Domestic Violence is when two people get into an intimate relationship and one person uses a pattern of coercion and control against the other person during the relationship and/or after the relationship has terminated. It often includes physical, sexual, emotional, or economic abuse. (Source: North Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence)
Although the Agency does not work with the issue of domestic violence directly, this issue often comes up in the work that we do. Domestic violence often includes sexual assault and many clients may be working on issues related to both. When working with clients try to assess their most pressing need. If an individual needs help with an abusive relationship or is seeking shelter provide them with a referral to Mainstay at (828) 693-3840.
Before referring someone to Mainstay it is important to assess for their current safety. Take time to actively listen their concerns and be sure to ask the following questions:
- Are you in a safe place?
- If they answer no, do you need me to call the police?
- Do we have time to talk right now?
- Would you like me to arrange to have someone from Mainstay call you? Or would you prefer to call them?
- If they call, will you be the one answering the phone? How should they identify themselves?
- Is it safe to leave a message?
- Is it safe for a male volunteer to call?
- When is the best time to call?
It is important to familiarize yourself with the dynamics surrounding relationship violence. You should be prepared to safety plan with an individual who is unable or unwilling to call Mainstay. It is also important to be able to recognize and explain relationship violence to sexual assault callers who might be experiencing both issues.
More information about relationship violence can be found on the North Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence website www.ncadv.org.
Signs to Look for in a Battering Personality
This particular list of behaviors is specific to hetersexual relationship where the male partner perpetrates the violence. Although some of the dynamics may be similar, please be aware that different types of relationships may face different dynamics. This list is not meant to cover all relationships. (See power and control wheels contained in this section.)
Many women are interested in ways that they can predict whether they are about to become involved with someone who will be physically abusive. Below are a list of behaviors that are seen in people who beat their girlfriends or wives; the last four signs listed are almost always seen only if the person is a batterer — if the person has several of the other behaviors (say 3 or more) there is a strong potential for physical violence — the more signs the person has, the more likely the person is a batterer. In some cases, a batterer may only have a couple of behaviors that the woman can recognize, but they are very exaggerated (e.g., extreme jealousy over ridiculous things). Initially the batterer will try to explain his behavior as signs of love and concern, and a woman may be flattered at first; as time goes on, the behaviors become more severe and serve to dominate the woman.
- Jealousy: At the beginning of a relationship, an abuser will always say that his jealousy is a sign of love; jealousy has nothing to do with love. It is a sign of insecurity and possessiveness. He will question the woman about who she talks to, accuse her of flirting, or be jealous of time she spends with family, friends or children. As the jealousy progresses, he may call her frequently during the day or drop by unexpectedly. He may refuse to let her work for fear she’ll meet someone else, or even do strange behaviors such as checking her car mileage or asking friends to watch her.
- Controlling Behavior: At the first, the batterer will say that this behavior is because he’s concerned for the woman’s safety, her need to use her time well, or her need to make decisions. He will be angry if the woman is “late” coming back from the store or an appointment, he will question her closely about where she went, who she talked to. As this behavior gets worse, he may not let the woman make any personal decisions about the house, her clothing, going to church; he may keep all of the money or even make her ask permission to leave the house or room.
- Quick Involvement: Many battered women dated or knew their abuser less than 6 months before they were engaged or living together. He comes on like a whirl-wind “you’re the only person I will ever talk to,” “I’ve never felt loved like this by anyone.” He needs someone desperately, and will pressure the woman to commit to him.
- Unrealistic Expectations: He is very dependent on the woman for all of his needs; he expects her to be the perfect wife, mother, lover, friend. He will say things like “if you love me, I’m all you need — you’re all I need.” She is supposed to take care of everything for him emotionally and in the home.
- Isolation: The man tries to cut the woman off from all resources. If she has men friends, she is a “whore”, if she has women friends, she is a lesbian, if she is close to her family, “she is tied to apron strings.” He accuses people who are her supports of “causing trouble”, he may want to live in the country without a phone, he may not let her use the car, or he may try to keep her from working or going to school.
- Blames Others for his Problems: If he is chronically unemployed, someone is always doing him wrong, out to get him. He may make mistakes and then blame the woman for upsetting him and keeping him from concentrating on doing his job. He will tell the woman she is at fault for almost anything that goes wrong.
- Blames Others for his Feelings: He will tell the woman “you make me mad,” “you’re hurting me by not doing what I ask,” “I can’t help being angry.” He really makes the decision about what he thinks and feels, but will use his feelings to manipulate the woman. Harder to catch are his claims that “you make me happy,” “You control how I feel.”
- Hypersensitivity: The man is easily insulted, he claims his feelings are “hurt” when he’s really very mad, or he takes the slightest set backs as personal attacks. He will “rant and rave” about the injustice of things that have happened to him–things that are really just part of living like being asked to work overtime, getting a traffic ticket, being told that something he does is annoying, being asked to help with chores.
- Cruelty to Animals or Children: This is a man who punishes animals brutally or is insensitive to their pain or suffering; he may expect children to be capable of doing things far beyond their ability (whips a two year old for wetting his diaper) or he may tease children or young brothers and sisters until they cry. (60% of men who beat the women they are with also beat their children). He may not want children to eat at the table or expect them to keep to their room all evening while he is home.
- “Playful” Use of Force in Sex: This man may like to throw the woman down and hold her during sex, he may want to act out fantasies during sex where the woman is helpless. He’s letting her know that the idea of “rape” excites him. He may show little concern about whether the woman wants to have sex and use sulking or anger to manipulate her into compliance. He may start having sex with the woman while she is sleeping, or demand sex when she is ill or tired.
- Verbal Abuse: In addition to saying things that are meant to be cruel and hurtful, this can be seen by the man degrading the woman, cursing her, running down any of her accomplishments. The man will tell her that she’s stupid and unable to function without him. This may involve waking her up to verbally abuse her or not letting her sleep.
- Rigid Sex Roles: The man expects a woman to serve him; will say she must stay at home, that she must obey him in all things–even things that are criminal in nature. The abuser will see women as inferior to men, more stupid, unable to be a whole person without a relationship.
- Dr. Jeckell and Mr. Hyde: Many women are confused by their abuser’s “sudden” changes in mood–they will describe that one minute he’s nice and the next minute he explodes or that he’s “crazy.” Explosiveness and mood swings are typical of men who beat their partners; these behaviors can be related to other characteristics, such as hypersensitivity.
- Past Battering: The man may say he has hit women in the past, but they made him do it. The woman may hear from the relatives or ex-spouses that the man is abusive. A batterer may beat any women he is with; situational circumstances do not make a person an abusive personality.
- Threats of Violence: This would include any threat of physical force meant to control the woman. Most men do not threaten their mates, but a batterer will try to excuse his behavior by saying “everybody talks like that.”
- Breaking or Striking Objects: This behavior is used as a punishment (breaking loved possessions), but is mostly used to terrorize the woman into submission. The man may beat on tables with his fists or throw objects near the woman. Again, this is a very remarkable behavior; only very immature people beat on objects in the presence of other people in order to threaten them.
- Any Force During an Argument: This may involve a man holding a woman down, physically restraining her from leaving the room, any pushing or shoving. (The man may hold the woman against a wall and say “you’re going to listen to me.”)