200 ninth-grade students in Geneva, Switzerland, 20 per cent of girls revealed they had experienced at least one incident of physical sexual abuse. This form of sexual violence also extends beyond the domestic domain.

Although many countries now have legislation that addresses domestic violence, high levels of violence still persist. There is clearly a need for greater focus on implementation and enforcement of legislation, and an end to laws that emphasize family reunification over the rights of women and girls.In many societies, the legal system and community attitudes add to the trauma rape survivors experience. Women are often held responsible for the violence against them, and in many places laws contain loopholes which allow the perpetrators to act with impunity. In a number of countries, a rapist can go free under the Penal Code if he proposes to marry the victim and she consents. In Pakistan and many other Islamic countries, ordinances require women reporting rape to provide a set number of credible male witnesses to verify the crime. Victims unable to provide these witnesses are often charged instead with adultery.

HIV/AIDS and Domestic Violence

Women’s inability to negotiate safe sex and refuse unwanted sex is closely linked to the high prevalence HIV/AIDS. Unwanted sex — from being unable to say “no!” to a partner and be heard, to sexual assault such as rape — results in a higher risk of abrasion and bleeding, providing a ready avenue for transmission of the virus. Both realities obliterate women’s ability to protect themselves from infection.Violence is a cause as well as a consequence of HIV/AIDS: for many women, the fear of violence prevents them from declaring their HIV-positive status and seeking help and treatment. They have been driven from their homes, left destitute, been ostracized by their families and community, and subjected to extreme physical and emotional abuse. In 1998 Gugu Dhlamini was stoned to death by men in her community in South Africa, after she declared her positive status on radio and television on World AIDS Day.

Young women are particularly vulnerable to coerced sex and are increasingly being infected with HIV/AIDS. Over half of new HIV infections world-wide are occurring among young people between the ages of 15 to 24, and over 60 per cent of HIV-positive youth between the ages of 15 to 24 are women. A study conducted in Tanzania in 2001 found that HIV-positive women were over 2 and half times more likely than HIV-negative women to have experienced violence perpetrated by their current partner.A 2002 UNIFEM-sponsored report on the impact of armed conflict on women underscores how the chaotic and brutal circumstances of armed conflict aggravate all the factors that fuel the crisis. Tragically and most cruelly, in many conflicts, the planned and purposeful HIV infection of women has been a tool of war, often pitting one ethnic group against another, such as what occurred in Rwanda

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