Domestic Violence, Battering, Abuse … there are many words used to describe what one person is willing to do to control their intimate partner. It is a nightmare for many individuals. The fact that someone we love or care about would harm us emotionally or physically is devastating. Please know that you are not alone.
The Domestic Violence Intervention Program (DVIP) exists because battering by an intimate partner is the single greatest cause of injury to women. Trauma and its impact on women, men and children has been well documented as a significant public health concern. As you read the rest of this letter and consider each point, please remember you deserve a life free of violence. NO ONE has the right to control, emotionally or physically abuse you!
- Domestic abuse is a pattern of behaviors, including violence that an abuser uses to CONTROL his /her partner.
- Using violence and/or other controlling behaviors is NOT ACCEPTABLE.
- No one causes another person to abuse, no matter how they act. Abuse is always the choice of the abuser. Battering is not mutual and it is not a couple’s quarrel. Disagreements happen occasionally in all relationships, but battering invades every aspect of a relationship with fear and control.
- You are the victim of a crime. Almost any reaction is normal. Some individuals come to shelter to find out if they are “sick or crazy”. They are not. Crazy-making happens in every abusive relationship when the abuser lies, denies, and/or minimizes the abuse and blames you for the violence. You aren’t going crazy; you are having a normal reaction to trauma and a crazy situation.
- Others may react in ways that seem hurtful because they do not understand what you are going through. If you feel uncomfortable with that person, it is OK to look for support elsewhere.
- You are a GOOD person!
- You are a SURVIVOR with strength, courage and skills that have gotten you this far.
- This may be the worst thing that has ever happened to you. At this time in your life, you deserve support, whether it is from friends, family, a therapist or the DVIP.
- Do the things that make you feel safer and better.
- You are not responsible for your partner’s abusive behavior!
Here are visual examples of what an abusive relationship looks like and what a healthy relationship looks like. They are here to help you sort through what you are experiencing and to examine if it matches the experiences of other individuals that have been abused by an intimate partner.
The Power and Control Wheel, written by women to describe their experiences at the hands of their abusive partners. We encourage you to examine the wheel in reference to your own relationship. The behavioral checklist may also be helpful.
Below is the Equality Wheel, part of an educational curriculum for men who batter. We encourage you to examine the wheel in reference to your own relationship.
We are here to support you as you explore your options and to provide information as you are caring for yourself.
All direct services provided by the Domestic Violence Intervention Program are free and confidential. For more information call our 24-hour hotline: 1-800-373-1043.
Below is a checklist that some of the individuals we work with have found helpful in looking at what is happening in their relationship.
Physical abuse includes unwanted physical contact, which may or may not cause an injury. Physical abuse can be directed at you, your children, household pets or others. Has your partner ever:
- pushed, shoved or kicked you
- held you down to keep you from leaving
- slapped, hit or punched you
- bit, stabbed, burned or choked you
- thrown objects at you
- locked you out of the house
- abandoned you in dangerous places
- refused to help when you were sick, injured or pregnant
- tried to hit or force you off the road with a car
- threatened or hurt you with a weapon
Sexual assault is any activity committed by force or against the will of another person. Sexual abuse/assault can also include degrading treatment based on your sexuality or sexual orientation; using force or coercion in pregnancy.. Has your partner ever:
- made jokes or crude remarks about you or others
- treated women as sex objects
- been excessively jealous; accusing you of affairs
- forced you to dress a particular way
- put down your feelings about sex
- criticized you sexually
- insisted on sexual contact or touching
- withheld sex and affection
- called you sexual names, like “whore” or “frigid”
- forced you to strip
- shown sexual interest in others
- had affairs with others while agreeing to monogamy
- demands monogamy from you, while insisting on freedom for self
- forced sex with him/her or others
- forced sex after beating or threatening beating
Emotional abuse is mistreating and controlling another person. The emotional abuser makes their partner feel afraid, helpless and/or worthless. Has or does your partner ever:
- ignore your feelings
- ridicule or insult your valued beliefs, religion, race etc.
- withhold appreciation, approval or affection as punishment
- continually criticize, calling you names or shouting at you
- insult or drive away friends/family
- humiliate you in public or private
- lied or withheld important information
- always checks up on you
- treat you like a child or servant
- threaten to leave you continually
- abused pets to hurt or scare you
- made you feel worthless, never good enough
- dislike your friends/family or how you do just about anything
Intimidation and Threats
The primary function of intimidation and threats is to instill fear and insure compliance. Has or does your partner:
- put you in fear through looks, gestures or actions
- smashed things
- destroyed things of value to you
- injured or killed pets to frighten you
- threatened to hurt/kill someone you love
- displayed weapons in a threatening way
- cleaned weapons immediately after or during a threatening argument
- threatened to leave you or commit suicide
- made you commit illegal acts
- threatened to report illegal acts or report you to welfare or child abuse investigators
- said he’ll/she’ll never let you leave him
Isolation can be devastating. It prevents someone who is battered/abused from accessing support or resources. In addition, batterers through abusive tactics will turn family and friends against their partner. Has your partner ever:
- started fights whenever you want to go out or spend time with friends
- put your family/friends down
- made you feel guilty when you spend time away from him/her
- although it is not said directly, you always feel like you must ask before going out
- refused to care for the children as you are preparing to leave
- made you account for every moment of the time you are gone — who you are with, where you went, who you saw, what you did, etc.
- made you late for work so many times, you lose your job
- accused you of having affairs
- monitor your use of the car
- taken the phone or car keys when he/she leaves
- locked you in a room when he/she leaves
Using the Children
Threatening or hurting someone we love is a tactic to insure compliance. Batterers know that many victims are willing to suffer almost anything to protect their loved ones. Has or does your partner:
- threaten to kidnap or kill the children
- punish or deprive the children when mad at you
- call you a bad parent
- use visitation to harass you
- tell the children things to affect their opinion of you or demean you in front of them
- refuse to participate in the care of the children
- use the children to make you feel guilty
- threaten to sexually abuse the children if you won’t have sex
Controlling a battered person’s access to financial resources can directly affect their ability to be independent of the batterer. Has or does your partner:
- control access to household money, you don’t know how much or where it is
- make all the financial decisions
- if you are responsible for the household budget you have to account for every dime and are punished if there isn’t “enough”
- take your paycheck or sell your belongings to get extra money
- prevent you from getting or keeping a job
Minimization, Denial and Blame
Minimization, denial and blame undermines the credibility and reality of battered/abused individuals. By making light of, denying responsibility for, or blaming the victim for their actions, the batterer creates an environment in which the victim’s feelings, thoughts or needs are ignored and devalued. Has or does your partner:
- say he/she wouldn’t hit you if you hadn’t made him/her angry
- say the abuse never happened or that it was no big deal
- say you deserve it
Control through Overprotection and “Caring”
Some batterers will use concepts like caring for or protecting as a means to control another. The emphasis here is on the intention of the action – will there be consequences if you don’t go along with their “kindness”
- he/she doesn’t like it if you are away from home, he/she worries and wants to know where you are all the time
- he/she phones or unexpectedly shows up where you work to see if you’re “ok”
- he/she shops or runs errands so you don’t have to go out
- he/she drives you to and from places so no one will get “ideas”
Using Societal Privilege
In our society, many of us carry value based on our status. Some examples include being male, wealthy, heterosexual or white-skinned. Has your partner ever:
- treated you like a servant
- made all the “big” decisions, telling you what to do
- acted like the “master of the castle” using that to justify abusive behaviors
- used heterosexism or homophobia to put you in fear
- threatened to “out” you to family or coworkers
- said you aren’t a “real” LGBTQIA
- threatened to tell your children or former partner that you are in a relationship with a an individual of the same gender.
This check list is adapted from materials written by Ginny NiCarthy.
These safety strategies have been compiled from safety plans distributed by state domestic violence coalitions and local domestic violence programs around the country. There is no guarantee that if you follow all or some, of these strategies that you will be safe; however, implementing these strategies could help to improve your safety situation.
Personal Safety with an Abuser
- Identify your partner’s use and level of force so that you can assess danger to you and your children before it occurs. List the cues that your partner is escalating so you have a way to evaluate when the situation may become dangerous. If an abusive situation seems likely, try to diffuse your partner’s anger – think about ways that you have protected yourself in the past, what has worked and what hasn’t.
- Try to avoid an abusive situation by leaving. Go for a walk, hopefully your partner will cool down during that time.
- Identify safe areas of the house where there are no weapons and there are ways of escape. If arguments occur, try to move to those areas. Install inside locks on a door or plan barricades. Old cell phones can be used to call 911, place one in your safe room and keep it charged.
- Don’t run to where the children are as your partner may hurt them as well or use them to threaten you.
- If violence is unavoidable, make yourself as small a target as you can; dive into a corner and curl up into a ball with your face protected and arms around each side of your head, fingers entwined.
- If possible, have a phone accessible at all times and know the numbers to call for help. Think about places close by where you could get to a phone, such as a gas station or grocery store. Cell phones, even those that aren’t activated with a service, can be used to call 911. Know your local domestic violence program’s number. Don’t be afraid to call the police.
- Let trusted friends and neighbors know of your situation and develop a plan and visual signal for when you need help. Turning on the front porch light, leaving the garage door open, etc.
- Teach your children how to get help. Instruct them not to get involved in the violence between you and your partner. Plan a code word to signal to them that they should get help or go to a safe place in their home.
- Tell your children that violence is never right, even when someone they love is being violent. Tell them that neither you nor they are at fault or cause the violence, and that whenever your partner is being violent, it is important for them to keep themselves safe.
- Practice how to get out safely. Practice with your children.
- Plan for what you will do if, for instance, your children somehow tell your partner of your plan or if your partner otherwise finds out about your plan.
- Keep weapons, like guns and knives, locked up and as inaccessible as possible.
- Make a habit of backing the car into the driveway and keep it fueled. Keep the driver’s door unlocked and others locked for a quick escape.
- Develop the habit of not wearing scarves or long necklaces that could be used to grab or strangle you.
- Have several plausible reasons for leaving the house at different times of the day or night.
Getting Ready to Leave
- Keep any evidence of physical abuse, such as pictures, etc., in a safe place that is accessible for you.
- Know where you can go to get help; tell someone you trust what is happening to you.
- If you are injured, go to a doctor or an emergency room and report what happened to you. Ask that they document your visit.
- Plan with your children and identify a safe place for them (for example, a room within your home that has a lock or a friend’s house where they can go for help). Reassure them that their job is to stay safe, not to protect you.
- Contact your local domestic violence program and find out about laws and other resources available to you before you have to use them during a crisis.
- Keep a journal of all violent incidences involving your abuser, those aimed at yourself and those aimed at others.
- Acquire job skills as you can, such as learning computer skills or taking courses at a community college.
General Guidelines for Leaving an Abusive Relationship
- You may request a police stand-by or escort while you leave.
- If you need to sneak away, be prepared:
- Make a plan for how and where you will escape, and include a plan for a quick escape;
- Put aside emergency money as you can;
- Hide an extra set of car keys; and
- Pack an extra set of clothes for yourself and your children and store them at a trusted friend or neighbor’s house. Try to avoid using next-door neighbors, close family members and mutual friends, if at all possible.
- Take with you a list of important phone numbers of friends, relatives, doctors, schools, etc., as well as other important items, including:
- Driver’s license
- Regularly needed medication
- Checkbooks and information about bank accounts and other assets
- List of credit cards held by self or jointly, or the credit cards themselves if you have access to them; and
- If time is available, also take (or pack copies in a suitcase):
- Copy of marriage license, birth certificates, will and other legal documents
- Verification of social security numbers
- Citizenship documents (passport, green card, etc.)
- Titles, deeds and other property information
- Welfare identification
- Medical records
- Children’s school records and immunization records
- Insurance information
- Valued pictures, jewelry, or personal possessions.
- Create a false trail. Call motels, real estate agencies, schools in a town at least six hours away from where you actually are located. Ask questions that require a call back to your current house in order to leave numbers on record with your abuser.
After Leaving the Abusive Relationship
- If you are getting a restraining order and your abuser is leaving:
- Change residence locks and phone number as soon as possible (local domestic violence programs can sometimes help with the cost of these)
- Change your work hours and the route you take to work;
- Change the route you use to take your children to school;
- Keep your copy of the restraining order in a safe place;
- Inform friends, neighbors and employers that you have a restraining order in effect; and always call the police to enforce the order even for the slightest violation.
- If you leave:
- Consider renting a post office box for your mail or using the address of a friend; many states also provide anonymous mailing addresses for victims – talk to your local domestic violence program about this.
- Be aware that addresses are on restraining orders and police reports and can be accessed by your abuser;
- Be careful to whom you give your new address and phone number;
- Change your work hours if possible.
- Alert school authorities of the situation, and the fact that a restraining order is in place.
- Consider changing your children’s schools.
- After you leave, reschedule any appointments that your abuser was aware of before you left.
- Shop at different stores and frequent different social spots than you previously frequented so your abuser will be less likely to find you.
- Alert neighbors of your situation, and request that they call the police if they feel you may be in danger.
- Talk to trusted people about the violence.
- Replace doors with solid-core wood, steel or metal doors. Install security system, if possible.
- Install a motion-sensitive lighting system outside your home.
- Tell your co-workers about the situation; ask their assistance in screening all calls you receive during office hours.
- Explicitly inform your children’s caretakers about who is allowed to pick up the children and that your partner is not allowed to do so.
- Call your telephone company about blocking caller id on your landline, so that if you make a phone call, your partner nor anyone else will be able to get your new, unlisted phone number. You can also block your id on cell phones by dialing *67 before making a phone call.
Positive Signs That They Are Changing
- Your partner has stopped being violent or threatening to you or others.
- Your partner acknowledges that their abusive behavior is wrong and is their responsibility.
- Your partner understands that they do not have the right to control and dominate you.
- You don’t feel afraid when you are with your partner.
- Your partner does not try to coerce you into having sex when you don’t want to.
- You can express anger toward your partner without feeling intimidated.
- Your partner does not make you feel responsible for their anger or frustration.
- Your partner respects your opinion even if they don’t agree with it.
- Your partner respects your right to say “no”.
- You can negotiate without being humiliated and belittled by your partner.
- You don’t have to ask permission to go out, go to school, or take other independent actions.
- Your partner listens to you and respects what you have to say.
- Your partner communicates honestly and does not try to manipulate you.
- Your partner recognizes that they are not “cured” and that changing their behavior, attitudes, and beliefs is a life-long process.
- Your partner no longer does _______________________ (fill in the blank with any behavior that preceded their violence, manipulation, or emotional abuse).
Warning Signs and Manipulation
Old habits die hard. Your partner’s abusive behavior is rooted in a desire to control the relationship, and that pattern isn’t going to change overnight. Your partner may no longer be violent, but they may still try to exert control by manipulating you into doing what they want.
Here are some manipulative behaviors
- Tries to invoke sympathy from you or family and friends.
- Is overly charming; reminds you of all the good times you’ve had together.
- Tries to buy you back with romantic gifts, dinners, flowers, etc.
- Tries to seduce you when you’re vulnerable.
- Uses veiled threats — to take the kids away, cut off financial support, etc.
- Promises to change don’t match their behavior. You may be so hopeful for change, yet don’t feel any different when you are with them. Trust your instincts. If you don’t feel safe, then chances are, you’re not.
You may not be safe if
- Your partner tries to find you if you’ve left.You may leave at a time of crisis to feel safer. Your partner may try to get information from your family and friends regarding your whereabouts, either by threatening them or trying to gain their sympathy.
- Your partner tries to take away the children.They may try to kidnap the children as a way of forcing you to stay with them.
- Your partner stalks you.If you always seem to run into your partner when you are on your way to work, running errands or out with friends, or if you receive lots of mysterious phone calls, your partner could be stalking you.
Reprinted and adapted from materials developed by the Texas Council on Family Violence for the Battering Intervention and Prevention Project of the Community Justice Assistance Division of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
- Ignores her feelings.
- Withholding approval as punishment
- Repeated humiliation, public and private
- Blames you for all faults
- Labeling or Name-Calling: “Crazy, bitch, whore”
- Pulling hair
- Looks at and makes jokes about women as sexual objects
- Extreme jealousy
- Minimizes her sexual feelings and needs
- Sexual criticism
- Jokes about the role of women
- Denies victim’s history, or heritage
- Threatens violence and retaliation
- Puts down abilities as worker, parent, lover, etc.
- Threatens to abuse children, or get sole custody
- Shaking which leaves bruises
- Hitting, punching or kicking
- Throwing objects
- Targeted or repeated hitting for punishment
- Forces you to touch or look at genitalia
- Withholds sex and affection
- Forces you to strip in front of others
- Forces you to watch sex with others
- Isolates you from friends and family, through inappropriate behaviors or repeated moves
- Economic dependence (getting you fired or taking your money, etc.)
- Threatens to hurt your family
- Using household objects as weapons
- Holding hostage
- Actions that cause broken bones, internal injuries, or anytime medical treatment is needed
- Use of knives, guns or other weapons.
- Any attempts to disfigure
- Forces/Coerces sex, or makes threats for same
- Forces uncomfortable sex
- Wants or forces sex after an assault
- Sex for purpose of hurting
- Use of objects or weapons in sexual way
- Directs violence at objects (hits punches or kicks walls, etc)
- Deprives you of food, sleep, medicine or health care
- Kills or injures pets; commits incest or child abuse
- The abuser threatens suicide
Iowa law combines two sections of the criminal code to define domestic violence. The assault code, which defines criminal behavior and the domestic abuse act, which defines a domestic relationship.
Iowa Criminal Code 708 Assault – Definition
Assault, in lay language, is defined as one of the following:
- Physical contact that is insulting or can cause an injury.
- The threat of physical contact and the apparent ability to carry the threat out.
- Using a weapon in a threatening manner.
Iowa Criminal Code 236 the Domestic Abuse Act – Definition
A domestic relationship is defined as one of the following:
- Two individuals that are married, divorced or separated.
- Two individuals that have lived together at some point in the past year.
- Two individual that have a child in common, whether or not they have been married, divorced or living together at some point in the past year.
- Two individuals in an intimate relationship or have been within the past year.
If an individual is convicted of a domestic abuse assault they are likely to face the following consequences:
- Mandated jail time
- Attendance of a Batterer’s Education Program
Consequences vary based on the seriousness of the behaviors and criminal conviction. If you have questions about your situation, contact a DVIP advocate at 800-373-1043. An advocate can give you information or referrals about the following issues:
- Your Legal Rights
- Mandatory Arrest
- Enhanced Penalties
- No-Contact Orders
- Custody Issues related to Domestic Violence
- Victim Compensation
- Immigration issues related to Domestic Violence
Getting a Pro Se Domestic Abuse Protective Order
On July 1, 1991, Iowa law made it easier to get an order for protection from domestic abuse, known as a “Pro Se” no-contact or protective order under Iowa Criminal Code Chapter 236. Essentially, this is a court order telling a batterer they must stay away from the intimate partner they are abusing.
Every courthouse in Iowa has forms you can use to apply for a “Pro Se” protection order on your own, without an attorney. “Pro Se” means that you act as your own attorney. DVIP has advocates who are familiar with this application and how to get this type of order; they can accompany you to court. If you have questions about your situation, contact a DVIP advocate at 800-373-1043.
What can a Pro Se Protective Order do for me?
Under this law, and provided you meet the requirements, the court can do many things to protect you, for example order:
- That your partner stop abusing you.
- That your partner leave the house or apartment.
- That your partner provide you with some other place to stay.
- That your partner stay away from where you live, where you go to school and where you work.
- Who will have custody of the children and special precautions for their safety.
- Visitation of the children with special arrangements for when the abuser can visit the children and how he can visit, without having any contact with you
- Financial support for your children and you.
- Counseling for you, for the abuser, and for the children. You or the abuser will probably have to pay for any court-ordered counseling.
This information about the Pro Se Domestic Abuse Protective Order is general. For more specific details, the court process and additional community resources contact a DVIP advocate at our 24-hour Hotline: 800-373-1043
Crime Victim Compensation Program
If you or a loved one has suffered personal injury from a violent crime, the Crime Victim Compensation Program may be able to help. This program was created to help victims with the many costs of violent crime. For more information, requirements and limits of financial support contact a domestic violence program advocate or the:
Crime Victim Compensation Program
Attorney General’s Office
Old Historical Building
Des Moines, Iowa 50319
Reprinted and adapted from materials developed by the Crime Victim Compensation Program of the Iowa Attorney General’s Office.
Preparing to leave an abusive situation can present a number of safety concerns. As you think about how to get ready to leave, here are some options that may help you plan:
Prepare a Safe Room in Your Home
- install inside locks on a door
- plan barricades
- escape to a room with a window or phone
- arrange a signal for help with a neighbor
Find a Safe Shelter and Know How You Will Get There
- arrange to stay with family or friends
- call DVIP 351-1043 or 1-800-373-1043
- keep spare car keys or cab fare in your home’s safe room
- decide whether or not you will take the children with you
Start Talking to People
- call the shelter for support
- call other supportive agencies for information and resources
- talk to a lawyer to learn about your rights
- contact a trustworthy friend
Document the Abuse
- keep a journal (make sure it is hidden)
- get photos of your injuries and property damage
- seek medical attention and have injuries documented in your records
- show injuries to family and friends
Papers You Should Copy
- bills for injuries or damaged property
- rent/mortgage/utility payments
- social security numbers for you and your children
- social service papers
- property and auto titles/registration
Identification You Should Have
- social security cards
- birth certificates
- driver’s license
- tax and bank records
- immigration paperwork
- hide keys to your car, house, safety deposit, post office box
- hide cash or open your own bank account
- save or photocopy pay-stubs
Pack a Suitcase and Hide It
- in car, under bed, neighbor’s, church, public locker, garage, etc.
- pack for yourself and kids: shoes, socks, underwear, nightwear, change of clothes, toothbrush, combs, diapers, etc.
- address book with important numbers
- treasured possessions – things he might destroy
Remember that every situation is different, so some of these ideas may work for you and some may not. If you would like to talk about more options or how to apply an option to your situation, we can help! Just give us a call on our crisis hotline any time of day or night to speak with a trained advocate and make a safety plan.
In some cases, you may be eligible for monetary compensation from the state of Iowa. For more information, see the Iowa Attorney General’s website: