Domestic violence and the fear, uncertainty and despair that go with it can happen to anyone.
It can start with verbal abuse, controlling behavior and threats, and then quickly escalate. Physical or sexual violence, stalking or psychological abuse — whether by a parent, sibling, spouse or partner — can wreak havoc on a person’s life. Domestic violence threatens physical health; takes a heavy toll on self-worth; and can lead to anxiety, depression and feelings of helplessness. Additionally, by denying people a sense of safety, domestic violence creates long-lasting emotional scars.
Research suggests that domestic violence can also harm witnesses. A disturbing finding suggests that children who grow up around domestic violence suffer similar risks to their mental health and well-being as those who experience domestic violence directly.
Those experiencing domestic violence often feel isolated and powerless. In many cases, the abuser may threaten to harm the victim or their family if they were to leave. In addition, abuse steadily chips away at people’s self-confidence and often leaves them feeling afraid and incapable of making a change in their lives. People who experience domestic violence may even mistakenly believe that they somehow deserve mistreatment.
Those struggling to overcome domestic violence in Virginia or elsewhere in the U.S. can find valuable support on their journeys toward a life free of abuse. Whether they are currently in an abusive relationship or in the process of escaping domestic violence, people can turn to an array of resources (available via internet or by phone) that includes information about domestic violence, referral services, crisis intervention, emergency housing, transportation, legal aid and other vital assistance.
Domestic Violence in Virginia and Nationally
Domestic abuse involves a pattern of controlling and abusive behaviors. Individuals use them against family members or intimate partners to intimidate and exert power. Behaviors may include physical assault, verbal attacks and even weapon use.
Just how pervasive is domestic violence? Consider the following statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
A total of 25% of women and almost 10% of men experience domestic violence during their lifetimes (that includes sexual and physical assault, as well as stalking by a family member or an intimate partner). About 35% of women experiencing domestic violence have physical injuries. More than 11% of men who experience domestic violence have physical injuries.
According to The National Resource Center on Domestic Violence, more than half (54%) of people identifying as transgender or non-binary experienced some form of domestic violence, including acts of coercive control or physical harm. A 2020 report from the Human Rights Campaign Foundation stated that LGBTQ people have been twice as likely to have experienced an incident of intimate partner violence since the onset of COVID-19.
To understand the state of domestic violence in Virginia, consider the following statistics about intimate partner-related homicides reported by the Virginia Department of Health:
- More than 30% of Virginia’s homicides are domestic violence related.
- About 56% of domestic violence homicides involve firearms.
- About 80% of domestic violence homicides happen in people’s homes.
- About 40% of domestic violence homicides happen during or after a relationship breakup.
- More than 20% of domestic violence homicides involve a homicide-suicide.
- Women make up 51% of Virginia’s population but account for 63% of the people killed by firearms in intimate partner-related homicides.
A 2019 VAdata report offers additional insights about domestic violence in Virginia:
- In 2019, more than 22,000 adults and nearly 5,300 children received domestic violence advocacy services.
- A total of 20% of the people who received these services had to relocate or experienced homelessness as a result of domestic violence.
- In 2019, 87% of the domestic violence perpetrators in Virginia were men, and 13% were women.
Signs of Domestic Violence
Recognizing the signs and patterns of domestic violence is an important first step to getting help. Many people doubt themselves and wonder if they’re indeed experiencing abuse. Abusers often masterfully manipulate those they mistreat, causing those experiencing mistreatment to question their interpretations of events.
Common Abusive Behavior
The following behaviors often indicate abuse:
- Shows intense jealousy of any time spent away from them, including with friends or family
- Insults, yells, embarrasses or shames in private or in front of others
- Ignores or belittles ideas and accomplishments
- Says the abusive behavior was provoked or deserved
- Tries to control where you go, what you do, and the decisions you make
- Takes control over household finances and refuses to give money for necessary expenses
- Threatens to harm you, your children or your pets
- Destroys your property
- Intimidates you with any type of weapon
- Pressures you into sex acts and treats you as sexual property
- Threatens to destroy your life or sabotage your job
- Has a violent and volatile temper
Common Behavior of People Experiencing Abuse
People experiencing domestic violence may:
- Go out in public only when accompanied by their partners
- Agree to everything their partners say or suggest
- Not have access to their own money; car keys; or important documents, such as immigration papers
- Excessively check in with their partners and report on their whereabouts
- Wear clothing that hides bruises or other injuries
- Become withdrawn and depressed
- Regularly miss social events, work or school
- Have frequent unexplained injuries
Domestic Violence Resources
When domestic violence occurs, people may not know where to seek help. Professional intervention services have the expertise to address complex issues. Consider the following local and national domestic violence resources.
Resources for Domestic Violence in Virginia
Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance has a website with a map of all the nearest domestic violence agencies, including their contact information, their hotline numbers and the counties they serve. The website also offers the following, in English and Spanish:
- Safety booklets
- Resources about marital sexual abuse
- Reference materials about emotional abuse
- Information about legal services
Virginia Statewide Hotline allows people seeking help to connect with multilingual trained advocates 24/7 via phone, chat or text. Advocates listen with respect and are ready to give information about domestic violence, make a report or find available local resources.
Virginia Anti-Violence Project works to end violence against and within LGBTQ communities in Virginia. It offers support and advocacy for LGBTQ people seeking help, including emergency housing, talking through healthy and unhealthy relationships, and more. LGBTQ-identified persons who have experienced violence or trauma can contact Virginia AVP using a form or by calling or texting (804) 925 9242.
Domestic violence programs and services sponsored by Virginia’s judicial system offer people who are navigating Virginia’s judicial system information about programs such as I-CAN! Virginia, which is a free online service that guides people (in English or Spanish) through the process of preparing court forms to get protective orders. The Virginia judicial system website also has links and information about Hope Cards, which are easy-to-carry laminated cards with a civil protective order’s essential details. Judges issue these legal orders to protect people’s safety, and they may determine how or if an abuser can contact the person being mistreated. Additional resource materials include the following:
- Information about a confidential mail-forwarding service
- A guide to protective orders
- A directory of batterer intervention programs
- A notification program that allows participants to stay informed about an offender’s custody status
Virginia Department of Social Services includes links to a directory of shelters and domestic violence programs in Virginia, as well as a directory of social service departments throughout the state. It also offers information about domestic violence that helps people experiencing domestic abuse and their concerned friends and family members understand:
- The nature of domestic violence
- How to help loved ones in trouble
- How to recognize the signs of domestic violence
- Safety planning
- How to help children in the crosshairs
YWCA of Richmond offers crisis intervention in the greater Richmond area regardless of English language ability or immigration status. Available services include the following:
- A 24/7 free regional hotline with trauma advocates ready to help callers locate emergency shelter, counseling, hospital services and more
- A safety planning guide
- Referrals for employment services, health care, legal support and financial literacy
- General information about domestic violence: how to recognize it and what to do
Fairfax County Department of Family Services’ Domestic and Sexual Violence Services (DSVS) offers an array of advocacy services, including the following:
- Trauma-focused counseling (teletherapy available)
- An emergency shelter
- Economic assistance
- Supervised visitation
- Legal advice
- Hospital and courthouse accompaniment
- A podcast and tool kit for children who’ve witnessed domestic violence
Shelter for Help in Emergency connects people experiencing domestic violence to a community of support. Its website has links to local resources addressing housing and food needs, mental health services, and legal help. The organization provides services such as the following:
- An emergency shelter and transitional housing
- Services for children and youth who’ve witnessed domestic violence
- Pet foster programs
- Case management that helps people access employment, clothing, child care and substance use treatment
- Free support groups and counseling
City of Chesapeake Domestic Violence Resources provides contact information for local offices and programs involved in dealing with domestic violence. The resource web page also offers comprehensive lists of:
- Domestic violence shelters in and around Chesapeake
- Church organizations with domestic violence support systems in Chesapeake, Portsmouth and Norfolk
- Treatment providers for domestic violence and anger management
- Resources for active-duty military and their families
In addition to local resources, Virginians can benefit from several valuable national resources. The following links offer vital support and information to anyone in the process of overcoming abuse:
National Coalition Against Domestic Violence advocates for laws and policies that protect people from domestic abuse. It also offers empowering resources, including the following:
- Comprehensive advice about creating a personalized safety plan to manage and respond to domestic violence
- Information about the organization’s cosmetic and reconstructive support program that connects people experiencing domestic violence to health care professionals who can treat injuries resulting from domestic violence
- A webinar series about how to handle finances and rebuild financially after domestic violence
- A comprehensive list of hotlines on potentially relevant issues, from suicide prevention to homelessness to elder abuse
WomensLaw.org delivers valuable legal information to people experiencing domestic violence. It explains individual state laws in plain language. Site visitors select a state to get specific information about issues such as:
- Child custody and child support
- Housing laws
- Rights to sue abusers for medical costs resulting from injuries
- Gun laws and restrictions for domestic violence abusers
The website also gives extensive information about abuse in specific communities, forms of abuse and safety tips. Additionally, WomensLaw.org offers lists of statewide and local advocacy programs, shelters and legal assistance programs, as well as the locations of courthouses and sheriffs’ departments. The site is available in Spanish.
National Domestic Violence Hotline offers free confidential help 24/7, including a TTY number, to people experiencing domestic violence, their concerned loved ones and abusive partners looking to change their behavior. Advocates lend a concerned ear to callers, and they also assist with information about:
- The dynamics of domestic violence
- Strategies to de-escalate tense situations
- Aid in developing safety plans
- Referrals to local resources and battering intervention and prevention programs
Loveisrespect, a hotline that includes deaf advocates to answer your call by videophone, helps answer questions and address concerns young people have about their dating relationships. Advocates provide support on issues including the following:
- Dating violence in LGBTQ relationships
- The “work” of building healthy relationships
- How to recognize and end an unhealthy relationship
- Steps to keep safe in an intimate relationship
DomesticShelters.org helps people experiencing domestic violence find shelters based on their location, language needs and service needs. The organization also gives local hotline numbers and service listings. Additionally, its website informs visitors about:
- Online forums and chats
- Support groups
- Recommended books
- Helpful informational videos and articles about domestic violence
- Information about legal and financial programs
Reclaim Your Life and Get the Help You Need
National resources and local support for domestic violence in Virginia help people overcome what can seem like insurmountable challenges. The extensive emotional and material support available help people experiencing domestic violence cope with their emotions, find safety and rebuild their lives. Need help? Reach out.