Recognizing and Responding to Domestic Violence

By Robin Deutsch, PhD, Director of the Center of Excellence for Children, Families and the Law; Core Faculty in the Clinical Psychology Department October 05, 2015

Robin Deutsch, PhD, Director of the Center of Excellence for Children, Families and the Law; Core Faculty in the Clinical Psychology Department.

Domestic violence expresses itself in many ways. Among the most common are physical aggression, emotional or psychological threats or intimidation, and sexual coercion. Some violence occurs because that is the way people in the home respond to frustration, anger, or jealousy. Some occurs because one person in the home uses it to have power or control over another person. Feeling intimidated and threatened is detrimental to a person’s mental health and feelings of self-worth, and can cause or worsen stress-related health problems. And witnessing any type of violence is particularly harmful to children. Domestic violence is often associated with substance abuse. If you feel you are a victim of domestic abuse, or you yourself use violence, it is important to recognize if you are using alcohol or drugs to dull your pain or if you become more aggressive when using those substances.

Tips for Keeping Your Home Safe

  • Have a Safety Plan. If you believe that you are being threatened or intimidated by someone in your home, you should create a plan for safety. There are advocates at hospitals who can help. Your primary physician can also point you toward help. Feeling safe is absolutely essential and finding support to help you accomplish that is critically important. 
  • Recognize Patterns and Triggers of AggressionIf you and anyone who you live with uses name-calling, put downs, pushing, shoving, grabbing, throwing things, or other kinds of verbal or physical aggression, you should first think about whether this occurs when one or both of you have been drinking or using other kinds of drugs. Being aware of patterns of violence or aggression – how it starts and what keeps it going - is a first step. If this kind of fighting is the only way you know how to express your feelings, then it is very important to learn new ways. There are groups that help people learn new methods to solve problems, resolve conflict, and manage anger. Your primary care physician can help you find a referral to a group or a psychotherapist. 
  • Protect Your Children. If you have children in the house, they need predictability, stability and routines. They need consistent parenting and discipline and protection from observing any kind of aggression or violence. Not only does witnessing violence cause fear and anxiety, it often interferes with children’s attention, concentration, social and peer relationships. They also learn that the way to solve problems and express feelings is through verbal and/or physical aggression. It is extremely important that children are protected from observing any kind of violence in the house. Protecting the children from conflict and violence in the home is essential for their healthy development.