By Tonya Sams, Development and Communications Assistant at The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland
Many people think the label “domestic violence” applies only to violent acts against a lover, but it is much more than that.
Domestic violence describes regular, consistent acts of physical, emotional, verbal, and sexual abuse. It not only occurs in spousal and intimate partner relationships, but also in relationships with other family members, including those with children, live-in partners, or people who have children together and are no longer involved in an intimate relationship.
Perpetrators of domestic violence control the target or targets of their abuse through fear. If targets don’t comply with their initial tactics – which can be threats of harm, the withdraw of financial support, and/ or verbal and emotional abuse – then the abuser resorts to physical and/or sexual abuse.
Domestic violence does not discriminate. People of all races, religions, sexual orientations, abilities, and financial status can inflict or suffer from domestic violence.
Targets of domestic violence do not cause the abuse that is inflicted upon them. But, abusers often try to convince them they have done something to cause the abusive response.
Abusers often isolate their targets by having them cut off communication from those that could help them, such as family and friends. Abusers also try to control every aspect of their target’s life. For targets, every decision becomes influenced by how it would make their abuser feel.
Targets of abuse may feel guilt, shame, and failure. They may find it difficult to break away from the relationship for several reasons, especially if they are financially dependent on the abuser
(another tactic commonly used to maintain control).
There are resources available for those who are targets of domestic violence.
OhioLegalHelp.org has a new, web-based domestic violence reporting tool. The tool (which was created through a partnership with The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland, Ohio Domestic Violence Network and Ohio Supreme Court’s Advisory Committee on Domestic Violence) allows users to fill out and save their forms if they cannot complete them all at once. The site can be accessed on any mobile device.
Help is also available through Legal Aid’s Family Law Group. A Legal Aid attorney can help you file civil protection and temporary protection orders and connect you to other community resources available to people escaping abusive relationships, such as Journey Center for Safety and Healing and the Ohio Domestic Violence Network. Apply for Legal Aid help online 24/7 (lasclev.org/contact) or call 216-687-1900 during normal business hours.