Dating and Domestic Violence

Dating and domestic violence: any act, attempt, or threat of force by a family member or intimate partner against another family member.

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Dating and domestic violence occurs in all socio-economic, educational, racial, and age groups. The issues of power and control are at the heart of family violence. The batterer uses acts of violence and a series of behaviors to gain power and control.

Behavioral Signs:

  • Intimidation: Smashing things, abusing pets, destroying victim’s property, displaying weapons.
  • Threats: Making and/or carrying out threats to harm the victim, to commit suicide, to report him or her to child welfare, to make him or her drop charges.
  • Isolation: Controlling what the victim does, sees, and reads, limiting who the victim talks to.
  • Emotional abuse: Putting the victim down, calling him or her names, making him or her think he or she’s crazy, playing mind games.

Warning Signs:

Someone involved in an abusive relationship might display certain behavioral signs including:

  • Inconsistent explanations: Victims may provide inconsistent explanations as to the cause of their injuries due to fear of alerting others to the severity of their situation.
  • Alcohol abuse: Victims may use alcohol as a means of escape from their everyday reality of abuse.
  • Injuries in multiple stages of healing: Bruises are the most common form of injury and have the following stages of healing: purple to green to yellow.

 

Why Does the Victim Stay?

  • Financial dependence: Batterers may have forbidden their partners from getting or keeping a job or may have kept secret the location and balance of bank accounts.
  • Lack of social support: Batterer may have controlled victim’s contact with friends, family, and the outside world. Such isolation limits her or his ability to obtain help with an escape.
  • Fear of severe physical attack: Batterer may use threats of attack to keep victim in a state of perpetual fear. The batterers may tell their victims that, if they leave, they will be killed.
  • Self-blame: It is not uncommon for victims to believe that the abuse is a result of their real or imagined offenses.
  • Belief that the violence is temporary or caused by unusual circumstances: Often batterers place blame for abuse on external sources, alcohol, work pressures, etc. and do not take responsibility for their actions.

Additional Resources

National Coalition Against Domestic Violence

National Domestic Violence Hotline

Learn more about the laws in your state through  RAINN’s state database. 


Reference:
The information in this section is adapted from materials provided by the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault.

 

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Child Sexual Abuse

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Introduction

Sexual assault of children often includes incest as a subset of this form of sexual assault. While there is a substantial amount of overlap in the two types of assault, for the purposes of this website we have separated them in recognition of the different needs that victims of each type of assault may have.

 

Contact Can Include:
  • Fondling
  • Obscene phone calls
  • Exhibitionism
  • Masturbation
  • Intercourse
  • Oral or anal sex
  • Prostitution
  • Pornography
  • Any other sexual conduct that is harmful to a child’s mental, emotional, or physical welfare

 

Additional Features
  • May consist of a single incident or many acts over a long period of time.
  • Abuse is more often perpetrated by someone known to the child.
  • Abuse may escalate over time, particularly if the abuser is a family member.

 

Adult Reactions

Many adults tend to overlook, to minimize, to explain away, or to disbelieve allegations of abuse. This may be particularly true if the perpetrator is a family member.

NOTE: The absence of force or coercion does not diminish the abusive nature of the conduct, but, sadly, it may cause the child to feel responsible for what has occurred.

 

Warning Signs

Physical Signs
  • Difficulty walking or sitting
  • Bloody, torn, or stained underclothes
  • Bleeding, bruises, or swelling in genital area
  • Pain, itching, or burning in genital area
  • Frequent urinary or yeast infections
  • Sexually Transmitted Infections, especially if under 14 years old
  • Pregnancy, especially if under 14 years old

 

Behavioral Signs
  • Reports sexual abuse
  • Inappropriate sexual knowledge
  • Inappropriate sexual behavior
  • Nightmares or bed-wetting
  • Large weight changes/major changes in appetite
  • Suicide attempts or self-harming, especially in adolescents
  • Shrinks away or seems threatened by physical contact
  • Runs away
  • Overly protective and concerned for siblings, assumes a caretaker role
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or Rape Trauma Syndrome symptoms

 

Common Reactions

  • Withdrawal
  • Depression
  • Sleeping & eating disorders
  • Self-mutilation
  • Phobias
  • Psychosomatic symptoms (stomachaches, headaches)
  • School problems (absences, drops in grades)
  • Poor hygiene/excessive bathing
  • Anxiety
  • Guilt
  • Regressive behaviors – thumb-sucking, etc.

 

What should I do if I suspect my child is being sexually abused?

Talking to your child if you suspect that they are being sexually abused

Parents are surrounded by messages about child sexual abuse. Talkshows and TV news warn parents about dangers on the Internet, at school and at home. However, parents don’t get much advice on how to talk to their children if they are concerned that sexual abuse is occurring.
Talk to your child directly.

  • Pick your time and place carefully!
    • Have this conversation somewhere that your child feels comfortable.
    • DO NOT ask your child about child abuse in front of the person you think may be abusing the child!
  • Ask if anyone has been touching them in ways that don’t feel okay or that make them feel uncomfortable.
    • Know that sexual abuse can feel good to the victim, so asking your child if someone is hurting them may not get the information that you are looking for.
  • Follow up on whatever made you concerned. If there was something your child said or did that made you concerned, ask about that.
    • Ask in a nonjudgmental way, and take care to avoid shaming your child as you ask questions.
      • ”I” questions can be very helpful. Rather than beginning your conversation by saying “You (the child) did something/said something that made me worry…” consider starting your inquiry with the word “I.” For example: “I am concerned because I heard you say that you are not allowed to close the bathroom door.”
    • Make sure that your child knows that they are not in trouble, and that you are simply trying to gather more information.
  • Talk with your child about secrets.
    • Sometimes abusers will tell children that sexual abuse is a secret just between them. They may ask the child to promise to keep it secret.
    • When you talk to your child, talk about times that it’s okay not to keep a secret, even if they made a promise.

Build a trusting relationship with your child.

  • Let your child know that it is okay to come to you if someone is making them uncomfortable.
    • Be sure to follow up on any promises you make—if you tell your child that they can talk to you, be sure to make time for them when they do come to you!
  • All children should know that it’s okay to say “no” to touches that make them uncomfortable or if someone is touching them in ways that make them uncomfortable and that they should tell a trusted adult as soon as possible.
    • Let your child know that you won’t get angry at them if they tell someone “no.” Children are often afraid that they will get into trouble if they tell someone not to touch them.
  • Teach children that some parts of their body are private.
    • Tell children that if someone tries to touch those private areas or wants to look at them, OR if someone tries to show the child their own private parts, they should tell a trusted adult as soon as possible.
    • Let children know that they will not be in trouble if they tell you about inappropriate touching.
      • Make sure to follow through on this if your child does tell you about inappropriate touching! Try not to react with anger towards the child.

If you have reason to be concerned about sexual abuse, there may be other signs of sexual abuse as well. (List of signs above). As you talk to your child about sexual abuse, remember to focus on creating a safe place for your child. Even if they don’t tell you about sexual abuse at the time of the conversation, you are laying a foundation for future conversations.

Additional Resources

Stop It Now: The Campaign to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse

Childhelp USA

Darkness to Light

National Children’s Alliance

National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

National Indian Child Welfare Association (NICWA)

Learn more about the laws in your state through RAINN’s state database.


 

References
Texas Association Against Sexual Assault

National Children’s Advocacy Center

Child Welfare Information Gateway

 

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Acquaintance Rape

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Definition:

Acquaintance assault involves coercive sexual activities that occur against a person’s will by means of force, violence, duress, or fear of bodily injury. These sexual activities are imposed upon them by someone they know (a friend, date, acquaintance, etc.).

Key Reminders:

  • A prior or current relationship or previous acts of intimacy are insufficient indicators of consent.
  • Verbal consent must be obtained both in each instance of sexual intimacy and as the level of sexual intimacy increases (e.g., moving from kissing to petting, from petting to oral sex, from oral sex to intercourse or anal sex, etc.).
  • Like other forms of sexual assault, acquaintance assault is motivated by a need to control, to humiliate, and to harm.

Obstacles to Coping & Recovery:

  • Common social myths (e.g. the attack was incited through suggestive dress or intimate acts such as kissing)
  • Fear of:
    1. Retaliation
    2. Subsequent harassment
    3. Future harm
    4. Harassment from family and friends of the person responsible for the assault
  • Returning to a normal routine (this is especially the case if the assailant is a part of the victim’s daily routine)
  • Family/friends may blame the survivor, or, worse, they may support the assailant.

NOTE: Despite the violation and reality of physical and emotional trauma, victims of acquaintance assault often do not identify their experience as sexual assault. Instead of focusing on the violation of the sexual assault, victims of acquaintance rape often blame themselves for the assault.

Physical & Emotional Reactions:

  • Sleeping and eating disturbances
  • Mood swings
  • Feelings of humiliation and self-blame
  • Nightmares
  • Anger
  • Anxiety
  • Fear
  • Helplessness
  • Substance abuse
  • Suicidal ideation/behavior, self-harm
  • Depression

Continued Trauma:

Because the perpetrators are known to their victims and are often someone with whom they socialize, victims of acquaintance sexual assault often have to encounter their assailants after the rape. Fear of such encounters can cause increased distress and humiliation for the victims.

Prevention:

In order to prevent acquaintance sexual assault we all need to be aware of the three stages of acquaintance rape so that, whenever possible, we can avoid or prevent such an event from occurring.

Three Stages of Acquaintance Rape:

  1. Intrusion- Attempt by the offender to violate the victim’s personal space and level of comfort. May draw close by revealing personal information or through “accidental” touches and stares.
  2. Desensitization- Occurs when the victim feels comfortable with the offender and has come to regard intrusive actions as no longer or, at least less, threatening. The victim of the desensitization may feel uneasy but convinces himself or herself that the feeling is unfounded.
  3. Isolation- The offender uses the victim’s trust to isolate him or her from others.

Social Norms:

Social norms put pressure on many of us to be polite and passive. Relying on these norms, many victims of such assaults may suppress feelings of fear and discomfort in an attempt not to offend. Acquaintance assault prevention demands that we set aside such social norms and listen to our instinctual sense of fear and discomfort.

Learn more about the laws in your state through RAINN’s state database.

 

Was It Rape?

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Unfortunately, sexual violence can come in many forms. In order to better understand the wide range of personal violence’s that can occur, we have included definitions of different types of rape and sexual violence, as well as other kinds of violence that often arise hand-in-hand with sexual violence.

Was I Raped?

How can you figure out if what happened was rape? There are a few questions to consider.

For purposes of this page, we use the term “rape” to mean all crimes of sexual violence, not just those crimes that would qualify as “rape” under the FBI definition or under state laws.

The exact definition of “rape,” “sexual assault,” “sexual abuse” and similar terms differs by state. The wording can get confusing, since states often use different words to mean the same thing or use the same words to describe different things. To see how your state legally defines these crimes, visit our RAINN State Law Database.

For its Uniform Crime Reports, the FBI defines rape as:

Please note that this definition is rather graphic, which is inevitable when describing crimes this violent.

“Penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.”

  • Sexual assault victims may be forced through threats or physical means. In about 8 out of 10 sexual assaults, no weapon is used other than physical force. Anyone may be a victim of sexual assault: women, men or children, straight or gay.

So, how can you figure if what happened was rape? There are a few questions to consider.

There are three main considerations in judging whether or not a sexual act is consensual (which means that both people are old enough to consent, have the capacity to consent, and agreed to the sexual contact) or is a crime.

  1. Are the participants old enough to consent? Each state sets an “age of consent,” which is the minimum age someone must be to have sex. People below this age are considered children and cannot legally agree to have sex. In other words, even if the child or teenager says yes, the law says no.
    • In most states, the age of consent is 16 or 18. In some states, the age of consent varies according to the age difference between the participants. Generally, “I thought she was 18” is not considered a legal excuse — it’s up to you to make sure your partner is old enough to legally take part.
    • Because laws are different in every state, it is important to find out the law in your state. You can call your local crisis center or the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1.800.656.HOPE to find out more about the laws in your state.
  2. Do both people have the capacity to consent? States also define who has the mental and legal capacity to consent. Those with diminished capacity — for example, some people with disabilities, some elderly people and people who have been drugged or are unconscious — may not have the legal ability to agree to have sex.
    • These categories and definitions vary widely by state, so it is important to check the law in your state. You can call your local crisis center or the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1.800.656.HOPE to find out more about the laws in your state.
  3. Did both participants agree to take part? Did someone use physical force to make you have sexual contact with him/her? Has someone threatened you to make you have intercourse with them? If so, it is rape.
    • It doesn’t matter if you think your partner means yes, or if you’ve already started having sex — “No” also means “Stop.” If you proceed despite your partner’s expressed instruction to stop, you have not only violated basic codes of morality and decency, you may have also committed a crime under the laws of your state (check your state’s laws for specifics).

Common Questions

I didn’t resist physically – does that mean it isn’t rape?

People respond to an assault in different ways. Just because you didn’t resist physically doesn’t mean it wasn’t rape — in fact, many victims make the good judgment that physical resistance would cause the attacker to become more violent. Lack of consent can be express (saying “no”) or it can be implied from the circumstances (for example, if you were under the statutory age of consent, or if you had a mental defect, or if you were afraid to object because the perpetrator threatened you with serious physical injury).

I used to date the person who assaulted me – does that mean it isn’t rape?

Rape can occur when the offender and the victim have a pre-existing relationship (sometimes called “date rape” or “acquaintance rape”), or even when the offender is the victim’s spouse. It does not matter whether the other person is an ex-boyfriend or a complete stranger, and it doesn’t matter if you’ve had sex in the past. If it is nonconsensual this time, it is rape. (But be aware that a few states still have limitations on when spousal rape is a crime.)

I don’t remember the assault – does that mean it isn’t rape?

Just because you don’t remember being assaulted doesn’t necessarily mean it didn’t happen and that it wasn’t rape. Memory loss can result from the ingestion of GHB and other “rape drugs” and from excessive alcohol consumption. That said, without clear memories or physical evidence, it may not be possible to pursue prosecution (talk to your local crisis center or local police for guidance).

I was asleep or unconscious when it happened – does that mean it isn’t rape?

Rape can happen when the victim was unconscious or asleep. If you were asleep or unconscious, then you didn’t give consent. And if you didn’t give consent, then it is rape.

I was drunk or they were drunk – does that mean it isn’t rape?

Alcohol and drugs are not an excuse – or an alibi. The key question is still: did you consent or not? Regardless of whether you were drunk or sober, if the sex is nonconsensual, it is rape. However, because each state has different definitions of “nonconsensual”, please contact your local center or local police if you have questions about this. (If you were so drunk or drugged that you passed out and were unable to consent, it was rape. Both people must be conscious and willing participants.)

I thought “no,” but didn’t say it. Is it still rape?

It depends on the circumstances. If you didn’t say no because you were legitimately scared for your life or safety, then it would likely be considered rape. Sometimes it isn’t safe to resist, physically or verbally — for example, when someone has a knife or gun to your head, or threatens you or your family if you say anything.

If you’ve been raped or sexually assaulted, or even if you aren’t sure, contact the National Sexual Assault Online Hotline or the National Sexual Assault Hotline (1-800-656-HOPE) for free, confidential help, day or night.

Learn more about the laws in your state through RAINN’s state database.

© RAINN 2009 | 1220 L Street NW, Suite 505, Washington, DC 20005 | 202-544-1034 | info@rainn.org
1.800.656.HOPE(4673) | CFC#10488 | Privacy Policy | Federal Funding Disclaimer

Triggers; what are they and how do we work through them?

Patricia McKnight ~~ My Justice

What I’ve learned about these horrible little bugging annoyances.

Here is a list of definitions:

  • 1:  a piece (as a lever) connected with a catch or detent as a means of releasing it
  • 2:something that acts like a mechanical trigger in initiating a process or reaction
  • Psychiatry
    A factor that initiates and aggravates a behaviour or response.

Etymology

D, trekker, that which pulls

a substance, object, or agent that initiates or stimulates an action.

For ‘Survivors of Trauma’ triggers are any combination of person, place, thing or action, which sets off a remembered emotion or fear. These are instinctive reactions ingrained in our system from the attack/traumatic situation, which caused the original terror.

Just like we have remembered happy moments, which set off laughter or tenderness; compassion, we can also have negative and fearful moments. In fact; as my therapist shared with me, ‘When the trauma is severely…

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7 ways to support someone who may be in an abusive relationship

Socialworkmania

Trigger warning:


If you have experienced/or are experiencing violence please be aware that this blog entry may bring up feelings of past trauma. Please reach out for help if this is the case, though this blog is here for informational purposes, I wouldn’t want to re-traumatize anyone. Also please note that if you fear for your safety, there are websites where you can hide the page if your partner walks in the room, I do not have this feature so please proceed based on your level of current safety, or click here www.thehotline.org to access such resources safely.

Disclaimer:


Even though I work in this field, I am not an expert, I learn new things every day. This list is not exhaustive, and some may disagree with some of them, and that is ok.

While working in the domestic violence field I have often been asked the question, how can…

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Life After A Manipulator

No More Silence

While I am working on my major article, I’ll be sharing some relevant information.  Reviewing this information now will help you to understand everything I will be revealing in the next day or two.  There are several articles I will be sharing.

I found this article written by Dr. Simon on his website titled “Dr. George Simon’s dealing with MANIPULATIVE people.”  It pretty much describes what’s been going through my mind since the day I awoke from ignorance bliss and found myself living a nightmare.  The first thing I remember is just going numb.  It was like my entire self left my body and my mind blanked out.  Blindsided.  Smacked in the face by reality with a concrete slab.  Absolute shock.  As the information began to sink in, there was confusion.  What I was hearing was in contradiction of what I knew to be true for the past…

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