Domestic Violence During the Holiday Season
Domestic violence knows no race, socio-economic status, or gender. Especially around the holiday season, a stressful time for many, it can be easy to miss the signs.
For survivors of domestic violence, the holidays can be an especially difficult time when they need additional support. Some Maryland domestic violence advocates have noted an increase in abuse during the holiday season. Unfortunately, many victims feel increased pressure during the holidays to put up with abuse in order to keep the family together.
Domestic violence does not always involve physical abuse or threats of harm. It is characterized by controlling and dominating behavior, which can manifest in a variety of ways.
Insidious Forms of Abuse
While physical abuse like hitting or choking may be clear, the Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence outlines several other types of serious abuse that can be less obvious:
- Verbal Abuse: Examples include a partner who constantly criticizes or mocks you, or makes humiliating remarks.
- Sexual Abuse: This can mean forcing or pressuring you into sex, demanding sexual acts, or subjecting you to degrading treatment.
- Isolation: An abuser can isolate you in a variety of ways, including making it hard to see relatives and friends, restricting your ability to travel, and monitoring your communications with others.
- Coercion: This includes manipulating you, your children, and other family members, always insisting on being right, and controlling behavior by making up impossible “rules.” These rules often intensify gradually, to the point where victims feel as though they are ‘walking on eggshells’ around their abuser.
- Stalking: Stalking behaviors are an invasion of your privacy. This can include following you, secretly watching or recording you, repeated unwanted messages or phone calls, and monitoring your computer or phone.
- Economic Control: When a partner exerts financial control over you, it can be by preventing you from working, going to school, or learning a new skill, monitoring your spending, or restricting your access to money.
- Abusing Trust: Examples include lying, breaking promises, withholding important information, being unfaithful, and being excessively jealous or possessive.
- Emotional Withholding: When a partner will not express feelings or give compliments, refuses to listen or pay attention to you, or disregards your opinions or feelings.
Coercive control, a term defined by Professor Evan Stark, Ph.D. in 2007, incorporates multiple types of abuse and is a serious problem in many relationships. Coercive control is abuse characterized by a “strategic course of oppressive behavior”. An abuser will commonly use physical violence or intimidation, along with verbal abuse, isolation, and other controlling behaviors.
Because coercive control is purposeful, ongoing, and involves multiple abusive tactics, it is considered a step beyond emotional abuse. It is estimated that 60-80% of abused women have experienced coercive control.
In fact, the United Kingdom has recognized the seriousness of this type of pervasive abuse, and made coercive control a crime in 2015.
Emotional abuse and other forms of non-physical abuse can be hard to recognize, especially because a victim will often blame themselves, and the abusive behavior may have worsened gradually.
No One Deserves Abuse
Anyone can be the victim of domestic violence. There is no personality type that confers immunity to being a victim of abuse, and it can happen at regardless of age. Everyone deserves to live free from abuse, and there are resources available to help you out of an abusive situation.
Help is Available
If you suspect that you are being abused, there are many places to get immediate help. The Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence has compiled a list of domestic violence programs for all Maryland counties. For help anywhere in the United States 24/7/365, you can contact The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE(7233). Their online chat service is also available 24 hours a day.
An Experienced Advocate by Your Side
Christy A. Zlatkus, Esquire is an experienced domestic violence attorney who guides her clients through their legal options and helps them create a healthy path forward. Contact Z Family Law today if you would like to know more about obtaining legal protection for you and your family.