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How To Detect Domestic Violence - By Chris Gearing

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

by Dr. Sylvia Gearing

The tragic death of University Virginia athlete, Yeardley Love, has raised the question once again of domestic violence in young couples.

Here’s what the latest statistics tell us about this frightening phenomenon:

  • Just under 45% of this age group have experienced violence in a relationship either before or during college.
  • Relationship violence seems to peak prior to college for most kids with 53% of women and 27% of men reporting victimization.
  • Emotional violence was the most common type of violence at all ages but is more common in high school.
  • Both sexual and emotional violence increase in college, if not addressed properly.

How can you detect if someone you know is being abused? Here are the signs:

  • Isolation: Abusive partners prefer that their victim remain isolated and unable to turn to others. In addition, victims isolate themselves from friends and family.
  • Increasing Anxiety and Depression: Domestic abuse victims show signs of anxiety and depression such as agitation, sadness, withdrawal, low energy, emotional mood swings, tearfulness and a decline in functioning at school.
  • Avoiding The Truth: People who are being abused are shell shocked. They are literally frozen by the stress. Many kids from good homes are naive about what abuse is, normalize the actions of the abusive partner and make excuses for the abuser until it is too late.
  • Social Shedding: Victims of emotional of sexual abuse by a partner seem to shed their former relationships—best friends, family connections, socializing patterns. They stop responding to others and deny they are being harassed.
  • Progressive Pain: Look for signs of increasing disconnection from others, less responsiveness and avoidant behavior. They are locked in a cage of agony and don’t know how to ask for help.

So what can you do to help?

Many family and friends prefer not to get involved out of respect of personal boundaries. However, this is one time that you need to speak up. Caring about this person now involves compassionate intervention. Please, do not turn your back.

Gather Evidence: Collect the observations you have had and organize them into a coherent conversation. Specify behaviors you have seen and conversations you may have overheard or read online or through texting.

Stand Your Ground: Domestic violence at this age is especially lethal since adolescent and young adult brains are often immature and impulsive. If you present your evidence and they are still resistant, go to their community of friends and ask them to help. For more serious cases, please seek out a psychologist. However difficult these steps are, they may very well save her life.

Sources: JAMA and Archives Journals (July 8, 2008) Relationship Violence Appears Common Among College Students


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