October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM). DVAM evolved from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) Day of Unity which took place in October of 1981. The intent of the Day of Unity was to connect advocates from across the US who were working in the anti-violence field helping domestic violence (DV) victims/survivors and their children. This soon evolved into an entire week that was devoted to activities and conversations about DV at the local, state, and national levels. In October of 1987 the first DVAM was observed and in the same year, the first national domestic toll-free hotline was created. The Day of Unity is celebrated on the first Monday of October. Presently, DVAM is a time to raise awareness about and give voice to victims/survivors of domestic violence.
The Dynamics of Domestic Violence
Domestic Violence (DV), also called intimate partner violence (IPV) is a pattern of behaviors used by one intimate partner to gain and/or sustain power and control over another intimate partner in a relationship. There is a common misconception that DV only includes physical abuse. Many factors play into this assumption, such as the media, movies and TV shows, and the common belief that other forms of abuse are not as serious as physical abuse. However, DV can include emotional abuse, economic/financial abuse, verbal abuse, sexual abuse, and intimidation. DV can include any combination of these types of abuse and doesn’t always show visible injuries.
According to the Power and Control Wheel, there are eight types of abuse that can occur in a DV relationship. This is not an exhaustive list of types of abuse and harm that can be experienced; however, the Power and Control Wheel can help us to understand the various types of abuse that can occur in a DV relationship.
Coercion & Threats
Coercion is used in DV relationships to make an intimate partner do something against their will by using threats and/or force. This may include, making and/or carrying out threats of harm; threatening to leave the relationship or commit suicide as a way to control and coerce a partner; threatening to call law enforcement or social services on an intimate partner as a way to control and coerce them; driving recklessly as a way to frighten an intimate partner; forcing an intimate partner to drop charges that they made against the partner who caused harm; and/or forcing an intimate partner to engage in illegal activity.
Intimidation is often used to control an intimate partner by causing feelings of fear or helplessness. Intimidation may include making an intimate partner afraid by using looks, gestures, and actions; smashing or destroying property; harming pets; displaying weapons; and/or telling an intimate partner about the harm they have caused in the past to make them feel afraid.
Emotional abuse is a pattern of behavior where an intimate partner insults, humiliates, and/or makes their partner feel afraid in order to gain control. People who are harmed by emotional abuse may internalize the abuse and blame themselves for the harm they are experiencing. Emotional abuse can include an intimate partner making their partner feel badly about themselves; playing mind games; making an intimate partner feel guilty about things that are out of their control and/or when it’s not appropriate to do so; humiliating an intimate partner in front of others or making fun of an intimate partner on a regular basis; shaming an intimate partner; displaying extreme jealousy and paranoia and making accusations against an intimate partner that are not true; blaming an intimate partner for things that aren’t their fault; and/or gaslighting.
Oftentimes in DV relationships, the person doing harm will isolate their partner from friends and their community in an effort to gain power and control over them. This can include an intimate partner controlling what their partner does, who they see, and who they talk to; limiting a partner’s activities outside of the home; insisting that a partner accounts for everywhere they go and facing possible retaliation for not doing so; and/or using jealousy to control their partner and/or to justify harm.
Denying, Minimizing & Blaming
Sometimes a person doing harm in a relationship will deny or minimize the harm or blame their partner for the harm. A partner who harms may say things such as “you made me do it” or “why do you make me do this?” They might also minimize the harm by trying to convince their partner that they are “just fighting” like any other couple.” A partner who harms may also make accusations of “mutual abuse” in an attempt to shift and share the blame for the harm that is occurring.
In a DV relationship where there are child/ren, the person doing harm may use the child/ren as an “abusive mechanism.” An abusive mechanism is a tactic used by a person who does harm in a relationship to gain power and control. A person who does harm in a relationship may threaten their partner by telling them that they will take them to family court to get custody of their child/ren. This is sometimes used as a tactic by a person who does harm to keep their partner in the relationship or maintain control over them. If the people in a relationship are not married, sometimes using the child/ren is one of the only ways that the person who does harm can gain and maintain power and control.
Mending the Sacred Hoop, a Native-owned and operated organization that seeks to address and end violence against Native women, defines privilege as “the advantages that people benefit from based solely on their social status.” Social status is a term that refers to a person’s importance and position in relation to others in society. Mending the Sacred Hoop also writes, “For the privileged person it’s about how society accommodates you. It’s about advantages you have that you think are normal.”
In some relationships, privilege can take the form of one partner being forced into a subservient role in the relationship. The person doing harm may treat their partner like a servant and expect them to provide care to children, clean, cook, and take care of the home. The person doing harm may define the roles and duties in the relationship and may get angry or violent if there is resistance or if tasks do not get completed.
The partner doing harm may also use their privilege to discredit their partner, put them in danger, cut off resources, or use systems such as the courts and law enforcement against them. The person doing harm in the relationship may also use their privilege to navigate the court system, hire an attorney, and/or file frivolous petitions and/or lawsuits against their partner to intimidate and manipulate them,
Using Economic Abuse
Economic abuse, also referred to as financial abuse, can take many forms in a DV relationship. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) defines economic abuse as “maintaining control over financial resources, withholding access to money, or attempting to prevent a victim or survivor from working and/or attending school in an effort to create financial dependence as a means of control.” Economic abuse can also include unfair use of money between partners; the person doing harm in the relationship using their partner’s credit card to make purchases resulting in an impact on their credit history; the person doing harm putting all the bills and joint assets in their name so that they have control over the finances; forcing their partner to put all of the bills in their name so that they can avoid responsibility for late payments or debts; and/or the person doing harm forcing their partner to ask for money from them.
Economic abuse is one of the main factors that keep a person in a DV relationship. If a person doing harm in a relationship uses their partner’s credit card and impacts their credit score, that may influence their ability to find housing if and when they decide to leave the relationship. Similarly, if the person doing harm in the relationship keeps their partner from getting or maintaining a job as a way to control them, their partner won’t be able to save money. This further isolates the person being harmed and makes it difficult for them to leave the relationship.
Ways to Get Involved in Domestic Violence Awareness Month
There are many ways to get involved in Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The New York State Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NYSCADV) keeps a calendar of many of the DVAM events throughout NYS. Check back to the calendar for new events and updates.
- Fearless! Hudson Valley, Inc. Heroes 5k Run/Walk – October 2 at 9:00am
- Unity House Domestic Violence Conference – October 7 at 10:00am
- Haven House Domestic Violence Speaker Series – October 6, 13, 20 & 27 at 12:00pm
- Haven House Shine the Light Event – October 7 at 6:00pm
- STOP Domestic Violence Trick-or-Treat Pet Walk – October 9 at 10:30am
- Unity House Domestic Violence Block Party – October 9 at 10:00am
- YMCA of Genesee County Run Until Their Voices are Heard – October 16 at 9:30am
- Virtual Pumpkin Decorating Contest – All of October
Toolkits & Resources
- Futures Without Violence Health Cares About Domestic Violence Day Action Kit
- National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center DVAM Toolkit
- National Coalition Against Domestic Violence Toolkit
How Donnellan Law, PLLC, Can Help
The attorneys at Donnellan Law, PLLC, understand that your safety and the safety of your family are of utmost importance. We can help you navigate the Supreme Court and/or the Family Court process, while prioritizing the safety of you and your family. The attorneys at Donnellan Law, PLLC, will work with you to learn your needs for safety and what relief you hope to receive through an order of protection, provide you professional advice and guidance, and will help you find solutions that work for your unique situation. They will actively advocate for what you need and will passionately represent you in court if necessary.
Donnellan Law, PLLC, is a full-service matrimonial and family law firm located in Ballston Spa, New York. The attorneys at Donnellan Law, PLLC, are well equipped to answer all your matrimonial and family law-related questions. For an initial confidential consultation, please contact us at 518-602-3820 or visit www.dlawfirmny.com for more information.
Please note: This blog is not sponsored by any of the events or organizations mentioned in this article.