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How to recognize the signs of domestic violence

DANVILLE, Ind. (WISH) — Staff at Sheltering Wings, a domestic violence shelter in Hendricks County, say leaving a toxic relationship can be dangerous, but they can help. In order to create a safe exit plan, experts say you should first know the signs of domestic violence. 

Physical abuse is one sign of domestic violence, but it’s not the only sign, according to Jenny Kinnaman of Sheltering Wings.

“Abuse people may experience is verbal abuse: being belittled, put down, derogatory terms called dumb maybe a character flaw that they have that the abuser would pick on, being made to feel unsafe in your own home. Emotional abuse, where threatening yourself, pets, kids, family. ‘If you leave, I’m going to kill myself,’” Kinnaman said.

Kinnaman says financial abuse is one kind of abuse that isn’t talked about too often. we don’t talk about as much.

“One of those ways of power and control that the abuser has is either not letting the victim have a job so that they are totally reliant on their abuser for their housing, their food, their clothes, or having that person work and taking their paycheck and taking all their money and racking up bills in their name so even if they leave, their credit is destroyed and they’re not going to be able to get new housing, (or) their car is going to get repossessed.”

Kinnaman also warns of spiritual abuse.

“For people of faith, it’s really turning your faith against you, using your faith or using scripture to say, ‘Well, you have to stay with me, because in a typical relationship, because I am the man and you must submit, and if you don’t stay you’ll be cast out of the church and you’ll lose those supports at the end of the day.’”

Experts say domestic violence can happen to anyone, no matter their age.

“We wouldn’t stay in a relationship if someone came out of the gate hitting you, you wouldn’t stay. Typically, when that happens there was a period of time when everything was great. Everything was rosy. We’re having this romantic period, but then those little things start like name calling or telling you you’re stupid or you’re not doing something correctly and it starts to wear down your self-esteem over time,” Kinnaman said.

“That tension-building phase where you can tell something is wrong, some things are not right in this. ‘I don’t know what it is though. I don’t know what I am doing wrong.’”

The cycle of violence will continue, Kinnaman explains.

“Then we come to that explosion. That period of, ‘Man, you pushed me too far. If you just would’ve had dinner ready or did what I said I wouldn’t have had to hit you,’ making it your fault the abuse happens. And then remorse: ‘I am so sorry that that happened. I won’t ever do it again. Please believe me, come back.’ That cycle continues.”

After working with many families, Kinnaman suggests parents talk to their children about what is going on once it is safe.

“Have them go to their own room, have them exit the house, coming up with a code word with their kiddos when it is time to leave. They know if mom says, ‘Apple Jacks,’ they know to get out of the house.”

Sheltering Wings suggests you have a plan before you try to make an exit. They offer a 24/7 helpline to help you plan ahead. The number is (317) 745-1496.