While it may not be a comfortable topic, domestic violence (DV) is a lot more common than you might think, both in the United States and around the world.
To help bring attention to this important issue, we’ve put together a list of organizations working to assist survivors, develop legal policies, and educate people about domestic violence.
According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, early signs of DV can be subtle in you or a friend who’s experiencing domestic abuse. You might be tempted to shrug them off as just the normal throes of a relationship. Or, worse, you may think you’re to blame.
You’re not. And there’s nothing normal about domestic violence.
Red flags include:
- fear of your partner
- missing work or school
- personality changes
- low self-esteem
- trouble sleeping
- anxiety about pleasing your partner
Warning signs in your partner include:
- monitoring you on social media
- keeping you from seeing friends and family
- blaming you and others for problems in their life
- angry outbursts, punching walls, or destroying your property
- tracking your spending or withholding money
- controlling who you talk to, what you wear, or where you go
- criticizing, belittling, or embarrassing you in front of others
- taking away your keys or preventing you from leaving
- restraining, slapping, or physically hurting you
- threatening self-harm or suicide if you try to leave
If you, your children, or your loved ones are in immediate danger, leave right now. When you are in a safe place, call 911.
If you have some time to plan, the Domestic Violence Resource Center offers pointers for establishing a safety plan and how to carry it out safely. The Office of Women’s Health of the U.S. Department of Human Health and Services offers more details on how to leave safely.
Here are some additional organizations you can contact right now:
The hotline provides 24-hour support and crisis intervention to victims and survivors of DV through safety planning, advocacy, resources, and a supportive ear.
Take action now: Call 800-799-7322.
This project of the National Domestic Violence Hotline exists to support youth and young adults in ending dating violence. The website includes planning resources, legal help, educator toolkits, and more.
Take action now: Call866-331-9474 or text “loveis” to 22522.
StrongHearts is a partnered effort of the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center and the National Domestic Violence Hotline to bring support to tribal communities across America.
Take action now: Call 844-762-8483.
Founded by lesbian survivors of domestic violence, the Northwest Network works to end abuse in lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities. It strives to support and empower all survivors through education and advocacy.
Take action now: Call 206-568-7777.
RAINN is the nation’s largest anti-sexual-violence organization. It operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline and the U.S. Department of Defense’s Safe Helpline. The organization also runs programs to prevent violence, assist survivors, and ensure that rapists are brought to justice.
Take action now: Call 800-656-HOPE or message responders on the Safe Helpline.
Here are some more standout organizations working to stop domestic violence by educating communities, legal systems, political circles, and beyond. These are listed alphabetically.
The commission seeks to train attorneys to represent victims of domestic violence. Its mission is to increase access to justice for survivors of DV, sexual assault, and stalking by working with people in the legal profession.
The API is a national resource center focused on gender-based violence (DV, sexual violence, and human trafficking) in Asian and Pacific Islander communities.
It addresses these issues by increasing awareness, strengthening community strategies for prevention and intervention, and promoting research and policy.
ASISTA is a national nonprofit in the United States that helps attorneys and advocates assist immigrant survivors of crime. Responders can assist with immigration issues and help ensure a survivor’s safety and security.
Domestic violence is against the law regardless of a person’s immigration status. But survivors may fear that reporting violence will affect their ability to stay in the country or stay with their children.
ASISTA helps connect survivors to attorneys and advocates in their area who specialize in immigration matters. A specialized immigration attorney should always be a survivor’s first point of contact for immigration questions and concerns.
9. Battered Women’s Justice Project (BWJP)
BWJP offers DV-related training, technical assistance, and support to members of the criminal and civil justice systems. Its “Project Spotlight” analyzes and advocates for effective policing, prosecuting, sentencing, and monitoring of perpetrators of domestic violence.
CWLA is a coalition of hundreds of private and public agencies serving at-risk children and families. The league works on policies and strategies to promote safe, stable families. Workers also assist children, youth, and adults whose families don’t meet the “at-risk” criteria.
11. Equality Now
Working with grassroots organizations and activists, Equality Now protects and promotes the human rights of women and girls all over the world. Workers document violence and discrimination against women and mobilize efforts to stop these abuses.
12. Futures Without Violence (FSW)
FSW works with policymakers and professionals (doctors, nurses, athletic coaches, and judges) to improve responses to DV and educate people about the importance of healthy relationships.
The organization was a big player in developing the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which was passed by Congress in 1994 but expired in 2018. As of fall 2019, it’s been reauthorized by the House in the form of H.R. 1585, but it’s still awaiting Senate action.
It’s important to note that the act’s expiration does not mean all VAWA-supported programs and protections are discontinued. Many are still in effect, such as those protecting immigrant women and victims of violent crime.
INCITE! describes itself as a “network of radical feminists of color organizing to end state violence and violence in our homes and communities.”
Comprised of grassroots chapters across the United States, the organization works with groups of women of color and their communities to develop political projects that address the violence women of color may experience both within their communities and in their individual lives.
Run out of the University of Minnesota, the institute exists to provide outreach to African American communities experiencing violence. It also seeks to raise awareness about the effects of violence in African American communities and to influence public policy.
15. Jewish Women International (JWI)
JWI empowers women and girls through economic literacy, community trainings, and education about healthy relationships. The organization advocates for policies focused on violence prevention and reproductive rights, as well as inspiring the next generation of leaders.
Manavi (the name means “primal woman” in Sanskrit) is a women’s rights organization committed to ending violence against South Asian women living in the United States. Manavi provides direct service to survivors and to grassroots organizations aimed at changing communities.
Relying on grassroots efforts, MSH works to end violence against Native women and children. The organization provides training through its Technical Assistance Project and organizes advocates to raise their voices through the Sacred Heart Tribal Domestic Violence Coalition.
18. National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence (NCDSV)
NCDSV is a national training organization that works to influence national policy. It provides customized training and consultation to professionals working in fields that might influence domestic violence.
19. National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV)
NCADV believes that violence against women and children results from the abuse of power on all scales, from intimate relationships to societal issues like sexism, racism, and homophobia.
NCADV advocates for major societal changes that will eliminate both personal and social violence for all people by building coalitions, supporting shelter programs, providing public education, and developing policies and legislation.
20. National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV)
NNEDV is an advocacy organization made up of state DV coalitions and allied organizations and individuals. The organization works closely with its members to understand the needs of DV survivors and voice those needs to national policymakers.
21. No More
No More came from the desire to unite the diverse groups working to end domestic violence and sexual assault. Hundreds of representatives collaborated on the blue No More logo, a unifying symbol that represents the light at the end of the tunnel, among other ideas.
Founded by author Eve Ensler and activists from NYC, V-Day is a global activist movement seeking to end violence against women and girls.
The organization stages creative events to increase awareness, raise funds, and support other anti-violence organizations. Its most famous creations have been the play “The Vagina Monologues” and the documentary “Until the Violence Stops.”
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), 1 in 4 women and 1 in 9 men in the United States have experienced some form of violence from a partner in their lives.
In its 2018 report, the National Domestic Violence Hotline reported answering more than half a million requests for help during the year. Of these:
- 88 percent reported emotional/verbal abuse
- 60 percent reported physical abuse
- 24 percent reported financial abuse
- 15 percent reported digital abuse
- 11 percent reported sexual abuse
Remember: Abuse can be physical, sexual, emotional, economic, psychological, or some combination thereof.
The short answer: It can happen to anyone of any gender, race, age, sexual orientation, gender expression, religion, profession, education, or socioeconomic background.
However, women are much more likely than men to be victimized. Domestic abuse is most likely to occur within couples who are married, living together, or dating. The demographic data of domestic violence in the United States is sobering:
- About 20 people every minute experience physical abuse at the hand of an intimate partner in the United States.
- 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men experience severe physical violence (beating, burning, strangling) by an intimate partner in their lives.
- In 2015, 54 percent of violent victimizations reported to law enforcement were committed by an intimate partner.
- An average of 3 women per day are murdered by their husbands or partners in the United States.
- Women ages 18 to 24 are the most commonly abused by an intimate partner.
- Of all murder-suicides, 72 percent involve an intimate partner.
- In the United States, 1 in 15 children are exposed to intimate partner violence each year. Of these, 90 percent are witnesses to the violence. Of the half-million contacts reported during 2018 by the National Domestic Violence Hotline, 22 percent involved children.
- About 85 percent of victims of domestic violence are women.
Women who experience domestic violence are much more likely to develop serious health problems. These can include high blood pressure, depression, panic attacks, gastrointestinal problems, substance abuse, sexual risk-taking, migraines, chronic pain, and arthritis.
Domestic violence can be defined as patterns of behavior in a relationship used to gain power and control over a partner. It varies in frequency and severity, and it is often a crime.
The Family Violence Prevention and Services Act (FVPSA) defines domestic violence as felony or misdemeanor crimes of violence. These crimes include: physical violence, sexual assault, stalking, and psychological abuse committed by a current or former intimate partner.
Many federal and local statutes criminalize domestic violence. To report an incident, call 911 or make a report to local law enforcement. To learn about the statutes covering domestic violence, check out a legal guide such as the PACE Law School Library.
Want to help out? Start by getting in touch with any of the organizations listed above. They can point you toward volunteer opportunities across the country. Here are some other ways to show support:
- Write to your favorite companies and ask them to support domestic violence programs with their philanthropic funds.
- Be a source of support. Learn how to speak to and help friends, family members, or acquaintances who come to you with stories of violence.
- Talk about it. Educate yourself about domestic violence and pass along the knowledge to friends and family. Things change much faster when more people direct energy toward changing them.
If you’re wondering whether you should stay or go, remember this: Love shouldn’t hurt. If you feel like you’ve been impacted by domestic violence, know that you’re not alone and responders can help. Resources and support are always just a call, text, or click away.