Domestic Violence Victim: Tips from Psychologists

We will tell you what to do if you, your acquaintance or your friend has suffered from domestic violence.

What is violence?

Violence is the use of power and control to harm another person. Violence is almost always cyclical – it is actions that are repeated and, as a rule, are aggravated. It differs from conflict in that it has a hierarchy, intimidation, fear of one person before another. Conflict is when two equal partners cannot reach an agreement (and this is completely normal), and violence is suppression of the partner’s will and undermining his or her self-esteem. If a woman says: “I cannot resist him, otherwise it will only get worse”, “I am worth nothing without him”, “I will not be needed by anyone, everyone will turn their backs on me”, if she does not believe in her own strength, competence, then it is likely that she is regularly subjected to psychological and physical abuse. Often a woman does not want to tell what is happening to her, even to close friends, because in our society it is generally accepted that a good relationship is a criterion for a woman’s success.

How to distinguish domestic violence from ordinary quarrels?

Sometimes it is not easy to do this: aggression develops against women cyclically, so relationships are improving from time to time. A prolonged period of tension is replaced by an act of acute violence: fits of anger, destructive emotions, or assault. After that, the “honeymoon” comes: the man repents, becomes tender and loving. Then everything is repeated.

Over time, fits of anger become more frequent and periods of peace become shorter. Abused women hide it from themselves and try to adapt to the situation. They hope that the relationship will improve and try to please their partner in everything, but a miracle does not happen.

How to behave during an incident?

Act for safety reasons: you need to keep your life and health. Sometimes it is better to run, sometimes to shout, sometimes to provoke as little as possible. Aggressors react differently to the victim’s actions, so there is no universal advice on how to behave.

If possible, turn on the voice or video recorder on your smartphone and record the facts of violence or threat. If the situation is critical, run away from home, even if you did not have time to take the necessary things; and if it does not work out, call the police.

It is likely that the call will not work: in the midst of the conflict, you will not have time for this, and the call can further anger the aggressor. If you have courage, you can defend yourself and fight back with your partner, but there are nuances.

By law, you can defend yourself in any way if there is an immediate threat to life. Even if you kill the attacker. If there is no danger to life, you need to correlate the consequences of the attack with your response.

How to handle abuse: step by step guidelines

1. Tell your loved ones about the problem

Report domestic violence to those you trust: parents, friends, or a colleague. If you remain silent about it, you will not have witnesses who can confirm what is happening. Don’t be afraid to speak up: you will receive support and help.

Domestic tyrants usually seek to isolate the victim, cut off their social ties, and deprive them of outside support. In this regard, the worst strategy is to keep silent. If you are afraid for your life and health, then you have to overcome fear and shame and do the following:

2. Get help

If you do not want to tell your loved ones about the problem, call the free helpline: 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE). Experts will advise you on how to act in your situation and help you cope with it.

You can also contact crisis centers and foundations to help women victims of domestic violence. The nearest organization can be found online.

3. Make a plan for your own salvation

If you are afraid of your partner and fear for your life and health, consider a retreat plan. It will help you to escape in the event of the next incident of violence.

What to do after?

You need to record the beatings, file a report with the police and tell your loved ones about what happened. Do not hide the problem: your humility and patience will not help. No matter how hard you try to please your partner, incidents will be repeated: often the abuser does not need a special reason to insult or beat the victim.

If the child sees how the father beats up the mother, it becomes a serious shock for him/her. Children in such families can suffer from mental disorders and be abused by their parents.

The sequence of your actions after the incident can be different:

Make copies of all documents and keep them in an inaccessible place in case the originals are “lost”. Take pictures of your injuries and ask them to attach them to the case.

If the police refuse to accept the application, call the hotline number, which is indicated on the information stand in the department, and complain about the officer you were at. In addition, you can file a complaint with the prosecutor’s office about police inaction.

Is it possible to understand in advance that a person is prone to violence?

Yes, there are warning signs before your relationship has gone too far. Be wary if your partner:

How to help a victim of domestic violence

We expect help from non-specialists primarily in information and support. It is good if you manage to create a comfortable space for the victim, free from judgments, complaints and coercion. It is worth regularly saying that you are ready to listen, support. There is a map of social and psychological assistance centers throughout the country.

Many crisis centers operate online and can be accessed by phone.

If you have concerns about a woman’s safety or health, it is worth escorting her to the police or hospital – employees may behave incorrectly and she will need support. We have a legal service that hosts application templates for different cases: sexual or physical abuse, death threats, divorce or child disputes.

You can call an ambulance or the police, find out if there are close people who should be called. Take the victim to a safe place – at least to the nearest cafe. The greatest help is provided by those who simply do not turn away, listen and give information.

What you should NOT do

You can’t say “nothing terrible happened” – if we are talking about violence, then it’s scary. You should not try to divert her attention, distract, cheer – it does not work well. There is no need to urgently reassure the victim if she is crying, ask to pull herself together and offer to take a sedative – all reactions are completely normal, this needs to be shown to the person. Tears, profanity, name-calling – all this is appropriate in such circumstances and must be experienced. Your task is to give water, handkerchiefs, listen and not inspire guilt.

You shouldn’t talk about the victim on social media without her consent – even if you know the other side. This is a toxic practice that can shut off a woman from any help. You can not blame a woman for staying in these relationships, although everyone already understands that they are violent. You shouldn’t ask “when will you finally leave him?”, say “if you don’t leave him tomorrow, don’t complain to me”. It can be very difficult to get away from an abuser and, being afraid of reprimand, a woman may stop communicating with you and will be left alone with the problem.