Domestic violence in women
If the past has shown us anything, it is that domestic violence isn’t biased in Scott County. It affects women of all ages and socioeconomic backgrounds. In the first 10 months of the Scott County Family Justice Center’s operations, the center’s clients ranged in age from 17 to 71.
Domestic violence disproportionately affects women. In 2017, the last year for which statewide statistics have been tabulated, 71% of domestic violence victims in Tennessee were women — meaning women are three times more likely to be victims of domestic violence than men.
Abusive relationships aren’t always easy to identify. They aren’t always like they’re portrayed on TV. But all of them involve one thing: An abuser who relishes power and control in the relationship. Abusive relationships don’t always involve physical violence. Domestic violence takes on many forms, including emotional and sexual abuse, as well as verbal abuse and threats of violence.
According to thehotline.org, “Gaslighting is an extremely effective form of emotional abuse that causes a victim to question their own feelings, instincts and sanity, which gives the abusive partner a lot of power (and we know that abuse is about power and control). Once an abusive partner has broken down the victim’s ability to trust their own perceptions, the victim is more likely to stay in the abusive relationship.”
If you experience any of the following from your spouse or partner, you might be experiencing domestic violence.
• They’re verbally demeaning, either by insulting you or calling you names.
• They prevent you from going to work or school, and don’t want you to see family members or friends.
• They try to control how you spend money, where you go, what you wear — even what medicines you take.
• They act jealous or possessive, or constantly accuse you of being unfaithful.
• They get angry or violent when drinking alcohol or using drugs.
• They threaten you with a weapon, or make other threats about harming you.
• They physically assault you in any way: hitting, kicking, slapping or strangulation. Or they hurt your children or pets.
• They force you to have sex or engage in sexual acts.
Often, an abusive partner will apologize for his or her actions, promising to change and even buying gifts as a means of apologizing. But, too often, the cycle simply repeats itself. And the longer you stay in an abusive relationship, the greater the toll will be that it takes on you. It can lead to depression or anxiety. It can isolate you from your family and friends. It can even cause you to lose your job.
Ultimately, it can cost you your life. As the pattern of abuse continues, it often escalates. In 2017, domestic violence resulted in 81 murders in Tennessee.
Consider your children
Abuse during pregnancy is a very real threat in violent relationships. Statistics show that about 1 in 6 pregnant women have been abused by a partner. Sometimes, an abuser will even aim his blows at a pregnant woman’s belly — violence that can not only harm you but also your unborn baby. Abuse can lead to miscarriage, or it can cause your baby to be born too soon, have low birthweight or physical injuries.
Even if your unborn baby is not harmed directly, abusive relationships can cause mothers to develop unhealthy habits. Even abusive relationships that aren’t physical, but that involve emotional abuse, can cause women to feel scared or depressed, causing them to eat unhealthy foods or take up smoking or drinking.
There are reasons why pregnancy can trigger abuse that might not have existed before. Unplanned or unwanted pregnancies can place additional stress on families. But stress is never an excuse for violence.
When there are minor children in the home, domestic violence impacts even more people than just the mother. Studies have shown that of the children whose parents are involved in a violent relationship, as many as 90% are eyewitnesses. This can increase anxiety and fear in children, leading to a number of behavioral changes. In very young children, symptoms may include an onset of bed-wetting or thumb-sucking, increased crying, difficulty sleeping and psychological symptoms. In school-aged children, symptoms can include poor grades at school, isolation with few friends, and a tendency to get into trouble. In teenaged children, symptoms can include aggression, poor academic performance, and engaging in risky behaviors, such as unprotected sex and using drugs or alcohol. Among teenaged girls especially, domestic violence within the home can lead to depression.
Overall, behavioral experts say that children who are in an abusive home are more likely to have behavioral problems than other children. As adults, they’re more likely to become abusers themselves, or to think that abuse is a normal part of relationships.
Develop a plan
Women involved in violent relationships often feel trapped. They worry that telling someone will further endanger them — or, more often, they’re afraid that it will endanger their children. Sometimes, they also worry about breaking up their family. But a violent relationship isn’t worth the risks — not to the women themselves, and not to their children. Seeking help is the best way out.
The first step is to confide in someone you trust. It can be your mother, your pastor, your doctor or a friend.
You should also consider developing a safety plan. This involves learning the phone number for the domestic violence shelter (in Scott County: the Shelter Society, 423-569-3333) or having a place you can stay with a friend, neighbor or family member. Have some extra cash on hand, along with important documents and items you might need, such as your health insurance card, your bank account information, your Social Security card and prescription medications. Pack a suitcase with toiletries, a change of clothes for yourself and your children, and an extra set of keys to your car or house. Give the suitcase to someone who can hold it for you safely.
Remember: the Scott County Family Justice Center can help. If you feel that you’ve been abused, give us a call or stop by. You can talk to us discretely and we can help you develop a plan. If you’re ready to get out of an abusive relationship, we can help you find secure shelter, help you obtain an order of protection and refer you to the other services you will need. We’re not here to judge you; we’re here to help you.
Quiz: Am I being abused?
Are you in an unhealthy relationship? Too often, women convince themselves that they aren’t, even though they may be. Consider the following questions. If you answer “yes” to one or more, you may be in a dangerous relationship.
» Does my spouse or partner always put me down, or try to make me feel bad about myself?
» Has my partner physically harmed me?
» Does my partner threaten me, my children, or himself?
» Does my partner try to blame me for his actions?
» Is my partner becoming increasingly violent?
» Has my partner promised to never hurt me again, but still does?
An app for women
If you’re in an abusive relationship, consider the Aspire News app. It looks just like any news app, but allows you to call for help at the touch of a button and also contains resources for victims.
Mother honors children with new store
Is there life after an abusive relationship? This Oneida mother proves that, yes, there absolutely is!