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Domestic Violence

What is Domestic Violence?

Domestic violence, including intimate partner violence, is a pattern of behaviors used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over the other partner. 1

Domestic violence can be physical, emotional, financial, sexual, technological, and/or spiritual. This can include any behaviors that intimidate, manipulate, humiliate, isolate, frighten, coerce, threaten, blame, hurt, or injure someone. These behaviors occur in a cycle that can become increasingly explosive and dangerous over time.

Forms of Abuse – What does Domestic Violence look like?

Using Coercion & Threats

  • Making or carrying out threats to hurt you or someone you love
  • Making threats to commit suicide or leave the relationship

Using Intimidation

  • Using looks, actions, gestures to scare you
  • Throwing or smashing things
  • Destroying your property
  • Abusing pets
  • Displaying weapons
  • Putting you down

Using Emotional Abuse

  • Calling you names
  • Humiliating you
  • Playing mind games
  • Making you think you are crazy

Using Isolation

  • Controlling what you do, who you talk to, where you go
  • Using jealousy to justify actions
  • Destroying your relationships with family and friends

Minimizing, Denying, Blaming

  • Making light of the abuse
  • Saying the abuse didn’t happen
  • Shifting the blame - “It’s your fault” or “You caused this”

Using Children

  • Making you feel guilty about the children
  • Using the kids to relay messages back and forth
  • Using visitation to harass you
  • Threatening to take the kids away from you

Using Economic Abuse

  • Preventing you from getting or keeping a job
  • Making you ask for money or giving you an allowance
  • Taking your money
  • Not letting you know about or have access to family income

We Can Help

PREVAIL is dedicated to providing immediate crisis intervention and ongoing supportive services to individuals and families who have experienced domestic violence. All PREVAIL services are free and confidential. You are not alone. We are here to help.

24-hour Helpline

PREVAIL provides 24- hour support to individuals experiencing domestic violence. Our skilled Crisis Specialists can assist with safety planning, shelter resources, and connection to other community resources.

Emergency Shelter

PREVAIL provides emergency shelter to women, men and their children who are homeless as a result of recent domestic violence. Our shelters are in undisclosed locations to maintain safety for all of our shelter clients.

Legal Support

Our team can provide assistance with completing and filing restraining orders, court accompaniment and preparation for hearings, and coordination of legal services with other agencies in our community.

Peer Counseling

Peer counseling provides a safe, nonjudgmental space for individuals to process their experiences and receive helpful psychoeducation. WCYFS Peer Counselors are state-certified Domestic Violence counselors, specializing in helping individuals who have experienced intimate partner violence.

Support Groups

Support groups are curriculum-based, trauma-informed groups that provide intervention and education to help survivors who have experienced domestic violence. Group members will build connectivity to others while enhancing their coping skills.

Case Management

Case management services include offering individuals access and resources to basic needs, finding shelters or housing, education and career development, establishing life skills and linking individuals to other community-based organizations.

Get Help Now

Our trained advocates are available to talk confidentially with anyone who is experiencing domestic violence, seeking resources or information, or questioning unhealthy aspects of their relationship. We provide free, confidential services to help individuals heal, create healthy relationships and boundaries, and live a life free from intimate partner violence.

Frequently Asked Questions about Domestic Violence

What is domestic violence?
Domestic violence (DV) is not physical violence alone. Domestic violence (also referred to as intimate partner violence, dating abuse, or relationship abuse) is a pattern of behaviors used by one partner to maintain power and control over another partner in an intimate relationship. Abuse is a learned behavior; it is not caused by anger, mental health problems, drugs or alcohol, or other common excuses.
Who experiences domestic violence?
Domestic violence affects more than 12 million people every year. Abuse happens regardless of gender, age, sexuality, race, economic status, ability, citizenship status, or any other factor or identity. On average, more than 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men in the US will experience rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner. Women ages 18 to 24 and 25 to 34 generally experience the highest rates of intimate partner violence.
Who abuses?
Anyone can be abusive and anyone can be the victim of abuse. Abuse is a learned behavior; some people witness it in their own families growing up, and others learn it slowly from friends, popular culture, or structural inequities throughout our society. No matter where they develop such behaviors, those who commit abusive acts make a choice in doing so — they also could choose not to. Many times, individuals that abuse may not appear abusive to those outside of the relationship; they can be very charismatic and seem harmless, and even hold positions of power and authority in the community.
How can I identify domestic violence?

Verbal abuse and physical abuse are easily identifiable. But you must also be aware of some of the more indirect evidence of domestic violence so that intervention can occur as early and safely as possible. Some signs you may be in an abusive relationship include:

  • Being afraid of your partner
  • Constantly apologizing for your partner’s behavior
  • Feeling like you can’t go out with friends or family because of your partner’s jealousy
  • Being forced or pressured to have sex by your partner
  • Being denied money for necessary expenses, barred from getting a job, or required to turn over all of your money to their financial control
  • Being threatened with arrest or being reported to the authorities by your partner
  • Your partner throws things at you in anger, or your partner has destroyed your personal belongings
  • Intimidation with threatening looks or actions from your partner
  • Prevention from leaving a room or your home by resistance or blocking a doorway
Is there a pattern to it?
Domestic violence is not an isolated event. Each incident builds on what has happened before, and the abuse typically becomes more frequent and severe. Remember, it is not about anger or being under the influence, but about control of a partner. While there may be recognizable patterns going on in a relationship (ex. you know your partner tends to get more confrontational after going out drinking) the violence rarely occurs in a predictable cycle. There may be periods of time where things may be calmer, but those times are followed by a buildup of tension and abuse, which usually results in the abuser peaking with intensified abuse. This pattern then often starts to repeat, commonly becoming more and more intense as time goes on. Each relationship is different and not every relationship follows the exact pattern. Regardless, abusers purposefully use numerous tactics of abuse to instill fear in the victim and maintain control over them.
Is it a crime?
Physical assault and battery are crimes no matter where they take place—on the street or in the home. So is harassment, stalking and sexual assault. Law enforcement agencies in our area consider domestic violence a very serious crime and hold perpetrators accountable for their actions. However, it’s important to note that you do not have to involve law enforcement in order to seek any supportive services from PREVAIL.
Is there ever any excuse for the abuse?
People who abuse often come up with excuses and frequently blame their partner, deny the abuse and minimize the severity of their violence. There is never an excuse for abusing anyone and no possible reason for brutality or coercion in a loving relationship. We all get angry at people we care for, but domestic violence is beyond anger; it is all about enforcing power and control over the other partner in the relationship.
I think my friend is experiencing DV. What can I do?
If you believe someone is in immediate physical danger, call 911 just as you’d want someone to do for you; domestic violence can be dangerous for everyone, including bystanders and family, so please proceed with caution. If you suspect that someone is trapped in a pattern of domestic violence, call our 24-hour, confidential helpline for insight and advice. You don’t have to give your name. Our Specialists can help you think through what to say or do to help the victim find safety.
I think I might be experiencing DV. What can I do?
It’s always beneficial to confide in a friend or family member and seek out support outside of the relationship if you can. Your safety is the utmost priority, so devise a plan on how you can maintain your safety. It’s important to know that it can be most dangerous as you consider and/or attempt to leave an abusive relationship. If you are currently in an unsafe or abusive relationship, you can reach out to one of our Specialists 24/7 to discuss your situation and we’ll help you to identify any available options to help ensure your safety; we’re here when you’re ready.
How can I support someone experiencing DV?

Watching someone endure an abusive situation can be difficult under any circumstances, and it’s not always clear how best to respond when you see the warning signs of abuse. Your instinct may be to “save them” from the relationship, but abuse is never that simple and this approach can backfire. There are many ways that abuse appears and there are many reasons why people stay in abusive situations. Understanding how power and control operate in the context of abuse and how to shift power back to those affected by domestic violence are some of the most important ways to support survivors in your life. Things you can do:

  • Acknowledge that their situation is difficult, scary, and brave of them to regain control from.
  • Don’t judge their decisions, or criticize them or guilt them over a choice they make.
  • Remember that you cannot “rescue them,” and that decisions about their lives are up to them to make.
  • Don’t speak poorly of the abusive partner.
  • Help them create a safety plan.
  • Help them by storing important documents or a “to-go bag” in case of an emergency situation.
  • Encourage them to participate in activities outside of their relationship with friends and family, and be there to support them in such a capacity.
  • Offer to go with them to any service provider or legal setting for moral support.
  • Continue to be supportive of them if they do end the relationship and are understandably lonely, upset, or return to their abusive partner.

Domestic Violence Classes and Workshops

Domestic Violence Resources

    1. National Domestic Violence Hotline