Abuse includes different behaviors (physical, sexual, psychological and emotional forms) that are used to establish power and control the victim, who is most frequently a woman. Often, because of shame and guilt, the victim does not report the abuse to authorities or talk about it with family or friends. Abuse can occur in any race, age group, economic or educational, or nationality.
FREQUENT SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
In female victims:
- Physical injuries to the body including broken bones, bruises, burns, choking, bites and rape. Most injuries are inflicted on the head, neck, chest, abdomen and breasts. Injuries occur on the arms which are used to deflect blows.
- Other symptoms may include chronic pelvic pain, sexual dysfunction, feelings of anxiety, sleep disorders, depression, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), eating disorders, psychological problems and thoughts of suicide.
In the male abuser:
- Angry, suspicious, tense and moody behaviors. Sometimes can be extremely charming. They alternate periods of abuse with periods of affection.
- May demonstrate pathological jealousy, fear of abandonment, lack of assertiveness, possessiveness and fear of dependence.
- Watches wife closely; keeps her away from her friends.
- Makes threats of violence; may play with guns or knives.
There are a number of theories as to why domestic abuse occurs and how it evolves. Researchers are still looking for answers. The same characteristics and risk factors that describe abusers also describe many men who do not become abusive.
RISK INCREASES WITH
- A history of family abuse. The male abuser and often, female victims witnessed abuse as they grew up.
Abusers are men who tend to use alcohol or drugs, frequently are employed, and are less educated (however, many educated professional men are abusers).
- Males who are dependent on women, have financial worriers, feelings of inadequacy and have traditional attitudes, particularly about sex.
- Females lacking self-esteem and females who feel dependent and useless.
- Pregnant females. Abuse is often in miscarriages.
- To stem domestic violence, a united effort is necessary for society to deal with the roots of the problem.
- Women should seek help at the first sign of abuse and not assume that the abuser will change or the abuse will stop.
With the increased public awareness of the problem and availability of support systems, more women are seeking help early.
- Years of emotional and physical abuse.
- Death of the abused woman.
- Killing of abuser.
If you are abused:
Protect yourself, especially the head and abdomen. Get help; if you can, get away from the abuser. Document the abuse with pictures, telling someone.
- Have a personal safety plan established (place to stay, money necessary to get there and survival funds, transportation and clothing and personal essentials packed).
- Seek legal help. Police departments and prosecutory practices are rapidly improving in responding to the problems.
- Numerous agencies and shelters for helping abused women and children are available
Treatment steps for a victim:
- Get medical help for any injuries.
- Counseling is vital. The variety of treatment options will help a woman learn to cope, regain self-confidence and ability to function.
- Educational and treatment groups have had some success for abusive men.
- Most importantly, abusers must be confronted with the results of the behavior and learn that they will go to jail if they don’t change.