In the suburbs, a man kills his wife and then turns the gun on himself. Police are called to a hospital to investigate an elderly woman with a fractured hip after being pushed down by her adult son. A teenage girl is punched in the stomach by her ex-boyfriend in the hallway at school. Each of these events raises the same question: Could this tragedy have been prevented?
Domestic violence is a pattern of learned behavior in which one person uses physical, sexual, and emotional abuse to control another person. Domestic violence is not a family matter. Domestic violence is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 93 days in jail and/or a $500 fine.
Under Michigan law, a person has a domestic relationship if any of the following apply:
Spouse or former spouse
Dating relationship or former dating relationship
Child in common
Resident or former resident of the same household
What does domestic violence look like?
The following are some of the most common tactics used by abusers to control their partners, but certainly not a complete list. If you or someone you know has their personal freedom restricted or is afraid of their partner, they may be a victim of domestic violence.
Pushed, shoved or kicked
Slapped or bitten
Hit or punched
Locked out of your home
Denied help when ill, injured or pregnant
Weapon used against you
By physical force, not being allowed to leave
Objects thrown at you
Abandoned in a dangerous situation
Forced to have sex or watch sexual acts
Forced to perform sexual acts or have sexual acts performed on you
Forced to dress more sexually than you wish
Forced to have sex after a physical assault, when you are ill, or as a condition of the relationship
Threatened harm to you, your family or your pets
Beliefs, race, heritage, class, religion, or sexual orientation ridiculed
Manipulated with lies and contradictions
Being convinced you are to blame for the abuse
Denied access to bank accounts, credit cards or vehicle
Partner controls all the finances
Prevented from getting or keeping a job or from going to school
Limits your access to health, prescription or dental insurance
What can you do to help someone who is being abused?
- Educate yourself about domestic violence.
- Let go of any expectations you have that there is a quick fix to domestic violence or to the obstacles a woman faces.
- Understand that a woman's "inaction" may very well be her best safety strategy at any given time.
- Believe her and let her know that you do.
- Listen to what she tells you and avoid making judgments.
- Validate her feelings.
- Tell her the abuse is not her fault.
- Take her fears seriously. If you are concerned about her safety, express your concern without judgment by saying, "Your situation sounds dangerous and I'm concerned for your safety." Support her decisions. Remember there are risks attached to every decision an abused woman makes. If you truly want to help, be patient and respectful, even if you don't agree.
Who do you contact for help?
For more information on local support services, please visit the Michigan Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence Web site at: www.mcadsv.org and click on "Locate Help Near You".
You may also call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Call toll free, 24 hours a day, anywhere in the U.S. Trained counselors provide confidential crisis intervention, support, information, and referrals to local programs, to victims of domestic violence, their families, and friends. The hotline links people to help in their area, including shelters, legal and social assistance programs. Help in English and Spanish with interpreters available in 139 more languages.
For additional information on this important issue, please contact Sgt. Trudy Rampy, Michigan State Police, Prevention Services Section, (517) 322-1179.
Sources: The Michigan Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence; Calhoun Domestic Violence Council Education Prevention Safety and Support Information Guide; and the 2002 MSP Uniform Crime Report.