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What is domestic violence?

Individuals in Virginia and other areas probably think they would know immediately if they were ever in a domestic violence situation. The truth is, however, that many individuals in such situations don't recognize that abuse is occurring, or they don't recognize it until it has become an even more serious issue. Understanding whether you might be a victim of domestic violence and seeking outside help with the situation is a first step toward a better future.

According to the Virginia Department of Social Services, domestic violence occurs when one or more individuals within a family or relationship begins a pattern of psychological or physical abuse. Often, situations of domestic violence include both forms of abuse and are about exerting control over the other person or people.

DSS provides a checklist of behaviors that may be considered domestic violence, stating that the inclusion of any one behavior warrants seeking outside assistance. Some things DSS points to as possible signs of domestic violence include the torturing of pets, destruction of personal property and threats to other members of a victim's family.

DSS also says that hitting, biting, choking, kicking, pushing and slapping are signs of domestic violence. Threats, with or without a weapon, or actions that prevent a person from leaving a room or the home may also be abuse. If one person in a relationship attempts to keep the other from seeing family or friends, driving a car or restricting access to information such as family finances, DSS says domestic abuse could be present.

Individuals who are unsure about their situation can seek assistance from counselors, often through free hotlines or consultation services. For individuals who are in a domestic violence situation and want to get out through divorce or other means, legal channels exist for doing so.

Source: Virginia Department of Social Services, "Domestic Violence" Nov. 19, 2014

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