By Erin Telesford
Domestic Violence (DV) is one of the most underreported crimes that take place in New York, yet it has some of the most extensive impacts on victims and those exposed to DV. Nationally, 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men will experience physical violence by their intimate partner at some point during their lifetimes, according to CDC data. In 2016, 11.6% of major crimes in NYC were related to domestic violence. 2 in 5 assault cases and 1 in 5 homicides were due to domestic violence.
Last month, Ethnic Media Services hosted a national news conference to discuss the different types of domestic abuse tactics used. The panel discussed victims at the highest risk of abuse and the recent congressional changes to decrease the rate of domestic violence. Jenna Lane, one of the panelists at this conference, introduced LetsEndDV.org, a website created to educate those affected by DV about what it is, who it affects, and resources for those who need help. The site explains all different forms of domestic violence:
- Calling a partner names
- Saying a partner never does anything right
- Mocking a partner’s appearance or abilities
- Gaslighting a partner
- Undermining a partner’s confidence
- Slapping or hitting a partner
- Choking or strangling a partner
- Driving recklessly with a partner
- Threatening physical abuse, whether or not it happens
- Taking out loans in a partner’s name without their knowledge
- Giving a partner an “allowance”
- Taking away a paycheck
- Damaging a partner’s property
- Threatening a partner’s employment
- Forcing or pressuring a partner to commit sexual acts they aren’t comfortable with
- Requiring a partner to share explicit photographs or videos
- Sharing explicit imagery of a partner without their permission
- Threatening to call the police or child protective services on a partner
- Getting a partner evicted from their home
- Threatening to call immigration on a partner or getting them deported
- Making a partner feel they need permission to get healthcare
- Demanding a partner undergo specific medical procedures
- Sabotaging birth control or forcing a partner to use it
- Keeping a partner isolated from family and friends
- Preventing a partner from leaving the home
- Taking away a partner’s house keys, car keys, cell phone, etc.
- Tracking a partner using a cellphone, camera, or other devices
- Requiring a partner to share their passwords
- Reading a partner’s private communications without their knowledge or against their wishes
Many tend to believe domestic violence only exists as physical. However, as Pallavi Dhawan explains, DV is “a pattern of abusive behavior that is used to gain control over another person,” and physical abuse is not always the worst. Two forms of DV discussed in this conference were Coercive Control and Technological abuse. Examples of coercive controlling behavior are:
- Isolating you from friends and family
- Depriving you of basic needs, such as food
- Monitoring your time
- Monitoring you via online communication tools or spyware
All these forms of the control strip away a person’s autonomy and reduce them to a shadow of their former self. Unequal power dynamics, typically gender with male offenders and female victims, induce abuse and violence against the person with less power in the relationship. In our society, people with less power are often women, people of color, and immigrants, and they are more likely to become victims of domestic violence.
Technological abuse is another common tactic that crosses all forms of domestic violence, sexual assault, violence, and abuse. Erica Olsen states, “Harassing by repeatedly texting and calling, monitoring devices to make people feel isolated and unsafe in their home, tracking location without their knowledge. The most common examples are hijacking financial or social accounts to commit fraud or impersonation, distributing intimate images without consent, and posting threats or harassing content online. As technology evolves, we see the tactics of misuse evolve alongside it. Though technology can cause violence, it can also be a powerful tool for survivors by designing technology to be safer for users and creating an environment online that promotes kindness towards other users.
Tech Abuse in the Pandemic and Beyond is a report that surveyed over 1000 advocates and legal systems professionals, which concluded that the most common forms of technological abuse during the pandemic were harassment and limiting access to tech and surveillance. Olsen states, “Almost half of the adults in the US have experienced online harassment – Blacks and Hispanics are twice as likely as white victims to report the experience as extremely upsetting. Women of color are often targeted with violent threats that are racialized and sexualized in nature, and this can lead to an increase in trauma and additional burdens such as employment loss.” Reluctance to seek help is higher in victims of color due to community, religion, or cultural pressure.
The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) is the significant federal response to domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking. Some of the critical improvements made by the restoration of this act include:
- Investing in culturally specific programs, services, and responses and increasing funding authorization to expand access to services in high demand across all underserved populations
- Promoting safety for victims of violence on tribal lands
- Providing tools to ensure adjudicated abusers who are prohibited from possessing firearms do not acquire new ones
Criminal justice is another change made to the VAWA, which defines restorative justice and creates a new community-based program to support training and programs to provide non-carceral accountability for survivors who seek such approaches
Deborah Tucker introduces the 80 percent rule. She stated, “A study of everyone in prison for having committed murder or a serious violent crime, and the 80% rule came out. 80% of them grew up in families where domestic violence was used. 80% had been harmed within that family or neighborhood.” 80% of those incarcerated criminals had alcohol or drug abuse problems attributed to the crises they’ve had their whole lives. They did not have the job or satisfaction of attainment in their day-to-day life that they expected to have when they were younger or grew up and had to deal with the use of violence against themselves or someone they loved very early in life. If we want to stop the continuation of violence in the world, we have to prevent domestic and sexual violence.