When Home Isn't Safe

We're pretty good at safety in the US. We teach our kids to look both ways before crossing the road. We tell them not to talk to or take candy from a stranger. We lock our homes and cars, put up cameras, and install alarm systems. As an added layer of security, some of us have dogs or fences to intimidate potential intruders. But what happens when the danger isn't on the outside? What if who you fear lies in bed with you or in the next room?
Domestic violence is a constant threat for far too many Americans. 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have experienced some form of physical violence by an intimate partner. And that's just physical violence from a partnerThat doesn't include verbal and emotional abuse or abuse from a family member. The number of those affected by domestic violence is staggering.
And in most cases, the violence is not a one-time attack. Men, women, and children who live in violent homes have to be on constant alert. You've heard of the fight or flight response? That is a perpetual reality for people in these homes. They live in a constant state of fear, bodies poised to react to danger. Almost anything could be a trigger to set off the violent family member, so they have to be ready. While many of us see our home as a place of relaxation and peace, many others see it as a place of terror and stress.
Domestic violence can happen to anyone. Violent relationships might be easier to spot and avoid if they followed some sort of predictable pattern. But they don't. The people who abuse are from every demographic you could imagine. They are old, young, gay, straight, rich, poor, black, white, educated, and under-educated. So if you had a mental image of the "stereotypical abuser," throw it away.
Have you ever seen pictures of Ted Bundy? He was an attractive, educated, white man, described as being "kind and empathetic".1 He certainly didn't fit anyone's stereotype of an abusive person. But he murdered at least 30 people! No one suspected that such a nice looking, charming man like Ted Bundy could be capable of such evil. And a lot of people suffered because of that assumption. We get ourselves into trouble when we assume what someone would or wouldn't be capable of based on appearance. You have to look much deeper to know who someone truly is.

If it's difficult to pick an abuser out of a crowd, it's even more difficult to categorize their victims. Victims are NOT all women. They are NOT all under the influence of drugs or alcohol. They can be of any race, gender, socioeconomic status, and age. Being the target of an abuser does not make you any less valuable as a person. It could happen to anyone.
Domestic violence takes on many different forms. When we hear the words "abuse" or "violence," our minds usually jump to the physical. We think of people who beat their spouses. And while this does happen often, it's just one of the many ways abusers control their victims. They often use other tactics, such as manipulation and isolation, to take power from their victims. They use insults, pressure, and intimidation to get what they want. They may steal their partner's money or restrict their access to the outside world. Emotional, sexual, and financial abuse can be just as devastating as physical abuse.
Also, domestic violence isn't just between partners. Some parents are abusive toward their children or other relatives in the house. Some children are abusive toward their siblings or parents. The defining factor is where it happens: Domestic violence is violent or aggressive behavior in the home. So if you know someone who is suffering from abuse in the home, please give them our number: 1.800.382.5603. We're here to help.
1Rule, Ann (2000). The Stranger Beside Me (Paperback; updated 20th anniversary ed.). New York: Signet. ISBN 978-0-451-20326-7.