• About Domestic Violence
  • Evaluate Your Relationship

What is domestic violence?
Why does domestic violence happen?
How do I know if I'm being abused?
I think someone I know is being abused. How can I help?
Why do people victimized by domestic violence feel trapped?
What is domestic violence advocacy?
What is safety planning?
What is an order of protection?
What will happen if I call the police?
What is teen dating violence?
Does witnessing domestic violence effect children?
What about my pets?

What is domestic violence? 

Domestic violence is a pattern of intentional coercive behavior used to establish and maintain control over an intimate partner, ex-partner, or family member through fear or intimidation.

Anyone can be victimized by domestic violence. Victims can be of any age, sex, race, culture, religion, sexual orientation, education, employment, or marital status. Although both men and women can be abused, most domestic violence is committed against women by their male partners or ex-partners.

Why does domestic violence happen?

Contrary to popular belief, domestic violence is not caused by stress, mental illness, alcohol, or drugs. The only true cause of domestic violence are the abusers’ choices to act violently and control their intimate partners.

How do I know if I’m being abused?

Does your partner –

• hit, punch, slap, kick, shove, strangle, or bite you?
• threaten to hurt you or your children?
• threaten to hurt friends or family members?
• have sudden outbursts of anger or rage?
• behave in an overly protective manner?
• become jealous without reason?
• prevent you from seeing family or friends?
• prevent you from going where you want, when you want, with whomever you want, without repercussions?
• prevent you from working or attending school or force you to work in jobs not of your choosing?
• destroy personal property or sentimental items?
• deny you access to family assets, such as bank accounts, credit cards, or car?
• control all finances and force you to account for what you spend?
• force you to have sex against your will or force you to engage in sexual acts you do not enjoy?
• use intimidation or manipulation to control you or your children?
• humiliate or embarrass you in front of others?
• abuse or threaten to abuse pets?
• withhold medication or deny you access to health care?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you may be abused. You are not alone. You are not to blame. Help is available. Domestic violence is a crime.

For help, call 716-558-SAFE (7233).

I think someone I know is being abused. How can I help?

A common myth about people who are abused is that they do not want to talk about what is happening to them. It is true that some people try to hide the abuse, but they often do so because they are afraid of being embarrassed, their partner finding out, being blamed, not being believed, or being pressured to do something they are not ready or able to do. Many people who are abused by their intimate partners either do not know where to turn or have had bad experiences when they have reached out for help.

Let them know that you’re concerned about their safety and that you’re willing to help.

The only way to know for sure if someone you know is being abused is to ASK. If you ask, be prepared to respond supportively.

Ask in a private setting.
Express concern.
Listen and validate.
Offer help.
Support decisions.

Wait for your friend to come to you.
Judge or blame.
Pressure your friend.
Give advice.
Place conditions on your support.

Why do people victimized by domestic violence feel trapped?

Simply because they often are trapped. That doesn’t necessarily mean that there’s no way out, but there are many good reasons why it may be difficult to end a relationship with a violent partner. The choices are not risk-free. Leaving is not always the safest or best option.

Often, people abused by their intimate partners just want the violence and abuse to stop, but they don’t want the relationship to end. Even when they do want to get out of the relationship, it is hard.

Love, family, shared memories, and commitment are bonds that are hard to break. Cultural and religious beliefs may be barriers to ending a relationship. Immigration status may be another obstacle. Of course, fear of physical danger may be a very real concern. Another barrier is financial dependence on the abuser. There is also the risk of losing shared children and/or the negative impact on children of “breaking up the family.”

What is domestic violence advocacy?

Domestic violence program advocates have accurate information about domestic violence and are experienced in providing assistance and creating safety plans. They help you to identify options appropriate for you. At the FJC, we have advocates from Haven House, Crisis Services, the District Attorney’s Office, Hispanics United of Buffalo, and the International Institute of Buffalo.

They understand the criminal justice, family court, and social services systems and are familiar with other community resources that might be useful to you.

In addition to giving you good information, advocates can provide you with practical and emotional support. Getting help from someone who has experience working with those victimized by domestic violence and who knows how to work with the different systems can make things a lot easier for you.

FJC advocates can explain what the police and courts in New York State can do for you and how things work in Buffalo and Erie County. Advocates can help you decide whether to use the system and “walk you through” the process of pressing charges and/or obtaining an order of protection.

What is safety planning?

Safety planning is the process of evaluating the risks and benefits of different options and identifying ways to reduce the risks. There are risks attached to every decision a person being victimized by domestic violence makes.

If you are in a violent relationship, one of the most important steps you can take is to make a safety plan for your home and workplace. These plans contain simple but critical steps you can take to increase your safety and reduce your risk while you deal with the violence you face in your personal life.

You probably know more about safety planning than you might even realize. Being in a relationship with an abusive partner – and surviving – requires considerable skill and resourcefulness. Any time you do or say something as a way to protect yourself and/or your children, you are enacting a safety plan.

A documented personalized safety plan, however, can reduce your risk of being harmed. FJC advocates are experts in helping you create a safety plan that is appropriate for every situation.

For information about telephone privacy and safety and computer and e-mail safety, go towww.nyscadv.org/safety.

What is an order of protection?

An Order of Protection is a document issued by a court to help protect you from harassment or abuse. The judge can set limits on your partner’s behavior.

You can get orders of protection in criminal court or civil court or both. FJC advocates can provide you with the information to make a wise choice about which court(s) to petition.

Seeking help, getting an order or protection, or deciding to leave only makes sense when it reduces the risk to you and your children.

What will happen if I call the police?

If you call the police, they must come to investigate. For the police to make a decision to arrest, they need to find probable cause that a crime was committed.

If the police find that your partner committed a felony against you or another family member, they must make an arrest. Felonies are the most serious of crimes, such as an assault that results in serious physical injuries like broken bones.

If the police find that a family offense misdemeanor has been committed, they must make an arrest unless you ask them not to do so. If the police have evidence of a crime, they may still make the arrest. Examples are stalking or physical injury, usually more than bruise.

If the police witness a violation being committed, they may make an arrest, but they are not required to do so. If the police do not witness the violation or choose not to make an arrest, you may sign a complaint against your partner.

The police will refer you to the FJC where you may meet with members of the Buffalo Police Department and/or the District Attorney’s Office and receive other supportive services.

What is teen dating violence?

Teen dating violence is basically the same as adult domestic violence – a pattern of behavior that one partner uses over the other to establish and maintain control. This behavior can be emotional, physical, or sexual. Abusers often isolate their victims from family and friends, making them more dependent.

Teens have a unique set of factors affecting their choices regarding dating relationships, including peer pressure, the desire to be popular, lack of dating experience, and mistaking jealous and controlling behavior for “love.” Popular culture may also support the belief that a girl belongs to a guy and that he is the one in charge.

For examples, advice, and more information about teen dating violence, go towww.loveisrespect.org.

Does witnessing domestic violence effect children?

Often children witnessing abuse blame themselves for problems occurring in their families. Many children are seriously injured or killed each year in an attempt to intervene to protect a parent. By growing up in an abusive environment, a child learns that violence is an effective tool and an acceptable way to interact with others.

In general, childhood exposure to domestic violence can be associated with increased display of aggressive behavior, increased emotional problems, such as depression, and/or anxiety, lower levels of social competence, and poorer academic functioning.

The FJC can provide assessment and referral services for the children of our clients to minimize the impact of the violence on them.

For more information on children and domestic violence, click here.

What about my pets?

There is a strong connection between domestic violence and animal cruelty. Sometimes abusers harm or threaten pets to scare and control their families. Alleviating concern about pets is an important part of a person’s decision to leave.

FJC advocates can provide information about an SPCA program to assist you with your pets.

Family Justice Center Newsletters Telling Amy's Story FJC Necklace Love My Buffalo Calendar