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Understanding Domestic Violence
Age, religion, gender, and other factors can make victims more vulnerable to domestic violence.
More than 8,000 people are hurt by domestic violence in Duval County each year. In the United States, one in three women experience some form of physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime.
Domestic violence is not an isolated crime. It’s not a private matter. Domestic violence is a real threat to our community.
Domestic violence is primarily a gender-based crime against women, at the hands of a male abuser. Men can be victims of domestic violence as well, but the male abuser-female victim relationship is the one that has the highest likelihood for lethal violence. Because of that, it is the type of relationship that is most often discussed.
However, domestic violence can happen regardless of race, age, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, education background, economic status, disability status, and related factors. It crosses all boundaries.
Violence is a choice the abuser makes to control their partner and cannot be blamed on anything but those choices. However, certain populations face unique vulnerabilities.
A person’s family history, religion, and culture in which they were raised can be a huge factor in shaping their personal identity. It can also be something an abuser takes advantage of.
For example, if the victim’s religion doesn’t recognize divorce, that victim may choose to stay in an abusive marriage. The abuser will further manipulate the situation by telling the victim God will be mad if they break up the family or similar threats to their faith.
Race and culture create similar barriers. If the culture is centered on the family, and leaving the relationship would mean being shamed by the family, the victim may not be willing to leave. Race and culture may also value the privacy of “family matters,” or enforce gender roles where women submit to men. They may contribute to a mistrust in official forms of support, because of negative prior experiences.
Immigrant populations may have even more layers to their culture. For example, an abuser may shame their partner for “abandoning” their heritage or becoming “too American.” Or they prevent the victim from learning English, control the victim’s immigration documentation, and similar forms of control.
Domestic violence can have a large impact on children. Babies and toddlers often don’t understand what’s happening in the home but will show signs of the physical stress they feel, like stomach aches and trouble sleeping. As children age, they start to wonder if they are responsible for the abuse, and if they even deserve to be loved. It is crucial that children witnessing or experiencing domestic violence get support, like the services offered at Hubbard House, to help them understand what a healthy relationship looks like and to heal.
While children may be exposed to or suffer from domestic violence by an abusive parent, teens can be directly involved in abusive dating relationships. Often, in these relationships, extreme jealousy and possessiveness can be thought of as “sweet” and “showing that he really cares about me”. For example, an abuser may tell their girlfriend/boyfriend that they have to pick up the phone whenever they call, or they have to always let them know where they’re going, who they’ll be with, and when they’ll be home.
Domestic violence can start later in life as well, whether in a new relationship, or a long-standing one. Older adults may have vulnerabilities- medical needs, mobility challenges, etc.- that leave them more vulnerable to an abusive partner. For example, if the victim needs medication because of age-related health issues, the abuser could control that and manipulate the dosage or make the victim do certain things to get access to their medication.
A person who identifies as LGBTQIA+ may not have shared that identity with their place or work or their family because of a fear of judgement, exile, and other negative responses. An abusive partner may threaten to “out” their partner. The abuser may also disrespect the victim’s identity, like claiming they’re not feminine/masculine enough or using the wrong pronoun for the victim.
A person with a disability may need support to carry out daily tasks, from driving to showering and more. If an abusive partner is the caregiver, that means they are in a position to deny help for these needs, shame the victim for needing the help, or use the support as leverage to force the victim to do something. For example, the abuser may refuse to cook for the victim unless the victim gives the abuser access to their bank account.
The victim may also already fear that people will see them as less strong or credible because of their disability. An abuser will enhance that fear by saying nobody will believe the victim about the abuse. Especially when a victim has a mental disability, the abuser may claim the victim is making things up or misunderstood what happened.
Victims with certain disabilities may also fear that supportive services are not accessible for them. One example is the Deaf community. While not all people who are Deaf identify as having a disability, they still consider whether there will be interpreters and other forms of support available to help them communicate with service providers or go to an emergency shelter.