What is domestic violence?
Domestic violence is abuse that happens in a personal relationship. It can happen between past or current partners, spouses, or boyfriends and girlfriends.
Domestic violence affects men and women of any ethnic group, race, or religion; gay or straight; rich or poor; teen, adult, or elderly. But most of its victims are women. In fact, 1 out of 4 women will be a victim at some point.1
The abuser may use fear, bullying, and threats to gain power and control over the other person. He or she may act jealous, controlling, or possessive. These early signs of abuse may happen soon after the start of the relationship and might be hard to notice at first.
After the relationship becomes more serious, the abuse may get worse.
Money troubles and problems with drugs or alcohol can make it more likely that abuse will happen.
Abuse is also common in teens who are dating. It often happens through controlling behaviors and jealousy.
What should you do if you're being abused?
It's important to get help. Talk with someone you trust, such as a friend, a help center, or your doctor. Talking with someone can help you make the changes you need.
Your first step is to contact a local advocacy group for support, information, and advice on how to stay safe. Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (1-800-799-7233) for the nearest program. The hotline is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, in English, Spanish, and other languages.
You can also see the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence website at www.ncadv.org/resources/StateCoalitionList.php to find the program nearest to you that offers shelter and legal support.
Here are some other things you can do:
What should you do if you know someone who is being abused?
Here are some things you can do to help:
Keep in mind that the person may not want or be ready to leave. He or she probably knows the abuser best and knows what options are safest. But it is important for victims of abuse to know where they can get help.
Why do victims stay?
People who are not abused might find it hard to understand why anyone would stay in a violent relationship. Some people think that if a person stays in an abusive relationship, she or he must be weak or needy. This is not true.
There is more to this issue than simply leaving or staying. A woman may fear that the abuser will hurt her and her children or take her children away. She may have limited financial options. She may blame herself. She may stay for religious reasons or because she does not want to break up the family. Also, she may still love her abuser and hope that things will get better. Men who are being abused may have similar feelings.
What are the harmful effects of domestic violence?
Domestic violence hurts victims as well as their families. Don't ignore it.
People who suffer from abuse can be badly hurt. They are also likely to have long-lasting (chronic) health problems, such as depression, headaches, and post-traumatic stress disorder. This is because of the repeated injuries and stress from living with abuse.
Abuse can happen more often and get worse when women are pregnant. It is dangerous for both the mother and the baby. It can raise the baby's risk of low birth weight, premature birth, and death.3, 4 The pregnant woman is at higher risk of other problems, such as infections and bleeding.
And abuse has a big effect on children. Children who live in a home where abuse happens see violence as a normal way of life. It also raises their chance of being in a violent relationship as adults, either as abusers or as victims.5 Teens are at a greater risk for depression, drug and alcohol use, and unsafe behavior.
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