Stacey Dash, Mel Gibson, Charlie Sheen, Dennis Rodman. All well-known pop culture names, all who have been arrested for domestic abuse. Outside of the headlines and stories we often see, how much do you really know about domestic abuse? Every year in October (and the rest of the year) countless domestic violence professionals and survivors work tirelessly to bring attention to this epidemic. In order to understand it, we need to define it.
Domestic Violence is a series of ongoing events, power & control techniques used to put fear in the victim by the abuser to make sure they don’t tell and don’t leave. It is important to remember that abuse is a choice, and used to show that the abuser, and not the victim is in total control. Often what we see in the headlines is the singular event that led to an arrest. What we don’t see is the months or years of abuse that were done in secret that led up to it.
Abuse can come in many different forms and does not always lead to violence. It is also the misconception that domestic violence is always perpetrated by a man or that it only occurs in heterosexual relationships. Domestic violence does not discriminate. The scars of things like verbal abuse, destruction of property, threats, sexual abuse, and emotional abuse can often leave just as much trauma if not more than the physical abuse itself.
Survivors of repeated abuse will often experience fear/terror of death of harm if they try to leave. This helps the abuser to stay in the cycle. As the relationship goes on survivors often will feel shame and guilt they have let this happen to them, and embarrassment that leads to continued secrecy. This is also a misguided belief that the abuser will change.
The question then becomes, if this is SO bad, why not just leave. Survivors are often met with a variety of barriers that make it very difficult to leave without the support of friends, family, and a domestic violence professional. Survivors will often fear for their lives, fear that they will lose their children due to lack of finances for a custody battle, fear that no one will help or believe them.
How to help if you or someone you know is dealing with domestic abuse at home
Luckily, in Chicago there is high access to domestic violence agencies and shelters with staff who are trained in assisting in the counseling needed to help someone leave these types of situations. Additionally, domestic violence therapists are at practices throughout the city. Help can be just a phone call away as there are countless 24 hour hotlines that are answered by trained professionals. Most assistance is free and will include legal aid.
National Domestic Violence Hotline 800-799-7233
Family Shelter Services 630-469-5650.
Apna Ghar (773) 883-4663