Identifying the Red Flags of Abuse
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in three women and one in four men have reported experiencing some form of domestic violence (Black et al, 2011).
Domestic violence is the use of tactics to gain power and control over a partner in an intimate relationship. Multiple forms of violence (i.e., physical, emotional, sexual and economic) can be present in an abusive relationship.
The first signs of abuse in a relationship are often non-forceful, such as coercion or threats. Common red flags that abuse may be present may include the abuser checking a partner’s phone calls or texts, isolating their partner from family and friends, and threatening to damage a partner’s property. The controlling behavior may escalate quickly over days or slowly over a matter of years.
Domestic violence advocacy centers provide direct services to support survivors and offer educational awareness programming critical in reducing the prevalence of domestic violence. Although domestic violence advocacy centers have been in increased demand since the start of the pandemic, their prevention efforts have struggled in many ways due to unforeseen burdens.
On a typical day in 2019, advocacy centers across the United States conducted 1,259 trainings, versus 775 in 2020, representing a 38% decrease (National Network to End Domestic Violence, 2020; National Network to End 2021). Domestic violence advocates provide specialized training for different populations (e.g., children, parents, teachers, law enforcement, attorneys, judges, medical and other professionals) to identify abuse and appropriately respond to reports of abuse.
However, the number of individuals reached by advocacy centers on a typical day decreased from 23,278 individuals in 2019 to 10,091 individuals in 2020 (National Network to End Domestic Violence, 2020; National Network to End Domestic Violence 2021). Further, the pandemic has hindered nonprofit organizations’ ability to hold fundraisers, limiting advocacy centers’ funding for outreach and services.
While many nonprofits shifted their fundraising to a virtual format, that requires expertise and technology, which local advocacy centers may not have readily available. Additionally, advocacy centers had to offer programming on services and resources through a virtual format (e.g., social media, web) that may not reach survivors because their abuser controls access to those communication channels.
We have all experienced challenges in the past year and a half due to the pandemic, yet many have suffered in silence as unheard victims of domestic violence. Restrictions associated with social distancing and societal constraints have forced many individuals to shelter in place with their abusers, increasing the opportunities and risk for domestic violence to occur. Limited social contact and restrictions placed on domestic violence advocacy centers have made accessibility to these resources much harder to obtain.
The Louisiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence is the statewide organization providing prevention programs and direct services to survivors in Louisiana. Their 24/7 hotline is 1-888-411-1333. Project Celebration is the local domestic violence advocacy center serving Northwest Louisiana.
In addition to their confidential counseling and advocacy services, they operate an emergency safe shelter for survivors of domestic violence.
Individuals wanting to support their cause can donate funds, supplies for the shelter or volunteer their time. The organization is available 24/7 via telephone at (318) 226- 5015.
Grace Nickels, Ed.D., SAVE (Sexual Assault and Violence Education) officer, LSU Health Shreveport.