Domestic Violence

Domestic Violence

Information for Victims and Friends of Victims of Domestic Violence

If you are being physically or emotionally abused, call the police, or the Harbor House Domestic Violence Shelter: 1-800-455-6611. If you know someone who is being abused or battered, please encourage them to contact the Alger County Women's Center or Harbor House. No one deserves to be the victim of domestic violence or abuse.

The cycle of family violence and abuse does not end by itself. you can help break the cycle of violence by speaking out against it and sharing this information with your family and friends.

Five types of information are provided here below:

  1. Domestic Violence Basics
  2. Children and Domestic Violence
  3. Characteristics of victims and their abusers
  4. How to leave an abusive relationship
  5. How to protect yourself as best as you can when you are still in an abusive relationship

Domestic Violence Basics

What is Domestic Violence?

Domestic violence is a term used to describe many types of abuse that can happen within intimate relationships, such as marital or dating relationships, having children in common, or living within the same household. Domestic violence happens when one partner chooses to exercise power and control over the other in the relationship using abuse and violence.

As recorded by the National Center for Disease Control (CDC), nearly 5.3 million women are victimized annually in the United States by intimate partners. Two million of those assaulted are injured to the point of needing medical or police attention as a result of the domestic violence. Each year, approximately 1,300 women are killed as a result of domestic violence.

Domestic violence covers a wide range of behaviors. Some of these behaviors may be charged within a criminal court. Domestic violence may begin with verbal abuse, a shove, a slap or a tendency to exercise possessive or controlling behaviors.

An abuser may or may not use alcohol or drugs. A common misconception is that being under the influence of substances will cause a normally non-abusive person to become violent with their partner. Although abusers may have a strong tendency to be addicted to substances, alcohol or drug abuse does not cause domestic violence. Being controlling, abusive or violent is a learned behavior that the abuser chooses to use against their partner.

There are typically three categories used in defining abuse:

  • Physical Abuse – includes hitting, shoving, being grabbed by the neck, using a weapon, restraining, pulling hair, etc.
  • Emotional Abuse – includes threats, intimidation, name-calling, isolation, etc.
  • Sexual Abuse – includes forced, coerced, or humiliating sex acts, physically attacking sexual parts of the body, or treating you like a sex object.

All forms of domestic violence are inappropriate, potentially dangerous, and should be taken seriously, even though they may not necessarily meet the legal definition of criminal. Seemingly minor or non-physical abuse being accepted over time, can lead to more violent abuse.

Research suggests that domestic violence tends to escalate when the victim leaves or attempts to leave the relationship. However, staying in an abusive relationship is not an effective safety measure because it is also supported by research that domestic violence tends to escalate in both frequency and severity over time.

Repeated physically abusive incidents may establish a pattern of abuse, which could eventually result in permanent injury or even death.


  • Frightened by your partner’s behavior
  • Afraid to disagree with your partner
  • Being verbally degraded by your partner
  • Discouraged to see your friends or family due to his jealousy
  • Afraid to divorce or break up with him because of threats he has made.

If he kicks, shoves, grabs, throws things at you, or forces you to participate in sexual activities, GET HELP!

An abuser is the only one that can change their behavior and stop the abuse. Their partner (victim) can not “love them” out of it, or make things “right enough” to prevent the abuse. They can only protect themselves. The best way to do this is by creating physical distance between themselves and the abuser while continuing safety measures to maintain this distance after leaving.


Children are often overlooked in the statistics and discussions of domestic violence. Whether directly or indirectly, children are affected by domestic violence. They may not witness the actual episode, but they can see the bruises and broken furniture and hear the screams. Children who witness domestic violence are more likely to exhibit behavioral and physical health problems including anxiety, depression and violence towards peers.

Effects of the batterer’s abuse show up in children in a variety of physical and psychological symptoms such as emotional neediness, withdrawal, aggressive acting out, eating or sleeping problems, school difficulties, caretaking for the mother and other siblings, and various other physical symptoms. Symptoms vary from child to child and depend on the child’s developmental stage in life.

Children Who Witness Domestic Violence:

  • Exhibit more anxiety, aggression, depression, temperamental problems, fearfulness, antisocial, and inhibited behaviors.
  • Have lower social competence.
  • Demonstrate less empathy and self-esteem.
  • Have lower verbal, cognitive, and motor abilities.

Women face many dangers and great odds to protect their children from the batterer. Battered women work at being good mothers in spite of their own fears, depression, and injuries. It is often for the sake of their children that women leave their abusers.

You Should Talk to Your Children About Domestic Violence:

  • To tell them it isn’t their fault
  • To talk about their feelings of guilt, fear and sadness
  • To understand their reaction
  • To teach them how to work out problems
  • To review safety plans
  • To allow them to grieve losses of parent, neighborhood, school or friends
  • To strengthen their sense of self and rebuild their lives

What If He Abuses The Children?

If your partner is abusing the children, you may need to leave in order to protect them. As a parent, you have a legal responsibility to protect your children from known harm. You can be charged with “failure to protect” if you know about the abuse, but don’t remove your children from the risk. This can be extremely difficult when you are living with a violent partner, but protecting your children is not only a moral responsibility, it is a legal responsibility as a parent.

Behavioral Characteristics of the Domestic Violence Relationship

Common Characteristics of Batterers:

  1. Jealousy; Accuses you of looking at other men, seems angry if you say hello to a man. An abuser will say that jealousy is a sign of love. This is not true. Jealousy is a sign of possessiveness and lack of trust.
  2. Controlling behavior; Quick to anger. Wants to know your whereabouts at all times. Angry if you are late.
  3. Quick involvement; Comes on like a whirlwind, "I’ve never felt loved like this by anyone!"
  4. Isolation; Abuser may cut you off from friends, family and resources.
  5. Blames others for feelings; "You make me mad. I can’t help being angry." "I wouldn’t have gotten so angry if you hadn’t been late, rude, drunk, etc."
  6. Cruelty to children or animals
  7. Hostility when drinking; A sign of alcoholism and potential batterers.
  8. Breaking or striking objects when angry; Leads to personal violence.
  9. Threats of violence.
  10. Use of force during argument.
  11. Rigid sex roles; Expect women to serve them.

Characteristics of victims:

  1. Blames self for violence of batterer; "I deserved it because I…", "If I wouldn't have been late, he wouldn't have been so mad."
  2. Dependent on batterer; may equate his controlling behavior with taken care of by their spouse/partner.
  3. Poor self image.
  4. Hopes the abuse will stop. Thinks if she could just get it right he would change. Expects batterer to change; This is very unlikely and is beyond the control of the victim regardless of how much the victim tries to please their partner.
  5. Feels guilty and second guesses her decisions. Sometimes returns to batterer after assaults, with or without the promise of it not happening again.
  6. Trys to make sense of everything and finds justification for the abuse. Makes excuses for batterer; "He didn’t mean it. He was just drunk." Or, "He's just been under a lot of stress lately."
  7. May defend the batterer, sometimes even during intervention intended to protect the victim. May equate defending his actions and behavior with her safety and the safety of her children.

When you decide you've had enough, HELP IS AVAILABLE.


The Alger County Women's Center provides support and immediate shelter. The Harbor House provides shelter to persons who are victims of domestic violence:


  1. Practice how to get away safely.
  2. Pack extra clothes, keys, money and important papers (birth certificates, social security cards, identifications)
  3. Leave items w/someone you trust.
  4. Open a savings account without the knowledge of the abuser. This will increase your independence after leaving the relationship.
  5. Take a fair share of all joint savings and checking accounts as soon as you leave and put the money in accounts under your own name.
  6. Inform your boss and co-workers of the situation.
  7. Have your co-workers screen your calls at work.
  8. When leaving work, walk to your car with a co-worker.
  9. Take a different route home each night.
  10. Use different stores for shopping.
  11. Never go to a bar where the abuser may be drinking. This is very dangerous.
  12. Change locks.
  13. Inform neighbors of your situation and ask them to watch your house.
  14. Teach your children how to use the phone to call 911.
  15. Explain to friends, relatives and co-workers that they are never to give out your location to anyone. Abusers will often use a ruse with other to trick them into giving out information.

Whether you decide to stay or leave an abusive relationship, obtaining a Personal Protection Order (PPO) can be a protective measure providing you with a safe avenue to leave and the distance you need from your abuser so that you can work on rebuilding your life. Please refer to the links at the beginning of this web page for more information on PPO’s and the domestic relationship PPO form you’ll need to file with the circuit court to request this order. The Women's Center can also provide you with PPO forms and assist you with completing and filing the PPO petition with the court.


  1. Teach escape strategies to your children.
  2. Use a code word with your children, family or friends so they can call for help. Example: tell your relatives that if you phone them and say "red fox run", they are to call 911 for you and send help.
  3. If you expect a quarrel, move to a space with lowest risk. Make sure there is a door at your back for escape and that you consider the arms-length reach of your partner. Do not go to bathrooms and kitchens where there is no exit or possible weapons your partner could use against you.
  4. Avoid going to a bar where the abuser may be drinking. This is very dangerous.
  5. If the abuser goes to get a weapon or is near one; get out right away.
  6. Long experience has taught that batterers tend to escalate each time they attack. In the long run, the best way to protect yourself is to leave the relationship.

Lethality factors are used by law enforcement, prosecutors, domestic violence advocates and other professionals as a tool for determining the level of danger in a domestic violence situation. The more lethality factors that are present, the more dangerous the domestic violence may become. When considering your safety, take the following lethality factors into account:

  • Jealousy/possessiveness
  • Depression
  • Repeated intervention by law enforcement
  • Escalation of risk taking
  • Threats to harm or kill or has killed an animal
  • Threats or fantasies of homicide or suicide
  • Possession of weapons
  • Victim is leaving or has left the relationship
  • History of aggressive behavior
  • Hostage taking/prevents her and/or children from leaving
  • Drug/alcohol use or abuse
  • Violence in his family of origin
  • Strangulation
  • Escalation of violence
  • Change in the method and/or frequency of the abuse

This list is only intended as a tool to help gauge the severity of a situation from the view of a person outside of the relationship. It is not intended to replace the inherent instincts of a victim. If you feel your safety is in danger due to domestic violence even with only one or two of these factors being present in your relationship, please seek help. The Harbor House crisis line in Alger County: 1-800-455-6611 from Marquette County: 226-6611, is available 24hrs a day, 7 days a week.

If you are in immediate danger contact 911 for police assistance.