I learned about the pervasiveness and horrors of domestic violence when I was a prosecutor. I spent my first 9 months as an assistant district attorney in the Domestic Violence Bureau. I learned about how abusers use fear and intimidation to obtain power and control over women often through abuse or the threat of abuse. I really enjoyed the work because my colleagues and I were letting victims know there were people who wanted them to have a better life and would help them get to a safe place, literally and figuratively. I met many wonderful women who were in extremely difficult, scary situations and needed help. The women came from every economic background and lifestyle. Many had put up with abuse for years and just couldn't take it anymore. Often, the women came for help because their abuser had started to hurt the children or they were worried he was going to. Other times, they just had had enough.
I learned about the cycle of domestic violence and how the abuser belittles the woman, makes her feel like nothing, isolates her from her friends and family, doesn't allow her access to money and restricts her from working and physically hurts her. In the most severe cases the abuser does all of those things but usually the woman is subjected to a combination of these tactics so the abuser can control her. One of the most difficult problems in domestic violence for the woman and those people trying to help her is that often the woman still loves her abuser. Most victims of domestic violence will tell you the the abuser is a nice person when they're not being abusive. That was the greatest obstacle to helping the victims. Very often, when I was in the prosecutor's office, women would come to us for help in the heat of the moment but once their fear died down and the abuser apologized, said he'd never do it again, etc. the victim went back to the abuser and wouldn't cooperate with the people trying to help her. Usually this was a symptom of the domestic violence situation and part of the cycle of abuse.
Like with so many things in our lives, what we don't know is what scares us the most.
The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence is an organization with many resources for victims, their family and friends.
Safe Horizon is another great organization working to assist victims to find a better life.