What is Domestic Violence and what resources are there for me? 

Melissa Kowalewski, Esq.

Melissa Kowalewski, Esq.

A person’s home is the place where they are supposed to feel the most safe.  A home is where family members that love, support and nurture one another live together.  The unfortunate reality is that in many American homes, this is simply not the case.  Domestic abuse and intimate partner violence is often present and unseen.

  • What exactly is Domestic Abuse?

Domestic abuse is the willful intimidation, physical assault, sexual assault and/or other abusive behavior that is a part of a systematic patter of control committed by one intimate partner against another.  This pattern of coercive control does not have to be solely physical. It can include non-physical patterns of behavior as well including, but not limited to, control of all of the finances, one intimate partner isolating their partner from family  members and/or friends, control of the person’s travel and emotional/psychological abuse.  The frequency and severity of the abuse varies between different couples and may often vary within the relationship, ebbing and flowing.

  • Is Domestic Abuse really that prevalent in our communities?

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence:

  • On average, 20 people a minute experience intimate partner physical violence.
  • 1 in 4 women and 1 in 9 men experience severe intimate partner violence, intimate partner sexual violence and/or intimate partner stalking.
  • On a typical day, domestic violence hotlines receive over 20,000 calls.

But that is Nationwide. What about in New Hampshire?

According to the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Domestic Violence Fatality Report from March of 2019:

  • From 2016-2017, eight (8) people in New Hampshire were murdered in Domestic Violence related homicides, representing 32% of all homicides statewide.
  • Over the last nine (9) years, Domestic Violence related homicides in New Hampshire made up 53% of the State’s homicides.
  • From 2016-2017, 29,943 people sought services from the State’s thirteen (13) crisis centers, with 91% identifying themselves as the primary or secondary victim.
  • From 2016-2017, 8,002 Petitions for Domestic Violence Orders of Protection were filed with the New Hampshire Circuit Court Family Divisions. During the same period, 3,935 Petitions for Stalking Orders of Protection were filed. Additionally, during the same period, 7,785 Criminal Bail Orders of Protection were issued.

Domestic abuse and intimate partner violence are therefore present in our communities in New Hampshire.

  • Why does this all matter?

Domestic Violence is prevalent in every community and affects all people, regardless of age, economic class, sexual orientation, gender, race, religion or nationality.  Domestic abuse and intimate partner violence can result in physical injury, psychological trauma and even death. The impact can cross generations.

  • Is there a typical abuser or typical victim?

Absolutely anyone can be a victim or abuser.   Domestic Violence crosses age, education levels and gender.  Men and women can assume the role of either victim or abuser.  Domestic Violence can occur within heterosexual, homosexual or transgender relationships.  It can occur in relationships where the couple has a lot of money, but it can also occur in the poorest of communities.  Domestic abuse does not discriminate on any basis and can occur to anyone.

  • Are there different types of abuse?

Yes, there are different types of abuse.  Examples include but are not limited to psychological abuse, physical abuse, financial/economic abuse, stalking and sexual assault. Each type of abuse can be used in order for one intimate partner to engage in a pattern of coercive control against the other partner.  There is a diagram called the Power and Control Wheel, pictured below, that provides examples of the types of behavior that may be used in this unhealthy dynamic.

https://www.thehotline.org/is-this-abuse/abuse-defined/power-and-control-wheel/

 

  • Do the behaviors generally stay consistent, or is there a pattern where there is a “calm before the storm?” Screen-Shot-2013-09-18-at-10.19.55-AM

 

Experts in Domestic Abuse have identified a number of patterns of behavior associated with the behaviors that abusive partners engage in. Please remember that not all relationships that have elements of coercive control follow this pattern.

Three phases of abuse have been identified.  These phases are the Tension Building Phase, the Acute Battering Phase and the Absence of Abuse Stage (formerly the “Honeymoon Period”).

In the Tension Building Phase, there is often a sense that survivors are walking on eggshells while they are around their abusive partner or that they are waiting for the other shoe to drop, so to speak. Examples of behaviors in this phase can include, but are not limited to, verbal and emotional abuse, social isolation, and increased monitoring of the survivor.  It has not been unusual for survivors to report doing something to trigger an abusive incident because one is known to be coming and so that they couple can move on to the “Honeymoon” Phase. This phase can last days, weeks or months.

In the Acute Battering Phase, an act of physical violence usually occurs, breaking the tension. The acts can include anything from the destruction of property to a serious assault or even death.  It can last a few minutes or up to days.

In the Absence of Battering or Honeymoon phase, the abusive partner may apologize, buy gifts for their partner, or be extra affectionate in order to make up for the acute abusive act that had just occurred.  There are often promises to change, stop the abusive behavior or promise that it will never happen again.  Once this phase is done, the tension building phase begins, starting the cycle once again.

Not all relationships have every one of these phases and the behavior in each phase will be unique to the relationship itself.

  • If it is so bad, why do victims of domestic abuse stay in the relationship?

It is very easy to question a person’s motives and the reasons that they stay in a dangerous and unhealthy relationship; however, it is often VERY difficult for victims of domestic abuse to leave. Many victims may experience one or more of the following:

  • Fear – The period immediately after a victim has left an abusive relationship is the most dangerous period for that victim. Abusers have lost absolute control.  Remember that during the course of the relationship, threats of harm to the victim and threats to the victim’s children, family and/or friends may have been made. Additionally, the abusive partner may have threatened self harm or suicide if the relationship is ended. The victim’s fear of these repercussions may be so great, that they remain in the relationship because the relationship is perceived as being the safer option.
  • Love – Abusers are likely not hurtful all the time. Many victims truly love their partner and believe that their partner can and will change.
  • Doubt/Lack of Support – The Victim/survivor may believe that if they disclose the abuse, they will not be believed and/or nothing will be done to their abuser, leaving the victim/survivor exposed to danger and alone. This is particularly true where the abusing partner is a prominent figure, is popular and/or charismatic.
  • Embarrassment or Shame – sometimes a victim may believe that abuse does not happen to someone like them. This is often related to the misconception that domestic abuse happens in only certain types of communities or with certain types of people.  This shame is so deep-seeded that it may be difficult to overcome.
  • Isolation/Financial Dependent – During the course of the relationship, the abusive partner may have successfully made their partner financially and/or socially dependent upon them. The victim may not have the financial resources and/or the social connections upon which to rely, thereby making it nearly impossible to leave the relationship.
  • Societal/Cultural Expectations – There are many cultures within New Hampshire and the larger Untied States and world at large in which Domestic Abuse is seen as normal. Within those cultures and societies, it may be taboo to discuss this sort of abuse and it may also be taboo for one person to leave a relationship because of it. The social stigma of discussing this type of abuse and/or leaving is so strong, that it may discourage people from leaving or seeking assistance.
  • Children – A parent may believe that staying in the relationship is the only sure way to keep their child or children safe from physical harm if they leave. A parent may also believe that a child does best when the parents remain together, even if the relationship is unhealthy and/or dangerous.

These are not the only reasons that partners stay in abusive relationships. The reasons are many and are extremely complex.  The bottom line is that these reasons exist and are often extremely complicated.

  • What resources are available for people in these situations?

New Hampshire has many different types of resources available to people that are experiencing Domestic Abuse.

  • Most importantly, if you feel that you are in immediate danger or are experiencing an emergency, please call 9-1-1 immediately to be connected your local police department.
  • The New Hampshire Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence is comprised of a number of crisis centers that can assist you. The Crisis Center that would assist you is dependent upon what county you are in. The Coalition itself has a 24 hour crisis line that can provide you with immediate assistance and then can refer victims to the local crisis center for further services. The toll free number for the Coalition is 1-866-644-3574.
  • In New Hampshire, you may qualify for a Domestic Violence Order of Protection or Stalking Order of Protection. For more information on how to obtain a Domestic Violence or Stalking Order of Protection, please view this video from the Court’s website.
  • The Court has also provided this checklist that may be helpful in attempting to obtain protection through the Courts.
  • The New Hampshire Bar Association DOVE Program also provides invaluable resources and legal assistance to people seeking protection from Domestic and Sexual Violence.

Contact Us

If you or someone you know can benefit from this information, please share it!  If you would like to meet with one of our experienced domestic violence attorneys, please give us a call at 943-5647 or reach out to us online here: https://morneaulaw.com/contact-us/  We are located in downtown Nashua, NH and have plenty of free parking.  Our hours are flexible and we offer telephone meetings for those who cannot make it into the office.  Don’t wait to get help.