Domestic violence refers to all violence that occurs in close relationships. The perpetrator may be a partner, parent, sibling, friend or relative.
There may be violence involved even in dating and friendships. Domestic violence is particularly hurtful since the perpetrator often is a person you love or care about. Domestic violence usually takes place in private spaces, such as the home, and people often aim to hide it from others.
Identifying domestic violence is not always easy, since the violence aims to weaken the self-esteem and confidence of the victim. Typical qualities of domestic violence include it starting gradually and becoming repeating and more brutal over time. Sometimes, it may be difficult to admit that a loved one is doing something bad, and the victim may start thinking the violence is their own fault. It is always important to remember that violence is always the fault of the perpetrator, not the victim.
The following questions may help identify violence:
- Do I dare state my opinion?
- Do I need to keep things about this relationship secret from the people close to me, for example?
- Am I sometimes scared of the other person?
- Do I choose to not say or do something so that the other person stays happy?
- Am I wary around the other person?
If the questions cause you anxiety or concerns about the safety of a relationship or your well-being, it would be important that you discuss this with a reliable person from your school or the social and health care services, for example.
Where do I get help?
In an acute violent situation, you can always call the general emergency number 112. The social and crisis emergency services and shelters are available 24/7 regarding acute situations. It would be important that you tell a reliable adult whom you trust about the violence.
You can always bring up the experiences of violence at various social and health care services, such as:
- school health care
- student health care
- health stations
- social guidance services (for young people aged 11–16)
- young people’s social work (for young people aged 16–29)
- maternity and child health clinics
- family counselling offices
You can overcome and recover from violence
It is important that you are not left alone with your experiences of violence. If violence or threats of violence take place in your home or close relationship, you need to stop and think about your safety. Preparing a personal safety plan helps you act in a violent situation. The website of Victim Support Finland offers instructions for preparing a safety plan.
Help is also available for perpetrators of violence or those who are concerned about their own behaviour and impulse control.
Consequences of violence
Violence may cause physical injuries, such as bruises, fractures, burns or scratches. In the worst case, domestic violence can lead to brain damage or even death. Even if the violence is not physical, the effects may still manifest themselves as physical symptoms. Such symptoms include lack of strength, abdominal pain, shortness of breath, increased heart rate or loss of appetite.
Depression, anxiety, sleep problems, fears and panic attacks are common mental symptoms related to experiences of violence. Your ability to concentrate is weakened, and it may be hard to keep up with school or work. The effects can also be seen in behaviour and emotions. It becomes more difficult to control emotions, which may lead to excessive anger, irritability and aggressive behaviour. The effects may also include self-harming, substance abuse and heightened risk-taking, for example in sexual encounters.
The experiences of violence often involve the loss of confidence and trust in other people. In this case, seeking help may seem difficult. The experiences may also manifest themselves more extensively in relationships, with the person withdrawing from other close relationships or avoiding social interaction, for example. The experiences of violence may also change the person’s entire view of the world, since violence breaches the basic sense of safety.
Repeating experiences of violence may result in a constant feeling of threat and fear. The fear may be expressed through stress reactions, such as sweating, increased heart rate, nausea, panic disorder and anxiety.
The consequences of violence may show up even after a long time. For example, various phobias, panic disorder, self-harming behaviour or substance abuse may occur long after the experience of violence has passed. Sometimes, a person may be reminded of the experience years after the fact, and the various symptoms may resurface. This is why it would be extremely important that victims of violence get help and support for processing the topic.