Violence or other forms of abuse that take place in a domestic setting is known as domestic violence. In broader terms, it does encompass abuse and violence against parents, children, and the elderly, but generally, it has been synonymous with abuse experienced by one in an intimate relationship. Domestic abuse can be physical, emotional, financial, religious, or sexual.
The statistics show a grave picture. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence states that every 1 in 3 women and every 1 in 4 men have experienced some physical domestic abuse. Unfortunately, the statistics do not paint a clear picture as domestic violence is the most underreported crime.
Why domestic violence goes unreported?
The victims of domestic abuse or violence are mostly those who are in an intimate relationship like marriage, cohabitation, or dating. One partner controls the other through a series of physical or verbal abuse. Victims struggle to report it because it comes from someone they deeply love and care for.
The abuse does not start right away, and in some relationships, it takes months or years to exhibit such behavior. At that point, the victim tries to give their abuser the benefit of the doubt. It may be because the abuser and the victim have built a life together, they may have children, or simply, there is too much history to just let go. The victim is too afraid to report because of all the consequences that may follow after.
Much attention has been given to this social evil, and cases have been reported to the concerned authorities in recent times. Different organizations have devoted their time to raising awareness, and domestic violence social workers have been working tirelessly to help the victims escape such situations.
In cases where the victim does not disclose it, it is very difficult for their close friends and family to identify violence and reach out to help. If you know someone who may be experiencing domestic abuse, you probably would feel extremely oblivious about the way to help them out. In this article, we have gathered some pointers that can help you in reaching out.
1. Make time to listen
Domestic violence is unreported because the victim fears many things. To make them open up fully and share every detail with you, you must ensure they have your undivided attention. Set aside time where you know you won’t be bothered by your personal or work commitments. Find a safe place for your loved ones so that they feel comfortable enough to talk.
2. Initiate the conversation
Your loved one facing domestic violence will likely have difficulty sharing their worries. It has to be you who should start the conversation. You can say, “I have been noticing worrisome things,” or “I am concerned about your well-being and safety.” Just take it slow and let the conversation take its course.
You cannot expect the victim to open up immediately, so you must be patient and calm. You need to convey to them that you are there for them and are fully available to help them out of this mess. Discuss all the unusual things you have noticed that are clear signs of abuse so that they know you care for them.
3. Listen without judging
Victims fear that people might be judgmental and blame them for bringing out the offensive side of their partner. This is one of the reasons why they have difficulty disclosing their ordeal. If you have reached this point that they have decided to speak to you, you must listen intently.
There should not be any judgments, suggestions, or pieces of advice from your side. If your loved one senses a bit of judgment, they may crawl back into their shell and refuse to open up to you or anyone again.
4. Believe the victim
Victims strongly consider that no one would believe them, making them hesitant to speak up. To gain their trust, you must let them know that you believe everything they are telling you. You can assure them by saying, “you do not deserve this,” or “I completely believe you.” Hearing such assurances gives them a sense of hope.
5. Validation of feelings
The dynamics of every intimate relationship vary. It is the union of two individuals who may have different viewpoints, opinions, goals, and dreams. Psychologists pen down that many domestic violence victims find it difficult to identify abuse as they are trying hard to make the union work despite all the hardships. They are constantly battling conflicting feelings and are mostly unsure of what is happening to them.
You must, at all times, acknowledge the abuse and call it wrong. You can also let your loved one know that having conflicting feelings and the reasons they may never take an out are valid. But for you, their safety is extremely important. This will give them a sense of being understood, and they’d become more at ease while opening up.
6. Offer assistance
Finances have been one of the most common reasons victims choose to remain in abusive relationships. They know their relationship is not healthy, yet they do not have the resources to take this step. You can help them look up and write contact numbers of close friends, family, shelters, support groups, counselors, or social workers.
You can also strategize a safety plan with them if the abuse happens again and they decide to leave. You can go through the plan step by step, so they feel confident and ready to leap. Guide them in preparing an “escape bag” that contains some cash, important documents, clothes, etc., that they can easily access in case of an emergency.
The complexities of domestic violence go beyond the comprehension of an outsider. It is never simple to leave and quit everything. There can be many factors that inhibit the victim from making such decisions. The victim will come to terms with the reality at their own pace. There isn’t much that you can do except offer them unconditional care and love.
At the end of the day, what they need is a friend who has their back no matter what they choose to do with their life. But collectively, as a society, we must all play our part in eradicating this social vice and ensuring the safety of everyone in the comforts of their homes.