Telephone Hotlines: 814.333.9766 | 888.881.0189

About Violence & FAQ


About Violence

Domestic violence is a pattern of behavior by which an individual gains or maintains power and control over an intimate partner. Abuse can be physical, sexual, emotional, economic or psychological. Any behaviors that frighten, intimidate, terrorize, manipulate, hurt, humiliate, blame, injure or wound someone are abusive. Domestic violence can happen to anyone of any race, age, sexual orientation, religion or gender. It can happen to couples who are married, living together or who are dating. Domestic violence affects people of all socioeconomic backgrounds and education levels.

Does the person you love…

  • “Track” all of your time?
  • Constantly accuse you of being unfaithful?
  • Discourage your relationships with family and friends?
  • Prevent you from working or attending school?
  • Criticize you for the little things?
  • Anger easily when drinking or using drugs?
  • Control all finances and force you to account for what you spend?
  • Humiliate you in front of others?
  • Destroy personal property or sentimental items?
  • Hit, punch, slap, kick, or bite you or your children?
  • Threaten to hurt you, your family or your pets?
  • Use or threaten to use a weapon against you?
  • Force you to have sex against your will?

If your answer to any of the above questions is “yes,” or know someone in an abusive relationship, contact the Women’s Services Hotline, 888-881-0189 or text “WSCHAT” to 839863 to talk with a counselor/advocate.

Frequently Asked Questions About Domestic Violence

1. What is domestic violence?

  • Domestic violence is a pattern of coercive, controlling behavior that can include physical abuse, emotional or psychological abuse, sexual abuse or financial abuse (using money and financial tools to exert control).
  • Domestic violence is a pervasive, life-threatening crime that affects millions of individuals across the United States regardless of age, economic status, race, religion or education.
  • High-profile cases of domestic violence will attract headlines, but thousands of people experience domestic abuse every day.  They come from all walks of life.
    • In a 24-hour survey, NNEDV found that U.S. domestic violence programs served nearly 65,321 victims and answered more than 23,045 crisis hotline calls in one day alone.
  • Batterers make it very difficult for victims to escape relationships. Sadly, many survivors suffer from abuse for decades.
  • It’s important for survivors to know that the abuse is not their fault, and they are not alone. Help is available for those who suffer from domestic violence.

2. What are resources available for victims?

  • Survivors have many options, from obtaining a protection order to staying in a shelter, or exploring options through support group or anonymous calls to a local domestic violence shelter or hotline program.  There is hope for victims, and they are not alone.
  • There are thousands of local shelters across the United States that provide safety, counseling, legal help, and other resources for victims and their children.
  • Information and support is available for victims of abuse, their friends and family:
  • Before using online resources, know that your computer or phone may not be safe. Some abusers are misusing technology to stalk and track all of a partner’s activities.

3. Why do victims sometimes return to or stay with abusers?

  • A better question is, “Why does the abuser choose to abuse?
  • The deck is stacked against the victim when confronted with leaving or not.
  • Abusers work very hard to keep victims in relationships.
  • There is a real fear of death or more abuse if they leave.
    • In fact, a victim’s risk of getting killed greatly increases when they are in the process of leaving or have just left.
    • On average, three women die at the hands of a current or former intimate partner every day.
    • We, as a community, must do more to ensure the safety of victims when they leave.
  • Batterers are very good at making victims think that the abuse is their fault. Victims often believe that if they caused the violence, they can also stop it.
  • Victims stay because they are made to think they cannot survive on their own, financially or otherwise. Often abusers create a financial situation that makes leaving nearly impossible.
  • Survivors sometimes want the abuse to end, not the relationship.
  • A survivor may return to the abuser because that’s the person she the survivor fell in love with, and she believes his promises to change.  It’s not easy for anyone to let go of hopes and dreams.

4. Do abusers show any potential warning signs?

  • There is no way to spot an abuser in a crowd, but most abusers share some common characteristics.
  • Some of the subtle warning signs include:
    • They insist on moving too quickly into a relationship.
    • They can be very charming and may seem too good to be true.
    • They insist that you stop participating in leisure activities or spending time with family and friends.
    • They are extremely jealous or controlling.
    • They do not take responsibility for their actions and blame others for everything that goes wrong.
    • They criticize their partner’s appearance and make frequent put-downs.
    • Their words and actions don’t match.
  • Any one of these behaviors may not indicate abusive actions, but it’s important to know the red flags and take time to explore them.

5. Is it possible for abusers to change?

  • Yes, but they must make the choice to change.
  • It’s not easy for an abuser to stop abusive behavior, and it requires a serious decision to change.  Once an abuser has had all of the power in a relationship, it’s difficult to change to a healthy relationship with equal power and compromises.
  • Sometimes an abuser stops the physical violence, but continues to employ other forms of abuse – emotional, sexual, or financial.  Some abusers are able to exert complete control over a victim’s every action without using violence or only using subtle threats of violence. All types of abuse are devastating to victims.

6. Are men victims of domestic violence?

  • Yes, men are sometimes victims of domestic abuse.
  • A 2001 U.S. study revealed that 85 percent of the victims were female with a male batterer. The other 15 percent includes intimate partner violence in gay and lesbian relationships and men who were battered by a female partner.
  • One in four women will be the victim of domestic violence at some point in her lifetime.
  • Women are 90-95 percent more likely to suffer domestic violence than are men.
  • When we talk about domestic violence, we’re not talking about men versus women or women versus men. We’re talking about violence versus peace. We’re talking about control versus respect.
  • Domestic violence affects us all, and all of us – women, children and men – must be part of the solution.

7. How does the economy affect domestic violence?

  • A sour economy does not cause domestic violence but can make it worse. It’s like throwing gasoline on a fire.
  • The severity and frequency of abuse can increase when factors associated with a bad economy are present.
    • Job loss, housing foreclosures, debt, and other factors contribute to higher stress levels at home, which can lead to increased violence.
  • As the violence gets worse, a weak economy limits options for survivors to seek safety or escape.
  • Domestic violence programs need more staff and funding to keep up with the demand for their services.
  • Victims may have a more difficult time finding a job to become financially independent of abusers.

8. What can I do to help?

  • Everyone can speak out against domestic violence. The problem will continue until society stands up with one resounding voice and says, “no more!”
  • Members of the public can donate to local, statewide or national anti-domestic violence programs or victim assistance programs.
  • We can teach our children about what healthy relationships look like by example and by talking about it.
  • You can call on your public officials to support life-saving domestic violence services and hold perpetrators accountable.

Frequently Asked Questions About Sexual Abuse and Rape

9. Why do people rape?

“Many people think that rape and sexual abuse is about the rapist trying to get sex. However, studies conducted with convicted rapists show that this isn’t the case. Research shows that men who sexually offend often do so to gain a sense of power and authority, while women sexually offend often to either maintain or establish an emotional relationship. Sexual activity is the means by which this is achieved, not the reason for the rape.”

10. Do people who have been offended against by a stranger experience different effects to those who have been sexually assaulted by someone close to them?

“Everybody reacts to rape or sexual abuse in their own way and in their own time. People who have been sexually assaulted by a stranger sometimes do have a different reaction to people who have been raped or sexually abused by somebody that they’ve already known. Feelings like lack of trust, feelings of betrayal, can be quite common if you’ve known the offender and you’ve had a relationship with them before. Regardless of whether you have been abused by a stranger or somebody that you know, your reactions are unique.”

11. What are the punishments for people who rape or sexually abuse?

“Punishments for sexual offenders can vary widely. Punishments include things like being sentenced to prison, being put on periodic detention, having to do community service or having to attend a treatment programme for sexual offenders. The punishment can depend on such things as the age of the offender and how many times they’ve offended. It’s very rare that convicted sexual offenders get a maximum sentence for their crime.”

12. How do I tell someone I’ve been raped or sexually abused?

Telling someone that you have been raped or sexually abused can be tremendously hard but it is really important that you tell someone so you can get some support. Pick someone that you trust and feel comfortable with, tell them in a place where you feel safe and in control. Only tell them as much as you want to and at your own pace. If the person you tell reacts badly, it’s not you fault. Don’t be discouraged, be proud that you’ve got the strength to tell someone and keep doing it.”

13. What happens if the person I tell doesn’t help to make it stop.

“If the abuse is still happening to you or you think that it might happen again, that is what we call a high-risk situation. If you’ve tried to tell someone and they haven’t listened, it is really important that you keep telling until somebody does. You have the absolute right to be safe, to be safe from abuse. If adults are not helping you to be safe, you might like to call the police, a sexual assult support agency like Rape Crisis, a teacher or a social worker and let them know what’s happened. Often people in these agencies can help you make abuse stop.”

14. I think my friend has been sexually assaulted – how can I tell?

“It is really great that you are concerned about your friend. There are lots of things that can happen to somebody that can make them act differently than they usually do, so don’t assume that it’s sexual assault. You can find out what’s going on for your friend by spending some time with them and catching up. You might like to let your friend know that you are there to listen and that you can support them unconditionally. If your friend does tell you that they have been sexually assaulted, there’s lots of things you can do. You might like to call your local sexual assault agency and have a chat with them about what your friend’s options are. You can usually do this anonymously.”

15. My friend has been sexually assaulted – how do I know if they need my help?

“It’s great that you want to support your friend. If they’ve told you about their abuse, chances are they have already identified you as their support person so ask them what you can do to help. If you’ve heard about the abuse from someone else, but you’d still like to support your friend, let them know. You can start of by telling them that you know what happened and ask them how they are doing at the moment. There are lots of things you can do to help so check out what they need.”

16. What happens if a female gets pregnant as a result of being raped?

“If a woman becomes pregnant as a result of a rape, there is a range of different options available to her. If she can get to a doctor within the first week, she can have an IUD or the morning after pill, both of which will prevent pregnancy. If a woman decides to carry the baby to full term, she can either choose to keep it or adopt/foster the baby out to another family. She may also choose to terminate the pregnancy. Whatever option a woman decides to take, it is really important that she gets some support for herself and a general check-up. You can contact your nearest sexual assault agency to find out about good doctors in your area.”

17. Are men who abuse other males (when they are children) gay?

“No. Research shows that only around 3% of men who sexually offend against males identify as being homosexual. Around 80% of men who sexually offend against males, are living in a heterosexual relationship at the time that they offend.

18. If you are abused by someone of the same gender as you… does that make you gay?

“No. Your sexual orientation is not determined by any abuse that you have suffered. If you are wondering about your sexual orientation, whether or not you’re gay or straight, you might like to talk to somebody who is open and non-judgmental, like a counsellor. If you’re looking for a counsellor, you can contact your nearest sexual assault support agency for information. Talking to someone can really help you work out what you want for yourself.”

19. Do people sexually abuse because it has happened to them when they were children?

“What we know from sexual offender treatment programmes, is in fact that more offenders have experience emotional and physical abuse than sexual abuse. So, no, the answer is ‘no’ to this. Every person is responsible for whether or not they go on to offend. In Aotearoa/New Zealand, there are treatment programmes for people who think they may sexually offend. So it’s not something that people just have to live with.”


20. How to Regain Independence After Domestic Violence?


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Meadville,PA 16335 Titusville,PA 16354
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