October: Domestic Violence Awareness Month

This month is domestic violence awareness; therefore, it is an excellent time to discuss what is domestic violence and what can you do to keep yourself safe.  I am a retired police commander, currently a professor at Lewis University teaching in the Criminal Justice program and I volunteer as a domestic violence advocate for Family Shelter Services in Du Page County Illinois.  What I have learned and observed over the years is victims often don’t consider themselves a victim of domestic violence because they were not seriously harmed by their abuser. This is a false belief … there are many forms of domestic abuse. 

  • Verbal abuse is when a partner is called derogatory names, yelled at, threatened, or insulted.
  • Physical abuse is when a partner is pinched, hit, shoved, slapped, punched, kicked, choked, bitten, or assaulted with a weapon.
  • Psychological/Emotional Abuse is when a partner threatens their partner by harming his or her sense of self-worth, ignoring his or her feelings, intimidation, isolation, driving recklessly to scare the victim, damaging personal property, scaring the victim, preventing the victim from going somewhere, humiliating the victim in public, excessively contacting their partner online, or sharing private information online.
  • Sexual abuse is forcing a partner to engage in a sex act when he/she doesn’t or cannot consent. This can be physical or nonphysical such as spreading rumors about the partner if they refuse to have sex. Unwanted touching, kissing, sexual activity, posting the victim’s private sexual photos online, and not allowing their partner to use birth control are all forms of sexual abuse.
  • Stalking isa pattern of harassing, threatening, and using surveillance tactics that are unwanted and cause fear in the victim.  Simply leaving a teddy bear on a teen’s car can provoke fear that they are being watched and followed.[1] [2]

If you are a victim of any of these types of abuses you may qualify for an Order of Protection (OOP). All 50 states have some form of orders of protection. “While there are differences from state to state, all orders of protection permit the court to order the abuser to stop hurting or threatening you.”[3] The person who applies for the order can be referred to as the petitioner, while the abuser is referred to as the respondent. An order of protection can include the following elements:

  • Prohibit the abuser from personal contact with the victim, including attacking, calling, texting, emailing, harassing or disturbing the victim (“cease abuse”)
  • Force the abuser to move from a residence shared with the victim (“no-contact”)
  • Provide child custody rights while the order is valid
  • Order the abuser to stay away from his or her children
  • Order the abuser to stay a specific distance away from the victim at his or her place of residence, workplace, or school (“stay-away”)
  • Order the abuser to attend counseling (often part of a civil order rather than criminal order) and
  • Prohibit the abuser from purchasing a firearm[4]

[1] (CDC, Understanding Teen Dating Violence 2014)

[2] (Get Smart, Get Help, Get Safe n.d.)

[3] (Restraining Orders n.d., 1/2)

[4] (FindLaw 2013)

About Dr. Lynn Atkinson Tovar

Dr. Lynn Atkinson Tovar is a professor of Justice, Law and Public Safety Studies at Lewis University in Illinois. The former commander has done research on teen relationships and technology as well as abusive relationships. Her book "Smart Teen, Safe Teen: Respecting Relationships in Your Social Digital Life " is available at https://amzn.to/2HJsuNE

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