Every minute, 20 people are victims of intimate partner violence. Every day, three women are murdered by a current or former male partner.
Domestic violence is defined by violent or aggressive behavior, typically, but not always, within the home, towards a spouse or partner, with abusers often using intimidation, threats, isolation, and sexual assault to control their victims. On average, 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men will experience domestic violence in their lifetimes.
Jessica Castle from the YWCA York calls it an epidemic. “The most recent statistics that I have seen show that 1 in 3 teens are or will be in a teen-dating violent, abusive relationship,” she said. “This doesn’t only mean physical abuse; it can be verbal, emotional, or digital. There’s a lot of different forms of abuse.”
Domestic violence is often hidden from the public eye, which is why it can be hard for close friends and even parents of victims to figure out that something is wrong.
One of the main red flags to look out for is control. This can range from the abuser controlling who the victim can be friends with to deciding what is acceptable to wear out in public, or even if they’re allowed to go out at all.
Other flags that should be paid attention to as well include extreme jealousy and verbal bullying, especially in teenage relationships.
“If you see that behavior is changing in your friend, if they’re becoming more withdrawn, or not hanging out with you, and making up a lot of excuses, it would be time to get concerned,” Castle said. “The best thing to do in that case is to reach out to that person, in a supportive way, to let them know that you’re concerned and that you’re there for them.”
It’s also very important to not reach out to a friend in a judgemental fashion. “If you think about someone in an abusive relationship, their self-esteem and confidence is down, and the last thing that they need is a friend to criticize them too.” Castle said.
While it may take a while for the person in the abusive relationship to recognize it, the best way to help them through it is to be persistent and be there for them. And when they finally do realize that their relationship is dangerous, the most effective way to get away safely is to make a plan and make everyone around them aware of the situation.
Let those connected to the person know that they are trying to leave the relationship, so that they are not encouraged to “just take one phone call” and reconcile or to allow the other person to get ahold of a new cell phone number or street address.
Domestic violence is all about control and power, so the most dangerous time for someone in an abusive relationship is when they are actually leaving the abuser, taking the power and control with them.
For those who aren’t sure whether or not their relationship is toxic or not, Castle has one question to help you decide. “Ask them to take an inventory of what they like about the person they’re in a relationship with, as well as what they don’t like about that person. Do the healthy characteristics outweigh the bad, unhealthy ones?”