The bruises, wounds and emotional scars of domestic violence are not always obvious. Victims often suffer in silence, afraid to tell anyone for fear of retaliation from their abusers. When victims manage to break free from the cycle of domestic violence, often they have received emotional support and vital information—like where to go for help—from someone who knows them (a friend, a neighbor, a co-worker). October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, a time to remember that we can all be part of the solution. We can start by knowing the warning signs of abuse:
Unexplained or poorly explained injuries: Does the person have frequent bruises/injuries paired with excuses for how they happened that just don’t seem to add up?
Isolation from friends and family: Abusers often attempt to control victims by isolating them from their support systems. A withdrawal from regular social patterns is cause for concern.
Fear of conflict with partner: Victims may seem excessively fearful of upsetting their partners. They may seem like they are “walking on egg shells” around their partners.
Controlling/excessively jealous partner: The person’s partner may display consistent, dominating behavior, like controlling what the victim wears, who they talk to and hang out with; the abuser may also be excessively jealous, flipping out even over innocent situations.
Partner controls with technology: Technology gives abusers another way to control their victims. They may use cell phones or texting to constantly check up on their partners. This form of abuse also occurs when an abuser restricts the victim’s use of technology or monitors the victim’s communication with others.
Stress related problems: Domestic violence and dating violence take a physical and emotional toll on victims that can include poor sleep, depression, anxiety, weight loss, stomach problems and many other health issues.
For more information, visit The National Domestic Violence Hotline (www.ndvh.org) or the Family Violence Prevention Fund (www.endabuse.org).
### Erika Weisensee lives in Milwaukie and teaches writing and communication courses at the University of Portland. She spent several years working for Raphael House, a Portland non-profit that provides services to women and children fleeing domestic violence.