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  • Cara Rheinschmidt

What It Means to Be a Domestic Violence Ally

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. While we consistently raise awareness throughout the year, we want to focus on what we as a community can do to support our neighbors and loved ones.

This blog will first define what domestic violence is, the patterns and signs of domestic violence, and how you can help stop the stigma of silence surrounding domestic violence.

Heart Struck to Heart Strong

To begin, it is estimated that about 10,000,000 people experience domestic violence every year. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, about 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner. Partners may be married or not married, heterosexual, gay, or lesbian. Partners could be living together, separated, or dating. But that’s the thing, domestic violence is not just intimate partner abuse.

Domestic violence can be criminal and include physical assault, sexual abuse, or stalking. Domestic violence can also include emotional, psychological, and financial abuse. A person who has been exposed to domestic violence often stay silent and hide their abuse.

There is a stigma that surrounds domestic violence survivors and “why they stay”. Many survivors of domestic violence can feel ashamed for how they feel towards their abuser or why they have chosen to maintain a relationship with them.

Survivors might not recognize that they are in an abusive relationship or have other barriers that make them scared to leave such as finances and children. Regardless of the stigma that surrounds domestic violence, it is important to note that domestic violence is a public health crisis that severely needs to be addressed.

What is Domestic Violence?

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Domestic violence is the willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, and/or other abusive behavior as part of a systematic pattern of power and control perpetrated by one intimate partner against another. It includes physical violence, sexual violence, threats, and emotional abuse. The frequency and severity of domestic violence can vary dramatically. Domestic violence is behaviors used by one person in a relationship to control the other.

Patterns of Abusive Behavior

So, what is the first step in stopping the stigma of silence surrounding domestic violence? Recognizing the patterns of abusive behavior. Patterns of abusive behavior include but are not limited to:

· Name-calling or put downs

· Keeping a partner from contacting their family or friends

· Withholding money

· Stopping a partner from getting or keeping a job

· Actual or threatened physical harm

· Sexual assault

· Stalking

· Intimidation

Warning Signs Someone Is the Victim of Domestic Violence

· Personality changes.

· Isolation from friends or family

· Skipping out on work, school, or other important events

· Constantly worried about pleasing or angering their partner

· Making excuses for their partner’s behavior

How Can I Help?

If you know someone who might be in a domestic violence situation, one of the most important things you can do is help break the silence and be an ally for the survivor. Being supportive,

We asked our staff and advocates at Defy “What It Means To Be a Domestic Violence Ally”

Here’s what they had to say:

"Not questioning the decision a survivor makes just knowing they made the best decision to make it safely though that moment."

"Showing full support to survivors. Support will look different for everyone that is on this journey. Sometimes support is just listening or providing resources. The bottom line is, it is the individual’s journey, not mine, there is no judgement."

"I meet the survivor where they are at and accept them as they are. The rest will come together eventually, in their own time."

"Being alongside someone to help them fight for what they believe in and to help them stay safe to stop the violence and to rebuild their life"

"An ally is someone who provides emotional support and...validating their experience, just being there and when you can... provided tangible forms of support."

"Standing up for clients and being their voice when they have trouble finding their own."

"It means listening, respecting, and believing what the clients tell me about their situation and what has happened."

"Being an ally means making sure that they know they are never alone regardless of how they feel."


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