Domestic Violence & Sexual Abuse

No matter where you live in the world, domestic violence is an issue that affects people of every age, class, race, gender and sexual orientation. Although scenarios differ, at the core, most of these instances of violence have key tools of manipulation in common: inequality, low self-esteem and control through fear.

One common misconception is that only adult women experience violence in relationships. This isn’t so. Teen dating violence is hugely underreporting and comes at a time when adolescents are particularly impressionable. One of the most important things we can do for our youth is to teach them from a young age that physical, verbal and psychological aggression should never be tolerated for any reason. Young women who experience dating violence or witness domestic abuse at home from a young age are much more likely to find themselves in unhealthy relationships, so awareness and intervention are hugely important. Factors that contribute to a woman’s susceptibility to abuse include low self-esteem and growing up in a home where abuse was either witnessed or experienced. And on the perpetrators side, some of those who witness or experience violence in their homes growing up are also more likely to resort to using violence against others later in their lives. No matter how you look at it, living with violence is never a good way to begin your life.

Domestic and dating abuse is not limited to physical violence alone. Verbal and emotional abuse can cause just as much, and in some cases, even more damage to the person being subjected to the abuse. The injuries and scars are there, but they exist in minds and hearts. Sadly, some women may fall into situations where they find themselves in relationships where they are financially or emotionally dependent on their abuser. Leaving one’s abuser is often delayed for many of these women because it either means their life has been threatened should they attempt to escape, or they fear they cannot make it alone without the “love” and financial support of their partner.

ALLIES™, leaving is always an option. No matter how scared, in love with or financially dependent a woman might be on her abuser, the best thing to do is get out of the abusive situation. If children are involved, it is even more crucial to get them out of harms way and out of an environment that is both dangerous and teaching them that love equates to dysfunction and violence.

Within some cultures, inequality of men and women extends far beyond wages and discrimination. From a young age, girls are taught that they are to be subservient to men, and many are expected to marry at a very young age, often not by choice. Into adulthood, these women are not allowed to leave their homes without the permission and/or escort of a male family member and are required to follow strict policies and suffer harsh consequences if they are caught disobeying these rules. The punishments may range from extreme social isolation to physical beating by one’s husband to being sentenced to death by public stoning if a woman is caught in an adulterous act. The requirement for women to cover their bodies from head to toe in a traditional garb, usually referred to as a burqa, is a tricky subject for some Muslim women. While some see the requirement to cover one’s entire body as overt oppression, others merely see it as cultural tradition.

It is crucial to recognize that just because the beliefs and traditions of another may differ from one’s own, that does not make the other person inherently wrong. What IS wrong, regardless of beliefs, is when tradition and/or religion is taken out of context and used as an excuse for violence and abusive of women. Again, abuse is about manipulation, inequality, low self-esteem and control through fear. Women in other parts of the world may live under different circumstances and may practice different traditions and religions, but they are still fellow victims of domestic violence. They are our sisters.

As is the situation with many of the issues addressed on this site, domestic violence does affect more women than men, though the statistics are gradually changing. It is important to acknowledge that dating and domestic violence affects all genders, ages, orientations and races. Whether it is a man abusing a woman, a woman abusing a man or a similar situation within a same-sex relationship, it’s still violence that should never be tolerated.


National Domestic Violence Hotline: -- 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or 1-800-787-3224 (TDD)

National Coalition Against Domestic Violence:

Love is Respect:

Break the Cycle:

The Pixel Project:

Also check out RRW ALLY™, Elin Waldal’s upcoming book, ‘Tornado Warning’:

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Sexual Abuse and Assault

Sexual assault is yet another example of one person exercising his or her power over another. Assault, rape, molestation, incest, and harassment are all ways violence and violation can enter into any kind of relationship, be it between someone and their spouse or partner, family member, co-worker, friend or even a perfect stranger. The range of specific offenses is, unfortunately, quite long and every person’s experience in unique; however, if you would like more specific information on this, please visit

For specific information on types of sexual assault, go to:

The prevalence of sexual assault is disheartening – every 2 minutes, someone in the United States is sexually assaulted, yet it is one of the most underreported crimes with as much as 60% of these instances never being reported to the police.


Resources on Sexual Abuse and Assault:

National Sexual Assault Hotline: (1-800-656-HOPE) for free, confidential help, day or night or go online at

RAINN (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network):

Rape Crisis Information and Hotlines:

National Sexual Violence Resource Center:


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