Physical violence is often called domestic violence (DV), which is the use of physical force. Physical violence includes sexual assault, throwing items, hitting, pushing, punching, burning, biting, pinching, assault with a weapon, choking, restraining, confinement, and kicking (think of any act that uses force). The impact on the abused is both psychological and physical harm. Physical abuse signs include bruising (face, neck, arms, legs, abdomen, or back), broken bones, black eyes, burns, wounds or bruises at different stages of healing, and swelling/puffiness in the face or around the eyes. Another sign that one is being abused occurs when the reported history of the injury does not match the current injury. The psychological response to DV is the same as stated earlier with emotional abuse, however there are higher rates of PTSD symptoms which include hyper arousal (i.e. exaggerated startle response and hyper-vigilance), avoidance of things that remind one of the abuse (ex. places, people, situations), and re-experiencing the abuse (ex. flashbacks, intrusive thoughts/images, nightmares). Many people may not meet the clinical criteria for PTSD, but they may still experience symptoms since PTSD symptoms are experienced on a continuum.
What Do I Do?
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If you know someone who is being abused, you are being abused, or you are abusing someone, get help. This is not the type of situation that one can resolve on his/her own and the benefits of receiving help dramatically outweigh the outcome of not receiving help. Help includes telling a therapist, doctor, or start by calling a hotline for DV (1.800.799.SAFE) to receive more information on the resources in your community. Breaking the silence is a courageous and important first step. Tell friends or family so they can help support you and can help connect you to places/people that are trained to deal with abuse. There are foundations that financially help those who are being abused to get away, groups where you can meet others in the same situation, and lawyers that will help work for your rights (pro bono). The resources are out there and the wonderful part of breaking the silence is that you can start to protect yourself by reaching out to those who can impact the situation.
As alone as you might feel, rest assured that you are not. In fact, 33 million or 15% of all U.S. adults, admit that they have been a victim of domestic violence (Harris Poll 2006). There are a lot of people out there that can understand what you are going through. Among adults, 39% say that they have been the victim of at least one of the following:
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o Called bad names (31%)
o Pushing, slapping, choking or hitting (21%)
o Public humiliation (19%)
o Isolated from friends or family (13%)
o Threats directed at the victim’s family (10%)
o Forced to have sexual intercourse without consent (9%)
Something important to remember is that abusers commonly use coercive tactics to isolate the victim from family and friends. I recommend staying connected to those that care about you because they can, and will want to help you! For an excellent source that provides detailed information on how to protect yourself, see: http://www.thehotline.org/get-help/safety-planning/