I never saw myself as a DV counselor. I did a very brief internship due to my supervisor volunteering at a DV shelter when I was in grad school. I don’t think I “got” domestic violence back then. I was lucky enough to grow up in a house where I never witnessed any, and despite dating a few violent a$$h*oles in high school and college, I still couldn’t relate. Why? Because I walked away from above mentioned a holes. We were just casually dating. I moved on, they moved on.
It wasn’t until I started working with victims (and some perpetrators) of DV that I realized how dependent the victims are on their perpetrator. The perp will make the money, be in charge of all of the accounts, sometimes cut them off from family and friends, etc.
But please don’t think that victims of DV are cowering, helpless women that never go outside. They can be professional women, with kids and jobs. They can be military, civilian, doctors, lawyers. They can even be MEN. Yes, I’ve worked with several victims that are men. No one ever suspects that the reason they are late for work, or walk with a limp is because their partner abused them.
Another trend in the DV world that I’m seeing more and more of is dual perp, dual victim. This essentially means that within the couple, both partners are guilty of committing DV acts against the other. Sometimes at the same time. While you might think that’s called a “fight” when it involves an intimate partner, a spouse or the mother/father of your child it is classified as Domestic Violence EVEN if they don’t reside together.
So what can you do? Be aware. Be observant. DV can be a screaming argument in the grocery store, it can be a woman that can’t buy her own things because her partner controls the money, it can even be a LOOK. You know that look. The “you better know your place” look. I’m not saying that every verbal argument, every disagreement qualifies as Domestic Violence. We all argue with our spouses/SO, it’s of part of being a couple. The minute it becomes physical it qualifies as DV. If there is a pervasive pattern of emotional or verbal abuse, it does.
What can you do? Be there for the person. Let them know there are resources available, if they choose to use them. Don’t chastise the person. Their self-esteem is low enough already. You actually (unintentionally) mimic the abuser when you tell them “just leave, you can do better, you don’t deserve this.” Just be supportive. Let them know of local resources. Don’t know of any- find some! I guarantee there are some in your area, they just might be a little hidden to protect the victims.
Since DV is around us all the time, educating yourself on resources will be useful at some point in your life.
If you ever get the chance to see “Domestic Violence: the Musical” (yes, I’m not making that up) see it! It explains DV from the victim’s perspective, the abuser’s perspective, and the friends and family’s perspective.