Every 9 seconds a woman is physically abused  in the United States.  Women age 16-24 are the most vulnerable to non-lethal intimate partner violence. However, it is not just women that are abused.  Teen dating violence is on the rise and men represent over 25% of intimate partner violence victims each year.

Abuse is defined as an intentional, repeated act by an intimate partner or family member that causes physical, sexual, emotional, economic or spiritual harm, usually in a predictive cycle.

You can be in an abusive relationship even if:

  • You are not physically abused
  • You are not legally married to your abusive partner
  • You are in a same sex relationship with someone who abuses you
  • You have formally or legally ended your relationship, but your ex-partner continues to behave in an abusive manner toward you
  • You are not living with your partner, but he/she does abuse you physically, sexually, emotionally, economically or spiritually
  • You are passive or submissive to avoid the abuse

You may be in an abusive relationship, if you have any of these thoughts:

  • I am afraid of the person I live with
  • When I got hit, it wasn’t so bad, but now the children get hit, too
  • I am tired of being humiliated in front of others
  • The only way to stop the abuse is to kill my partner
  • I cannot take another beating; I think I’ll die next time
  • I was never forced to have sex before. Now I have been threatened and raped
  • I want to be safe in my home. Abuse takes many different forms. It can be physical, emotional, sexual, economic or spiritual. It can happen every day or every once in a while. It can occur in public places, like a store or a park, or in private places, like your home or your car. It can leave you with bruises and bumps on your body or leave you with a hurt inside that no one can see

If you are a victim of intimate partner violence:

  • Know that you are not alone
  • Know that the abuse is not your fault
  • Know that there is help available
  • Know that abuse is done deliberately
  • Know that your physical safety and emotional health are most important

Correcting misconceptions about abuse

by Anna Quinlan

Domestic and sexual abuse can take many forms and is a problem in communities throughout the region.

Tahoe SAFE Alliance works to prevent such violence and dispel the myths surrounding abuse.

Does domestic violence only affect low-income populations?

There is a myth that intimate partner violence predominately occurs in low-income families of color, but the reality of the situation is much more complex. A victim in a relationship that has financial assets may have restricted access to money, making the prospect of leaving especially daunting. On the other end of the spectrum, a victim in poverty may not leave due to the simple fact that they don’t believe they can make it as a single parent on one income. Because such barriers exist for people from various income levels, Tahoe SAFE Alliance offers services from safe housing to legal advocacy in order to help victims from all socioeconomic backgrounds.

If something doesn’t leave a mark, is it really abuse?
Many physical injuries have a healing start and end time. It’s visible to the eye and the victim can physically heal. The toll of emotional and mental abuse, however, can be enormous and long-lasting.

When someone else dictates what their partner can wear, who they can talk to, where they can go and how they are labeled (e.g. promiscuous or stupid), that victim loses their identity. When they break from that abusive relationship, it’s difficult to reclaim the original identity that existed before the abuse. Tahoe SAFE Alliance provides support groups, counseling and art therapy to help victims of both physical and non-physical abuse reclaim their identities.

What is the impact of growing up in an abusive home?
Violence at home creates instability, chronic stress and fear in a child’s heart. Healthy child development is dependent on caring and trusting relationships. Disrupted child development occurs when instability and chaos trigger a child’s survival mechanisms. This makes it difficult for children to succeed in school and extracurricular activities and to maintain healthy relationships. Tahoe SAFE Alliance provides advocacy, accompaniment and support groups, as well as individual and group therapy, for children impacted by abuse.

Why don’t people just leave when their partner abuses them?
There are many barriers to leaving an abusive relationship. Threats to take children away, financial instability, lack of support, loss of spiritual community and many more factors may be at play. Tahoe SAFE Alliance helps victims access resources to make leaving an
abusive situation possible and safe.

What is generational violence?
Unhealthy patterns can develop and become reinforced over generations in a family. In order to stop the cycle, family members must know what domestic violence looks like, but also what a healthy relationship looks like. Tahoe SAFE Alliance shows people that they deserve a relationship filled with love, respect, equality, trust and communication. The messages that children learn about rejecting abuse and accepting safety can ultimately create new patterns of love and respect in a family.

Why do victims blame themselves?
Victims of abuse often find fault in the violence they are experiencing from their partner. Common thoughts include, “I am stupid for loving someone who hurts me,” “Why do I pick partners who abuse me? and “I must deserve this.” Tahoe SAFE Alliance advocates work with domestic violence survivors to educate them on how batterers often manipulate the victim into thinking they are to blame.

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