Domestic violence comes in a multitude of forms, most commonly beginning as emotional abuse prior to sometimes advancing to verbal, physical, sexual, economic abuse and forms of isolation.
"Domestic violence is a form of behavior from which a person's significant other extends violent or aggressive behaviors toward them," said Renee Ranson, a community treatment coordinator for the Second Judicial District Department of Correctional Services. "The psychological aspect behind why people batter others while victims may stay is highly intricate."
There are no specifics in relation to why people become the victim of abuse, but many have to stay given their individual situations. Despite the many variances that affect each person's situation, many commonalities exist.
Enormous impacts tend to be the involvement of children, pets or financial factors.
In the case of many victims there are resources available to help them escape abuse. One such resource for residents of Iowa is Assault Care Center Extending Shelter and Support (ACCESS).
ACCESS serves Story, Boone, Greene, Marshall and Tama counties and has a 24 hour crisis hotline reachable at 1-855-983-4641. The service can help provide shelter for victims of domestic violence and their children.
More information on additional available resources can be located at the ACCESS website, which provides a quick exit from the website by clicking the escape button located on the top right to be redirected to a neutral, non-dangerous website. This resource is both free and confidential.
In combined efforts with Iowa State, the veterinary medicine program helps to foster pets until a permanent solution away from their abusers can be found for owners.
“In our experience, abusers don’t change,” said Eman Mahgoub, ACCESS Story County/Iowa State campus domestic abuse advocate. “They might temporarily, but in the long run they don’t change. We want clients to know we believe in them and that we don’t ever question them.”
Power and control is the main thing that permits an abuser of either gender to abuse someone.
According to the National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence’s Intervention Project, this power and control can be maintained through a number of tactics. These include emotional abuse to put someone down; intimidation through looks, actions or gestures; isolation by controlling and limiting their interactions; minimizing, denying and blaming to brush off concerns; and using children to guilt or threatening with custody.
Other tactics include economic abuse by preventing independence through jobs or finances and coercion and threats by implying self harm or making someone conduct illegal activities. In the case of males specifically, male privilege can make a woman feel subservient, and these tactics all help to maintain the power and control over another’s life and circumstances.
Common characteristics of physical forms of domestic abuse, according to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, include pulling hair, punching, slapping, kicking, biting or choking; forbidding a partner from eating or sleeping; hurting with weapons; preventing a partner from calling the police or seeking medical attention; and harming children [or animals].
Other physical forms of domestic abuse include abandoning a partner in unfamiliar places; driving recklessly or dangerously when a partner is in the car with them; and forcing a partner to use drugs or alcohol.
According to the National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence’s Intervention Project, it is pertinent that there be respect, trust and support, honesty and accountability, responsible parenting, shared responsibility, economic partnership, negotiation and fairness and non-threatening behaviors in order to achieve equality in a relationship.
While they don't leave any physical scars or bruises, manipulation and belittling are forms of emotional abuse, according to the ACCESS website.
Although there are no certified ways to avoid becoming a victim of domestic abuse, there are ways in which everyone can prevent harming their significant others or people they care about.
Individuals suffering from low self-esteem, low income, low academic achievement, heavy alcohol consumption or exacerbated use of drugs are more likely to abuse their partners, according to Jessica Reynolds, Story County attorney.
Mental health issues also have a huge impact on how someone can have poor behavioral control and suffer from a number of personality traits.
“Perpetrators are anyone, anywhere, and can do anything,” said Anasia Sturdivant, ACCESS domestic abuse youth and campus outreach advocate. “You didn’t put yourself in that situation — the perpetrator sought someone out. They know how to manipulate and don’t show their true colors.”
The toxicity of a relationship may also lead to abusive tendencies resulting from instabilities from economic stress, jealousy, unhealthy familial relationships and a number of other struggles.
Not all the blame may be placed on this, however, because the community plays a role in every person's circumstances as well. Being located in more rural places can place a lot of difficulty on relationships, especially when neighbors are unwilling to step in or speak up when they witness violence, according to the ACCESS website.
“Anyone can be a survivor,” Sturdivant said. “It can happen to anyone, just like anyone can be rained on. We are here to help anyone that is a survivor.”
Regardless of an individual's situation, there are laws in Iowa that are enforced to ensure that one’s safety is held above all else. Law enforcement teams in Story County partner with attorneys available 24/7 to remove abusers in cases of highly volatile situations, as Iowa is a discretionary and mandatory arrest state, Reynolds said.
Discretionary Arrest is when there is probable cause to believe domestic abuse assault has been committed, not resulting in physical injury.
Mandatory Arrest is where there is probable cause to believe domestic abuse assault has been committed that resulted in physical injury, was committed with intent to inflict serious injury or was committed with display of a dangerous weapon.
Reynolds said she handles hundreds of cases of domestic abuse on a yearly basis and said she finds that there are always red flags in any abusive relationship prior even to any physical altercations.
Controlling tendencies, outbursts of anger, abusing substances and so many more flags can be present, as was demonstrated in an on-campus demonstration hosted in October by ACCESS.
Usually, the multiple pieces of evidence gathered by law enforcement, aside from defendant testimony — which most cases lack — will corroborate the truth and the true version of events.
With a legal binding no contact order in place, which spans a minimum of five years, both perpetrators and victims are held accountable by the state of Iowa, even though domestic abuse is a continuous cycle of events and abusers can draw in their victims, Reynolds said.
“If someone is in a relationship and doesn’t feel safe they should trust that feeling,” Reynolds said. “I would encourage them to reach out; there is help.”
Beyond a court-mandated no contact order, victims always have the opportunity to obtain a civil petition for relief from domestic abuse through their individual county for their safety, according to the ACCESS website. To obtain more detailed information about domestic abuse, the Iowa Domestic Abuse Hotline is reachable at 1-800-942-0333.
“In Iowa, when you are convicted of domestic violence you are ordered to batters education program as a term of probation,” Reynolds said. “Probation is always a viable alternative for people who are first-time offenders or who demonstrates a willingness to change, and can do so while keeping our community safe. Ultimately, I want people rehabilitated and becoming productive members of society.”
Ranson handles intake, assessments and treatment of those found guilty of domestic abuse by the state of Iowa and ordered to enroll in Iowa Domestic Abuse Program (IDAP). IDAP works with the Achieving Change Through Value-based Behavior (ACTV) curriculum.
The ACTV curriculum was created by Amie Zarling, assistant professor of human development and family studies. The program spans 24 weeks in order to hold people accountable for their actions and get them the help they need through treatment resources, cognitive behavioral group activities and counseling referrals.
Although not a one-step program, ACTV represents an attempt to move forward and learn how to better handle situations of difficulty.
“I believe people can change,” Ranson said. “I’m interested in helping people to better themselves and their lives. People involved in the system can be victims themselves."