More than physical: How to identify different forms of domestic violence

When you think you know someone experiencing abuse, how can you help?

First and foremost, be a present listener. Do not try to “fix” the victims’ problems. Your responses will not be their responses. Encourage them to reach out for help. Be prepared to offer phone numbers. Let the person know you are concerned for their safety. Offer suggestions without being judgmental. Again, be a present listener.

Also, be aware acts of domestic violence are not always physical and not always immediately recognizable. Abusers can start to control their victims slowly and subtly and, by the time victims realize they are in an abusive relationship, they may find themselves trapped with few options.

One of the tools used by abusers is financial abuse. It takes several forms. Abusers employ isolating tactics such as preventing their partner from working or from accessing bank accounts, credit cards or transportation. Abusers tightly monitor or restrict spending.

Many abusers strike at their victims by manipulating or threatening their children to control adult-victims behavior. Common forms include interfering with child care, talking negatively about victims’ parent in front of children, and using children to spy on the other parent.

We know that one in three women and one in seven men experience domestic violence. Look around you while at a family gathering, at work or shopping: If there are a dozen women within your sight, then it is probable two of them have been victims of domestic violence at the hands of a partner.

So, again, how can you help? If you belong to a faith or civic group, ask an advocate from a local domestic violence services program to speak to your group. Call your local DV agency to ask if a visit is allowed and schedule a tour for your group. Enroll in training to volunteer, and dedicate a certain number of hours a month to do so. Go to and sign our pledge.

Despite its intimidating nature and its many forms, each of us can help someone experiencing domestic violence.


Vickie Smith, CEO/Executive Director

Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence

Member, Chicago Says No More Steering Committee

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