Domestic violence, or intimate partner violence, will impact 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men in their lives. Furthermore, research shows that Veterans are even more likely to experience or use aggression in close relationships because of traumatic and stressful experiences, such as deployment, family separations, combat trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder.
If you or someone you know is experiencing intimate partner violence, it’s important to know what to do and where to turn for help.
What Does Intimate Partner Violence Look Like?
Intimate partner violence is a pattern of behaviors used by one partner to maintain power and control over another partner in an intimate relationship.
While most couples have disagreements from time to time, intimate partner violence looks and feels different. So how can you tell when a relationship becomes abusive? Here are some warning signs that can indicate an abusive partner. He or she:
The Intimate Partner Violence Assistance Program through the Department of Veterans Affairs helps Veterans and their families who are impacted by physical, emotional and sexual violence.
- Is verbally abusive—uses insults, name-calling, intimidating words, put-downs and threats
- Forces you to engage in sexual activities that you aren’t comfortable with
- Prevents or discourages you from going to work or seeing family and friends
- Controls how you spend money, where you go or what you wear
- Acts possessive or constantly accuses you of being unfaithful
- Gets angry when drinking alcohol or using drugs
- Hurts you, your pets or your children
- Blames you, says you deserve it or you don’t do anything right
- Destroys your belongings or your home
None of this is healthy or normal, and even one or two of these behaviors can be a red flag. No matter how you feel or what you’ve been told, no one deserves to be abused, and you’re never responsible for someone else’s abusive actions. If this list of warning signs describes how someone you care about is being treated, learn how to start a conversation about the abuse.
Who Is At Risk for Intimate Partner Violence?
Intimate partner violence doesn’t discriminate. It affects people of all races, ethnicities, incomes, ages, sexual orientations, gender identities, cultures, religions and abilities. However, military experiences, such as deployment, mental health concerns, traumatic brain injury, PTSD, substance abuse and the transition to civilian life, can have a significant impact on relationships and add a layer of stress.
What If I’m Afraid to Get Help?
It’s normal to feel a lot of different and sometimes conflicting emotions when you’re in an abusive relationship and trying to figure out what to do. You may think:
- If I tell someone, I’ll be in more danger.
- If I tell someone, my family might be split up.
- Some of the abuse is my own fault.
- I don’t have the resources, money or housing to leave.
- I can’t take care of myself or my family on my own.
- My partner is well-liked and respected, and no one will believe me.
- I’m worried about _________(my legal status, my family finding out I’m LGBTQ+, my work firing me, etc.).
- I’m not sure what a relationship is supposed to look and feel like.
All of these feelings are common within abusive relationships and talking through them with a trained advocate or someone you trust can be extremely helpful. Reaching out and accessing support is the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones. If you’re trying to understand why someone you care about is staying in a relationship that’s unhealthy, check out the many reasons why people stay.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline understands how isolating and frightening abusive situations can be and provides a wealth of resources to help you take steps to protect yourself. Some of their resources include:
- Trained advocates available 24/7 for free, confidential help. You can call, chat or text whenever you’re ready.
- Help designing a safety plan. A safety plan is a personalized plan that includes vital information to help you prepare for and respond to different scenarios, such as preparing to leave or what to do after you’ve left. They have highly trained advocates ready to help you make your personalized plan.
- Assistance finding local resources, including health care providers, legal help and more.
- Resources for people trying to support someone in an abusive relationship. If you’ve noticed signs of abuse affecting someone in your life, the hotline has resources to help you navigate how to help.
- Information that addresses the way cultural context can impact an abusive relationship, such as abuse in immigrant communities, abuse in disability communities and more.
The Intimate Partner Violence Assistance Program through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) helps Veterans and their families who are impacted by physical, emotional and sexual violence, regardless of whether it has happened once or many times. Resources include:
- Intimate Partner Violence Assistance Program coordinators at VA sites
- Link to community-based support groups, advocacy and legal services
- Referral to and coordination with other VA treatment providers
- Connection to domestic violence shelters
- Interventions for Veterans who use violence
- Homeless services including:
- Access to specific resources such as VA services for LGBTQ+ Veterans, Veterans who may be using intimate partner violence against others and much more.
The more we learn about intimate partner violence and its connection to the Veteran community, the more we can do to help those impacted by it. If you’re in an unhealthy relationship, you’re not alone. Reach out and get the support you deserve.