What is Domestic Violence?
In California the Penal Code defines abuse as “intentionally or recklessly causing or attempting to cause bodily injury, or placing another person in reasonable apprehension of imminent, serious bodily injury to himself or another.” Domestic Violence is the term applied if you are abused by your spouse or a former spouse, someone you live with or used to live with, someone you are dating or engaged to, or someone with whom you have had a child. It’s important to remember, though, that while not all abuse is considered a crime, it’s impact can be devastating to the victim.
Abuse can be physical, emotional or sexual.
Emotional abuse may include:
- Verbal put downs
- Threats to you, your children, or your pets
- Controlling who you see, where you go, or what you wear
- Isolating you from others
- Humiliating you
- Crazy-making mind games
- Following or stalking you
Physical abuse may include:
- Damaging property, punching holes in the wall, throwing objects, kicking doors, or any violent loss of control
- Driving recklessly with you or your children in the car
- Threatening you with a weapon or using a weapon to hurt you
- Forcing you to leave your home
- Keeping you from leaving a room or your house
- Hurting your children
- Hitting, pinching, shoving, punching, or hurting you in any way
Sexual Abuse may include:
- Sexual insults or name calling
- Forcing or manipulating you into having sex against your will
- Demanding sex when you are sick or in pain
- Forcing you to do sexual things you’re uncomfortable with
- Hurting you during sex
Other Kinds of Abuse may include:
- Attacking the your spiritual beliefs or misquoting scripture to justify abusive behavior
- Withholding money or not allowing you to work
- Controlling all of the money or making you account for every penny
- Ruining your credit
- Forcing you to sign documents that you don’t want to sign or don’t understand
- Threatening deportation of you or your family members
- Killing or harming your pets
- Destroying property, especially things that are meaningful or special
- “Accidentally” ruining things you like
Some of these behaviors can be prosecuted as crimes, others cannot. If you’re thinking that you’d like to report domestic violence to the police but aren’t sure, you can talk to a Domestic Violence Counselor at NEWS who can help. You can call for advice even if you want to remain anonymous while you figure out your options. We can connect you with an advocate who can help you talk with a law enforcement professional to make a report.
How can I make it stop?
The first step is to understand the cycle of violence and that you can only control your own actions and choices. Support groups and counseling can be very helpful in gaining insight into your relationship and empowering you to make decisions about your safety, your right to be treated with respect, and your future.
What causes people to abuse their partners?
There are many factors that may contribute to why abuse occurs. Mental health conditions, drug and alcohol abuse, or financial stress may be some of the contributing factors, but are not necessarily causes. Often patterns learned as children may play a role in why the abuse occurs. It is never the victim’s fault when the abuse occurs; the abuser is responsible for their behavior. We encourage you to keep the focus on what you can do to make the best decisions for your own health and safety. NEWS can help by discussing options and resources.
Is Domestic Violence really that big of a problem in Napa County?
Domestic Violence here in Napa County is, unfortunately, very common and the effects are far-reaching. At NEWS, we see approximately 1,000 victims of domestic violence each year, and we know that many more people are living with abuse who have not made the decision to talk about it openly. Family violence is one of the most common calls to law enforcement (an average of two calls a day) and one of the most frequently prosecuted crimes in our local judicial system. It is one of the primary causes of homelessness. It effects children in their ability to learn, feel safe, and socialize. For teenagers, it contributes to drug and alcohol abuse, youth violence, and teenage pregnancy. It’s a reason for days missed from work and visits to the emergency room. Every one of us is affected by the issue of domestic violence in one way or another. It may be your neighbor, your sister, your friend, or a co-worker, but it is likely very close to home.
How can I tell if my relationship is abusive?
Abuse can take many forms and can sometimes begin subtly. If you find yourself walking on egg shells, changing your behavior to prevent a violent outburst, or if you’re ever afraid of your partner, these are warning signs that should not be ignored. If your partner humiliates you, is ever physically violent, or threatens violence, these are clear signs of an unhealthy relationship. If the abuse occurs in a pattern of tension building followed by a violent outburst, and then apologies, gifts, and extra sweet behavior with promises of change -- and then the pattern repeats -- this is a cycle of violence. The situation probably will not change without intervention, and is likely to get progressively worse.
Cycle of Violence
- Phase 1 – Tension Building
- Abuser starts to get angry
- The victim feels the need to try to keep the abuser calm
- The level of tension is high
- Victims often describe a feeling of “walking on egg shells”
- Trying not to “set him off”
- Phase 2 – Explosive Incident
- May be physical, emotional, or sexual
- Phase 3 – Honeymoon Phase – Hearts and Flowers
- The abuser apologizes and promises to change
- Sometimes there is minimizing -- “it wasn’t that bad”
- The abuser may give gifts, extra special treatment
- Victim hopes that the abuser will change
Should I believe my partner will change?
Violence is a learned behavior and can be unlearned, although it is often tied to a belief system about how relationships are. Because these beliefs may have come from childhood experiences and have been in place for a long time, they will likely be difficult to change. It will take accountability on the part of the abuser, and an end to blaming others for violent behavior, in order for it to stop. Couples counseling is not recommended when there is active violence because it is not safe. Individual counseling and separate group counseling sessions may help each partner address issues that can lead them to come together in a non-violent way in the future.
How do I know if my partner is really dangerous?
There is no exact way to know how dangerous your partner might be but there are some predictors that are of grave concern.
- Threats of suicide or homicide or fantasies about killing
- Weapons in the home -- guns in the home are very dangerous in an abusive relationship
- If the police have been called more than once, especially if the abuser has little regard for consequences
- Feelings of ownership of the victim, extreme possessiveness, or unfounded jealousy