What is domestic violence?
Domestic violence is physical abuse, harassment, intimidation or interference with personal liberty by a current or former spouse or domestic partner. The perpetrator's goal is to establish or maintain power and control over the victim. The perpetrator wants to control what you do, when you do it, who you see, what you think, your access to money, medication, transportation, and more. The perpetrator's attempts to establish or maintain power and control come in many forms including, but not limited to, physical attacks and sexual abuse. The scars left by psychological attacks are just as harmful. Psychological abuse can come in the form of verbal insults, mind games, humiliation, excessive criticism and living with the constant fear of physical attacks. Unfortunately, to maintain control of the victim, the perpetrator often uses the victim's children.
If you are a victim of domestic violence, your children are 15 times more likely to be abused themselves, and are more likely to die as a result of child abuse in the home. Abusive domestic partners oftentimes use children to establish or maintain power and control over the victim by physically, emotionally, or sexually abusing the children. Domestic violence can be scary for the whole family, and especially for children who witness the abuse of their parent.
Even if your children are not physically abused, exposure to the trauma of domestic violence can cause long-term harm, including:
- Eating and sleeping disorders;
- Learning disabilities and poor academic performance;
- Verbally or physically aggressive behaviors;
- Feelings of guilt, because they believe the domestic violence is their fault;
- Anxious or clingy behavior; or excessive crying in children under five;
- Alcohol and drug abuse in adolescents; and
- Teen dating violence.
Thinking about safety
Victims of domestic violence cannot control or predict the behaviors or actions of their abusive partners. However, victims can develop a plan of what they can do to be safe and how they can access help when there is a crisis. It is important to talk to children about their concerns for safety. The link below provides information on how you can plan for the safety of you and your children.
Domestic Violence Warning Signs
- Your partner tries to control what you do. (e.g., keeps you away from your family, friends or neighbors, prevents you from going to work, listens to your phone calls, follows you, controls your income or how you spend your money)
- Your partner has threatened you or done something else that frightened you. (e.g., threatens to do something harmful to you, behaves violently in public, forces you to engage in sexual activity, calls you degrading names, forces you to use drugs)
- Your partner has pushed, slapped, punched, kicked or hurt you in other ways (e.g., hurts you physically, restrains you)
- Your partner has threatened to use the children to control you in any way (e.g., forces the children to participate in the abuse or watch you being abused, blames the children for the abuse, threatens to harm or kill the children)
- Your partner calls you bad names, ridicules you, or puts you down verbally
- Your children have been exposed to incidents of domestic violence (e.g., seen or heard the abuse)
- You are afraid of your partner
Need help or want to know more?
If you need help, call the 24-hour, toll free, Illinois Domestic Violence Helpline at 877-863-6338. The Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence offers additional safety tips and an interactive map which outlines domestic violence service agencies by county.
For more information, refer to these publications: