Have a question for our experts? This line is open until Friday, February 4th. Elizabeth will then answer the top questions and we’ll post the answers right here and on our Facebook Page.

EST-HeadshotQ: What is Domestic Violence?

A: Domestic Violence is any pattern of behaviors that attempts to control an intimate partner or family member through the use of fear, manipulation, isolation, intimidation, physical abuse, sexual abuse and/or verbal abuse.

Typically, this control starts out slowly and increases over time. By the time physical abuse begins, verbal, emotional and sexual abuse has already been established.

Domestic Violence is disturbingly common, with nearly 1 in 4 women in the U.S. experiencing violence by a current or former partner at some point in her life.

While women are the most common victims of domestic violence, men can be abused,

Q: What are the warning signs of abuse in a relationship?

A: Incidents of physical abuse may be easy to identify but some other forms of power and control can be subtle and may be difficult to recognize. In addition to using hurtful, demeaning, critical or threatening language, abusive people may have sudden and unexpected mood swings, getting upset easily over small things, blaming others for their problems and then making light of their hurtful actions or denying doing anything wrong. Isolation is another significant warning sign which may start out with getting involved quickly and escalates into jealousy and ultimately controlling access to information, money and family or friends. Finally, many of these behaviors may happen only behind closed doors so the relationship seems completely different in public.

If you recognize any of these signs in your relationship, remember that you are not alone. Domestic violence is very common and there are supportive services available for you. Despite what your partner tells you, it is not your fault and no one deserves to be hurt, emotionally or physically.

Q: Why would someone stay in a relationship that is abusive?

A: There are many reasons women stay in abusive relationships: belief it will get better, dreams of how the relationship could be, shame, fear of being alone, family expectations, and pressure from religious institutions or societal norms. Others stay because they feel they are lacking the financial, educational or professional self-sufficiency to be on their own or because they are afraid of what their partner would do if they leave.

Relationships are complicated and the reasons for staying or leaving depend on many variables. Leaving is a process, not an event and a victim may leave multiple times and return. She may be learning something each time that will help her stay safe if and when she does choose to make a break with her partner.

Q: What are the characteristics of a healthy relationship?

A: The foundation of a healthy relationship is built by people who value, trust and respect each other as equal partners and engage in shared decision-making and discussion to resolve conflict and solve problems. Partners make an effort to spend quality time together and also give each other space to spend time alone with other friends and family, without jealousy or blame. In healthy relationships, people apologize when they are wrong, accept responsibility for their behavior and do not use manipulation to get what they want.

These qualities take time and effort to develop. They are based on open and honest communication, sincere caring and a mutual commitment to build and sustain a healthy relationship.

Q: What can I do if someone I know is in an abusive relationship?

A: Since domestic violence is so common, it is likely that someone you know has experienced abuse in an intimate relationship. If someone tells you she is in a violent relationship, believe her. Listen carefully and with empathy, avoid asking “why” questions or giving advice, especially about staying or leaving the relationship. Do not try to “save” her or intervene in the relationship. Connect her with the YWCA Crisis & Information Line (615-242-1199) to help her understand her options and make a plan for safety. The YWCA’s domestic violence services include the 24 hour crisis line, the largest DV shelter in Tennessee, transitional housing, community-based Support Groups and outreach & education. All services are confidential and free of charge.

More information is available on the YWCA’s website: www.ywcanashville.com. The YWCA’s Crisis & Information Line is available 24 hours a day, everyday. Call (615) 242-1199 or (800) 334-4628 for assistance.