You’ve seen images of an iceberg, right? A mass of solid ice rises out of the ocean. The way it disrupts the surface of the water grabs your attention. But what is truly noteworthy is the enormity of the ice structure that remains below the surface. It may be invisible to the naked eye, but even more dangerous than what is visible.
So it is with domestic abuse. There can be clear signs of abuse on the surface, such as physical injuries, that are not socially acceptable. The majority of people would agree that these “tip of the iceberg” indicators justify recourse. However, deep in the areas we can’t see as clearly are oftentimes other forms of domestic abuse. They are more difficult to identify, which also means they are more difficult to report. These less obvious forms of domestic violence include controlling behavior, coercion, emotional abuse, financial control, harassment and verbal abuse.
The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence defines domestic violence as the “willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, and/or other abusive behavior as part of a systematic pattern of power and control perpetrated by one intimate partner against another.” The trauma of domestic violence is both physical and psychological. It affects not just those directly involved, but every individual exposed to the violence. In addition, the impact often crosses generations.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. In response, let’s make ourselves aware of the indicators of abuse. Potential signs can include:
- Personality changes
- Excuses for injuries
- Wearing clothing that doesn’t match the season (to cover injuries/marks)
- Overly worried with partner pleasing
- Never having money on hand
- Skipping out on work, school or social plans
Let’s also consider the indirect ways our community may potentially enable domestic violence, especially under the surface, to continue. For instance, do we trivialize behaviors or participate in victim blaming? As a community we can make these socially acceptable actions unacceptable.
Please do not turn a blind eye and do not hesitate to speak-up on behalf of another. Call Virginia’s Family Violence and Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-838-8238 to report suspected domestic abuse.