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ESCAPE When it is a viable option, it is

One study found in interviews

best for victims to do what

with men who have killed their

they can to escape their

wives that either threat of

abusers. However, this is not

separation by their partner or

the case in all situations.

actual separations were most

Abusers repeatedly go to

often the precipitating events

extremes to prevent the victim

that lead to the murder.

from leaving. In fact, leaving an abuser is the most dangerous time for a victim of domestic violence.

A victim's reasons for staying with their abusers are

most cases, are based on the reality that their abuser will follow through with the threats they have used to keep them trapped: the abuser will hurt or kill them, they will hurt or kill the kids, they will win custody of the children, they will harm or kill pets or others, they will


extremely complex and, in

ruin their victim financially -the list goes on.

The victim in violent relationships knows their abuser best and fully


knows the extent to which they will go to make sure they have and can maintain control over the victim. The victim literally may not be able to safely escape or protect those they love. A recent study of intimate partner homicides found 20% of homicide victims were not the domestic violence victims themselves, but family members, friends, neighbors, persons who intervened, law enforcement responders, or bystanders.

ADDITIONAL BARRIERS TO ESCAPING A VIOLENT RELATIONSHIP INCLUDE BY ARE NOT LIMITED TO: • The fear that the abuser's actions will become more violent and may become lethal if the victim attempts to leave. • Unsupportive friends and family • Knowledge of the difficulties of single parenting and reduced financial circumstances • The victim feels that the relationship is a mix of good times, love, and hope along with manipulation, intimidation, and fear. • The victim's lack of knowledge of or access to safety and support • Fear of losing custody of any children if they leave or divorce their abuser or fear the abuser will hurt, or even kill, their children • Lack of means to support themselves and/or their children financially or lack of access to cash, bank accounts, or assets • Lack of having somewhere to go (e.g. no friends or family to help, no money for hotel, shelter programs are full or limited by length of stay) • Fear that homelessness may be their only option if they leave • Religious or cultural beliefs and practices may not support divorce or may dictate outdated gender roles and keep the victim trapped in the relationship • Belief that two-parent households are better for children, despite abuse

SOCIETAL BARRIERS TO ESCAPING A VIOLENT RELATIONSHIP IN ADDITION TO INDIVIDUAL OBSTACLES VICTIMS FACE WHEN ESCAPING VIOLENT RELATIONSHIPS, SOCIETY IN GENERAL PRESENTS BARRIERS. THESE INCLUDE: • A victim's fear of being charged with desertion, losing custody of children, or joint assets. • Anxiety about a decline in living standards for themselves and their children. • Reinforcement of clergy and secular counselors of "saving" a couple's relationship at all costs, rather than the goal of stopping the violence. • Lack of support to victims by police officers and law enforcement who may treat violence as a "domestic dispute," instead of a crime where one person is physically attacking another person. • Often, victims of abuse are arrested and charged by law enforcement even if they are only defending themselves against the batterer. • Dissuasion by police of the victim filing charges. • Some dismiss or downplay the abuse, side with the abuser, or do not take the victim's account of the abuse seriously. • Reluctance by prosecutors to prosecute cases. • Some may convince the abuser to please to a lesser charge, thus further endangering victims. • Additionally, judges rarely impose the maximum sentence upon convicted abusers.

• Probation or a fine is much more common. • Despite the issuing of a restraining order, there is little to prevent a released abuser from returning and repeating abuse. • Despite greater public awareness and the increased availability of housing for victims fleeing violent partners, there are not enough shelters to keep victims safe. • Some religious and cultural practices that stress that divorce is forbidden. • The socialization of some made to believe they are responsible for making their relationship work. • Failure to maintain the relationship equals failure as a person. • Isolation from friends and families, either by the jealous and possessive abuser or because they feel "ashamed" of the abuse and try to hide signs of it from the outside world. • The isolation contributes to a sense that there is nowhere to turn. • The rationalization of the victim that their abuser's behavior is caused by stress, alcohol, problems at work, unemployment, or other factors. • Societal factors that teach women to believe their identities and feelings of self-worth are contingent upon getting and keeping a man. • Inconsistency of abuse; during non-violent phases, the abuser may fulfill the victim's dream of romantic love. • The victim may also rationalize the abuser is basically good until something bad happens and they have to "let off steam."




COVID-19 PUSHES A CENTRAL FLORIDA DOMESTIC VIOLENCE EPIDEMIC INTO THE SHADOWS FOR SOME, ‘SAFER AT HOME’ ISN'T THE CASE The stereotype of domestic abuse is that it's loud. So loud, somebody around overhears. Violence gets broadcast by signs like doors slamming or constant shouting – maybe eventually violence spills out into the lawn, or family and friends detect evidence of abuse, bruises, or bandages. But that stereotype of domestic abuse has never been accurate anywhere, and especially not in Florida, where a sociologist's recent review showed that in extreme domestic violence cases, murder often happens after a long period of nonviolent abuse that the police don't take as seriously. Abusers use tactics like intimidation, humiliation, and isolation to gain control, threatening violence, and dramatizing a sense of fear of the future. During the COVID-19 outbreak, it's been especially quiet in Florida. Domestic violence centers believe there's good reason to suspect that this silence could become deadly if survivors can't be reached during social distancing. A STATISTICAL PARADOX The most recent residents of Harbor House, the only certified domestic violence center in Orlando, are a mother and child."I'm so grateful that she chose to come in," says Michelle Sperzel, Harbor House CEO, explaining that the risk of death for the new residents was higher at home than in communal living: "I mean, a highly lethal situation," she says, describing the troubling scene these survivors left. Those running for their lives are the only survivors still seeking shelter during the pandemic, Sperzel says, and shelters like Harbor House are focusing their resources on having space for them.

Other survivors seem to be simply enduring abuse at home. In many parts of the country, domestic violence reports have spiked, but in Florida, reported cases have stayed the same or decreased statewide. In Central Florida, the Orlando Police Department, Orange County Sheriff's Office, Osceola County Police Department, Sanford Police Department and Winter Park Police Department all confirmed either no increase in domestic violence reports or a slight decrease. Instead, what shelters are seeing is that in many areas of the state, including Orlando, survivors are seeking a higher number of protective injunctions as an extra defense against their batterers at home. Unlike police, Harbor House and many other Florida shelters say the domestic abuse hotline is ringing more often now, but most callers are saying they're too afraid to come in because of the coronavirus risks; they view the shelter as posing the greater death threat. At Harbor House, where more than 50 percent of beds are open, every room that's occupied represents an extreme case of domestic abuse. "The people who are coming into our emergency shelter are the ones that are in imminent danger," Sperzel says. "They know that if they don't leave that the violence is going to escalate," possibly to the point of murder. In 2018, there were 104,914 incidents of domestic violence reported statewide, a marginal decrease from the prior year, but while the number of incidents went slightly down, the number of domestic violence-related homicides went up. Close to one in five murders in Florida in 2018 were the result of domestic violence. The most recent report on fatalities from domestic abuse in Florida found that 94 percent of domestic abusers who murdered were men, and in 62 percent of domestic abuse cases that ended in death, those murders occurred at home.

Right now, for domestic abuse survivors, getting out of the house isn't easy, and neither is getting through the end of a phone call. After Gov. Ron DeSantis issued a statewide "safer-at-home" ordinance to limit the spread of COVID-19, acceptable reasons to leave the house were reduced to essential activities, like outdoor exercise or grocery shopping. For survivors of domestic abuse in the state – primarily kids and women age 25-59 – these brief windows when their batterer steps out for a jog or a supply run are sometimes the only opportunities, they have to place a quick phone call or grab what they can to leave. The 24-hour hotline for Harbor House is 407-886-2856. Although some areas of the state, including parts of the Panhandle and Southeast Florida, have experienced a slight decrease in domestic violence calls, Sperzel says that in Central Florida, like most of the rest of the state, their hotline calls have gone up. "A lot of conversations have been ended midstream, because somebody walked into the room," Sperzel says, but when survivors do stay on the line, the most-asked question isn't how they can come in for shelter now. Survivors are asking how they can prepare to come when the state reopens. Some people want to know if there's a waitlist. Sperzel makes it clear there is no waitlist and Harbor House is open, with many available beds. They've also got community partners providing quarantine spaces in hotels for anyone displaying symptoms or feeling sick, but it's hard to know that these options exist when you don't or can't call for help. Some people end up avoiding the phone and Googling for help, searching for "victim services." That's how they find the Victim Service Center, which also has a helpline.

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Harrisburg, PA – Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine reminded Pennsylvanians that domestic violence is a public health issue that leaves long-term effects on thousands of families across our commonwealth, and screening for domestic violence should be a part of everyone’s preventive health care.

According to fatality research by the

Violence and abuse happen to anyone regardless

Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic

of gender identity or expression. This violence

Violence (PCADV), there were 112 victims in 2019

could occur through emotional abuse, physical

and over 1,600 victims in the last decade who

violence, financial abuse, verbal abuse, stalking,

became domestic violence homicide victims

and sexual violence.

from preventable and reportable violence within their household leaving families without a

Victims and survivors may not only have

mother, father or other household members.

issues with their physical health but also the trauma caused by these experiences can leave

“It is important to recognize the relationship

long-lasting impacts on their overall well-being.

between violence from a partner and an

In addition to the immediate trauma caused by

individual’s overall health and well-being as a

abuse, domestic violence contributes to a

public health issue as it disrupts households

number of chronic health problems, including

across the state each year,” Dr. Levine said. “The

depression, alcohol, and substance abuse,

Wolf Administration is committed to protecting

sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV/AIDS,

Pennsylvania’s vulnerable populations at all

and often limits the ability of survivors to

times, including those survivors who are

properly support their health needs or manage

affected by domestic violence. Those who are

other chronic illnesses such as diabetes.

survivors of abuse seek medical attention of some kind, even if they do not report the abuse

The American Congress of Obstetricians and

to police, and others may have long-term battles

Gynecologists (ACOG), in line with the U.S.

both physically and mentally. Survivors, please

United States Department of Health and Human

know we are here for you and there are

Services (HHS) and Institute of Medicine (IOM),

resources available.”

recommends that intimate partner or domestic violence screening and counseling should be a

PCADV describes domestic violence as a pattern of coercive behavior used by one person to gain power and control over another in an intimate or familial relationship.

core part of women’s preventive health visits.

The department encourages all physicians and health care professionals to screen for the following signs to show if an individual may be experiencing domestic violence and sexual assault: • Appears worried or anxious about making their partner angry • Makes excuses for their partner’s behavior

Suspected child abuse or neglect can be reported 24/7 to the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services’ ChildLine available at 1-800-932-0313. If you witness or hear a violent incident, do not intervene on your own, as this can result in you being injured. Call 911 immediately.

• Has unexplained marks or injuries • Experiences changes in behavior may have depression or anxiety • Has a partner that puts them down in front of others, limits their time with friends or family, and/or is extremely jealous or possessive Due to COVID-19 mitigation efforts, some victims and survivors are spending more time in close proximity with their abusers, increasing the risk to their safety and wellbeing during an already stressful time. If you or someone you know is unsafe, resources are available. The following are resources for those experiencing or witnessing domestic violence, sexual assault, or child abuse: • To find the local domestic violence program providing 24/7, free and confidential services in your area, use PCADV’s find help page. • For anonymous, confidential help available 24/7, call the National Domestic Violence Helpline 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). • The Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape (PCAR) provides sexual assault crisis services. Those resources can be found at or at 1-888-772-7227 for a 24-hour hotline to be connected to a local sexual assault center. • The National Sexual Violence Resource Center provides educational materials and information on sexual harassment, abuse, and assault at • The Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network (RAINN), organizes the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline. This hotline is a referral service that can put you in contact with your local rape crisis center. You can call the Hotline at 1-800-656-4673, or access RAINN’s online chat service.

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