Domestic Violence – How to Identify It and How to Protect Yourself

When most of us enter into a marriage, or really any type of long-term romantic relationship, particularly in the early stages of that relationship, we feel in love and we hope for the best. In the beginning, many people would find it almost impossible to believe that someone they love and trust could become abusive. Unfortunately, however, in some cases that can be exactly what happens. When it does, it can be hard to know what to do, or where to turn.

If you have found yourself on this page, you may be struggling with abuse in your relationship, or you may wonder if the treatment you are experiencing constitutes abuse. You may feel frightened, uncertain, and anxious – and rest assured, all of these feelings are entirely normal. What you should not ever feel though, is alone.  

According to the North Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence, statistics indicate that: 

  • On average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. During one year, this equates to more than 10 million people.
  • Every 9 seconds in the US, a woman is assaulted or beaten.
  • Intimate partner violence accounts for 15% of all violent crime. 

The truth is that many, many people – far more people than we realize, are experiencing domestic abuse. If you believe that you are experiencing abuse, you should not feel alone, or as if you have no options available. The truth is that although it may be difficult, and although it may understandably seem intimidating and frightening, you can overcome your circumstances and move on to a brighter and better chapter ahead. The first step to doing that is recognizing your situation for what it is.

A Look at the Different Types of Abuse

While many people unfortunately experience abuse, the truth is that not all relationships are the same, and therefore, not all abusive behaviors are the same. In fact, there are many different kinds of abuse. 

  • Physical Abuse: Signs of physical abuse can often be some of the easiest to identify upon first glance, provided that the victim of the abuse is not attempting to hide the abuse, which can often happen. Signs may include bruises, broken bones, cuts, black eyes, or other visible injuries. Even if the physical act of aggression does not leave a physical mark, however, it is still considered abuse, and should never, never be tolerated. In addition to being physically violent, abusers may make threats, throw or damage items in the home, or otherwise act in an intimidating manner to gain control over their victims. 
  • Sexual Abuse: Sometimes, sexual abuse can be hard to notice immediately, but it is nevertheless serious cause for concern. It may include bodily injuries inflicted during sexual activity, non-consensual sex, refusal to respect a partner’s wishes, or threats of sex with others if a partner does not comply with demands, to name only a few examples of many.
  • Emotional Abuse: Emotional abuse can take various forms, and is dependent upon the nature of the relationship between two people, but its primary hallmark is one person trying to cause emotional harm to the other, often with the purpose of controlling them. Some signs of emotional abuse include jealousy, dismissiveness, making overly sarcastic remarks, engaging in name-calling or dismissive remarks, being overly critical, or using belittling and patronizing language, to name only a few examples of many. Those who are experiencing abuse may feel guilt, shame, and blame when they shouldn’t. Those who are experiencing this type of abuse need to remember that even if you do love them, or feel some sense of blame for something that happened, making excuses for or justifying emotional abuse is of no help to anyone involved. 
  • Financial Abuse: Financial abuse is one type of abuse that people don’t often immediately consider, and that may not be as easy to identify, but that is nevertheless very real. Financial abuse may be occurring when one partner begins taking full control of the couple’s finances, begins hiding cash or other assets, or constantly berates the other spouse for his or her spending habits. Other examples of financial abuse might be one partner reminding the other that they are the primary earner, and causing the other partner to believe that they could never succeed on their own without the partner’s financial support are also examples of financial abuse. Fearing for your well-being because of financial instability, or having money withheld from you for purposes of leverage or control is financial abuse, and emotional abuse as well. 

Ultimately, however, although there are various types of abuse, one thing these behaviors share in common, however, is that they are wrong. They are undeserved, and entirely inappropriate in any relationship, and no one should feel compelled to stay in a relationship where they are being subject to these types of treatment. 

What North Carolina Law Says About Domestic Violence

In North Carolina, victims of domestic abuse – whether it be financial, physical, sexual, or emotional – are protected by both civil and criminal laws.

In addition to criminal penalties up to and including incarceration, the law offers numerous protections including a variety of domestic violence protective and restraining orders. Essentially, these are orders which are issued by a court at the victim’s request, ordering the abusive person to comply with certain court-ordered behaviors. This may include not coming within a certain distance of the victim, granting temporary custody of children, or temporary possession of the marital home to one party, ordering temporary support, ceasing threatening communications, or any other number of directives. When a court enters a protective order, violating that order is considered a crime, and violators can be punished accordingly.

An attorney can help to advise you as to which specific type of order might be best for your circumstances, and guide you through the process of obtaining that order. If you believe that such an order might be helpful in your circumstances, contacting an attorney immediately is always a wise decision.

Experiencing Abuse? Seek Help Immediately.

If you are the victim of any kind of abuse, first and foremost, before doing anything else, you should secure your safety, and safety for your children. Nothing is more important. If you are experiencing an immediate risk of harm, or if you imminently fear for your safety, call 911, and if possible, leave the dangerous situation immediately. Find a friend, family member, hotel, shelter, or other safe space until you can make more permanent arrangements. Don’t hesitate to take the actions that you need to take to protect yourself and those you love. Those experiencing abuse can also visit the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence website for more information and resources on where you can seek help. 

After you have secured your safety, you may wish to proceed with a divorce, or if you are already in the midst of divorce proceedings, to gain an understanding of what legal steps you might be able to take not only to protect yourself and your children from continued abuse, but also to ensure that you are able to seek the right protections you need to when it comes to matters like custody and support. At The Law Office of Dustin McCrary, we are here to help you with these issues, and any other aspect of the divorce process for which you need expert legal assistance. Call us any time – we look forward to helping you soon. 

We’ll meet you right where you are.

You can trust our compassionate expertise to help you navigate the legal and emotional difficulties of divorce.

Where clients are neighbors, not numbers.