Domestic Violence

What is domestic violence?

Domestic violence is a pattern of coercive, controlling behavior that can include physical abuse, emotional or psychological abuse, sexual abuse or financial abuse (using money and financial tools to exert control over someone).

Physical abuse is only one aspect of domestic violence – you can be a victim of domestic violence without ever having experienced physical violence.

1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men will experience domestic violence in their lifetime.

Domestic violence can affect anyone, regardless of age, economic status, race, sexual orientation, religion, or education.

No one deserves to be abused. If you are being abused, know that it is not your fault and that you are not alone – there is support for you.

Are there any red flags or warning signs of domestic violence?

There is no way to “spot” an abusive partner in a crowd, but below are some common signs of potentially abusive relationships:

  • They pressure you to move fast in a relationship or push for immediate commitment.

  • They have been abusive in past relationships; they speak disrespectfully of past relationships and partners (calling an ex “crazy,” etc)

  • They are very jealous and possessive.

  • They isolate you from your friends and family.

  • They may try to persuade you not to have a job or go to school

  • They have a violent temper and quickly changing moods.

  • They monitor your whereabouts, activities or spending.

  • They gaslight you - that is, make you start questioning your own sanity, feelings, instincts, and reality through emotional abuse and manipulation (for example, convincing you that the abuse is your fault, that “you’re too sensitive” etc)

  • You question whether or not you are being abused

For a more complete list of red flags, click here.

Be aware that abuse escalates: controlling behavior can become more frequent, more damaging, and closer to lethal over time. If you suspect that you are being abused, reach out for help as soon as possible.

How is substance abuse linked to domestic violence?

Survivors may turn to drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism to deal with their abuse. Or they may be forced to start using by their abusive partner, making survivors even more dependent on the abusive partner. An abusive partner may even utilize their substance abuse as an excuse for their behavior. 

The combination of domestic violence and substance abuse can be a dangerous situation. WIT offers counseling and support for individuals experiencing both domestic violence and substance abuse.

Why do people sometimes stay with their abusive partners?

Many people question why anyone would stay in an abusive relationship. There are many barriers to safety, including:

  • The belief that the abusive partner will change because of their remorse and promises to stop

  • Fear of the abusive partner, who may threaten to harm or even kill them or their loved ones

  • Feeling responsible for the abuse

  • Economic dependence on the abusive partner

  • Social isolation from family and friends

  • Lack of support (family, friends, community, social service agencies)

  • Lack of information regarding domestic violence resources 

  • Lack of job skills

  • Lack of alternative housing

  • Cultural or religious beliefs

To hear from survivors themselves about why they stayed, read more using the hashtag #WhyIStayed on Twitter:

#WhyIStayed Stories Reveal Why Domestic Violence Survivors Can’t ‘Just Leave’

WhyIStayed/WhyILeft Wikipedia article

Instead of asking Why doesn’t someone experiencing abuse leave?, better questions to ask are Why does the abusive partner choose to abuse? and How can I support someone who is in an abusive relationship?

Can abusive partners change?

Yes, but it is very difficult for an abusive partner to stop their behavior - it requires a serious commitment to change and real accountability for their actions. Contact Menergy for more information about counseling for abusive partners in the Philadelphia area.

Abusive partners often promise to change. But part of an abusive cycle may be that they promise to change and then don’t follow through.

If you are in an abusive relationship, do not wait for your partner to change. Call our LifeLine at 215.751.1111 to discuss options and resources for your safety.

What can I do to help?

Listen compassionately and nonjudgmentally when a friend or family member discloses domestic violence. Let them know that it’s not their fault and that they are not alone. 

Encourage them to reach out to WIT's LifeLine for supportive telephone counseling or the Philadelphia Domestic Violence Hotline for crisis counseling: they can learn about their options, resources, and create a safety plan with trained counselors.

Reach out yourself to WIT’s LifeLine (215.751.1111) or to the 24/7 Philadelphia Domestic Violence Hotline (1.866.723.3014) for support, resources and information.

Volunteer with us to provide support for women experiencing domestic violence and substance abuse

Host a Domestic Violence 101 workshop at your workplace, church, school, or private group.

Make a donation to support our lifesaving services of LifeLine telephone counseling, empowerment counseling, peer support groups, advocacy, and more.