Domestic violence is more common in America than anyone is comfortable admitting. The latest estimates from the CDC say 1 in 4 women and 1 in 10 men suffer from some form of intimate partner violence. And over the past few months, reports across the board have consistently told us that domestic violence rates are increasing dramatically due to the pandemic. That’s enough to categorize domestic violence as a public health crisis.
And yet, it’s a public health crisis that is one-hundred percent preventable.
Domestic violence doesn’t happen arbitrarily or in a vacuum. No one simply wakes up in the morning, randomly decides to become violent with their partner, and finds themselves under arrest by evening. There are almost always warning signs or “red flags” that usually occur in advance of an altercation that ends with domestic violence charges. If you can see these red flags and take preventative action early, you can save yourself and your family a lot of pain, heartache, and stress. Let’s talk about some of these “red flags” and what you can do to reduce the risks.
One of the most common precursors of violence is a hot temper. In these days of increased stress—between the pandemic, economic issues, and overall uncertainty—it’s perfectly understandable that people feel a little more “on edge” these days. But if you notice yourself becoming especially short-fused and quick to erupt in anger, that can be a warning sign. Now may be the time to do some soul searching, talk to someone, or even explore anger management classes. Temper flares don’t guarantee you’ll become violent—many people have flashes of temper without ever becoming physically or verbally abusive—but if your temper flares seem more pronounced or frequent than normal for you, don’t ignore this trend.
More Dramatic Fight-and-Make-Up Cycles
Most couples experience times of disagreement and arguing, followed by times of making up. That’s normal. However, when arguments become more frequent or more heated—and the make-up sessions become more deeply emotional or cathartic—it may be time to take heed. Most experts identify the “cycle of violence” in the home as a repeating pattern of building tension, crisis (where violence usually occurs), and a calm or “honeymoon” phase following (usually accompanied by severe remorse). Even if your relationship has never become violent, if you notice this cycle becoming more pronounced in your relationship, you might want to talk to a therapist or counselor to discuss ways to mitigate the pattern before it escalates. When you have a disagreement with your spouse and feel the emotions getting too intense, try walking away and “cooling off” a bit before trying to resolve it. Also, try to focus on the point of disagreement itself and avoid personal verbal attacks.
Increased Substance Abuse
There’s a running joke these days about the demand for more alcohol during this pandemic—but for people who are prone to abuse alcohol or drugs, it’s no laughing matter. There’s a very clear link between substance abuse and domestic violence. While the two don’t go hand in hand in every case, if you’re prone to substance abuse, it provides a more favorable environment for violence to occur–especially if that tendency resides in you. If you find yourself “indulging” more and more—especially when using it as an escape—you could be opening yourself and your family up to tragedy. Look for other, healthier ways to blow off steam—and consider counseling or rehab if you need them.
Increasingly Violent Fantasies
Most of us entertain thoughts and fantasies in our minds that we would “never” act out in real life. Again, in most cases, this is a normal part of life in which your brain processes and filters out different thoughts. But if you begin noticing yourself fantasizing about violent acts increasingly—especially against your partner—you might want to take notice. When a fantasy turns into an obsession, it can become dangerous because it clouds the line between fantasy and reality. Don’t ignore this internal escalation if you see it happening. Take some steps to get back into reality, including talking to a professional, if necessary.
Sometimes, people who experience flashes of anger will vent that anger against an inanimate object, often causing destruction in the process. This is often done on purpose to steer the anger away from someone who could get hurt. While this is noble (in theory), it can also be a danger sign. If you have gotten in the habit of putting your fist through walls and doors or smashing things when you get mad, it may only be a matter of time before that violence is turned toward someone you care about. If you funnel that anger into abuse toward a pet, that’s an even more troubling sign. (Studies have found a clear link between animal abuse and domestic violence.) If you find yourself engaging in these behaviors, it’s time to talk to someone before things escalate into something you’ll truly regret.
A History of Violence
Violence tends to run in families; it also becomes embedded in us if we’re overly exposed to it when we’re young. Studies have shown that young people who were either victimized or exposed to violence have a much greater risk of becoming violent themselves. If you grew up in a violent home, if you yourself were victimized, or even if you were bullied growing up, you should be on your guard. You may never have manifested violent behavior yourself—and indeed, you may never do so—but if you take your personal history too lightly, it might come back to haunt you if the right circumstances come together. When in doubt, seek counseling, even as a preventative measure.
These red flags may be uncomfortable to talk about, and even more painful to acknowledge. However, if you’re willing to be honest with yourself and your feelings, that temporary discomfort is still preferable to getting arrested for domestic violence—or more to the point, having to live with the reality that you hurt someone you love. That said, if you are currently facing domestic violence charges and need compassionate legal representation, we are here to help. Call our office today for a free case evaluation.