Sometimes it is difficult to realize at what point a relationship turned sour, what the triggers were or the causes. Victims of domestic abuse often blame themselves for what is happening and feel powerless to get out, change the dynamic, or even call it by name.
The perpetrators of domestic violence are often frozen in a cyclic pattern of behavior and will excuse or justify their behavior in order to avoid facing the truth of what their actions have caused. Many were themselves victims of abuse as children.
When children are exposed to incidents of domestic violence, they are at a higher risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder and can become anxious, depressed, or withdrawn. Many develop academic or behavioral problems. Sadly, the cycle of violence often continues after they reach adulthood.
The many forms of domestic violence
Domestic violence affects an estimated 10 million people in the United States each year, touching one in four women and one in nine men. Domestic violence in families can happen to intimate partners, children and the elderly, and can be present in many forms as physical, sexual, emotional, psychological, or economic abuse.
Victims often do not report incidents, so the behavior can go on for years and is sometimes difficult to detect. Even when victims do report incidents or leave a bad relationship, they often come back only to face more of the same behavior.
Making the decision to leave
Deciding to leave will mean that the victim will need to get protection for both herself and her family. If there is a history of law enforcement coming to settle domestic disputes in the past, this can help establish a record of incidents occurring in the home. Even if the police have not come to the residence, if the victim has left on one or more occasions to stay with a friend or family member, this will also show a pattern of domestic violence.
In Virginia, there are three kinds of protective orders that a victim can seek that will provide protection, depending on the individual circumstances and the judge’s ruling:
- An emergency protective order (EPO), where there is evidence of immediate danger of abuse, effective for at least 72 hours
- A preliminary protective order (PPO), which can remain in effect for 15 days or more, as determined by the court
- A final protective order (PO), which is valid for up to two years
A single event can spark the decision to leave, or a repeated pattern can over time provide convincing reasons to get out of an abusive relationship. For residents of Alexandria, getting help is the first step toward reaching that goal.