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Domestic Violence

How Who You Date (or Marry) Could Put You at Risk

What you need to know to stay safe.

Source: Pixabay/Pexels

When I first entered the domestic violence arena back in 1992, the number one cause of injury to women in the United States was her spouse. Now, 25 years later, women continue to be at great risk due to the men they date and marry.

A July 2017 study by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention showed that 55% of women who were murdered was a result of domestic violence. In other words, an intimate partner (current or past), was the person responsible for ending a woman’s life in more than half the cases.

All too often, we are exposed to these tragic stories in the media.

In the U.S., about three women a day are killed. Children and other relatives can be murdered as well—all because of domestic violence.

Critical Signs of Potential Deadly Dangers

There is no failsafe prediction for when physical violence can turn fatal. However, there are some compelling signs that can give a potential victim opportunity to protect herself.

  • Prior physical violence — Nearly one in four women in the U.S. is a victim of some type of severe physical violence by a current or past spouse or boyfriend during her lifetime (Breiding et al. 2014).
  • Strangulation — Research shows if your intimate partner attempts to choke you, you are at a higher risk for injury and homi­cide than someone in an abusive relationship who has never been strangled.
  • Threats of death including to significant others — This is most serious if there is a history of physical violence and/or threats of suicide.
  • Weapons in the home — Where domestic violence occurs, the woman increases her risk of homicide by 500 percent (Campbell et al. 2003).

The above conditions are important to take very seriously. But one step can be taken prior to any physical violence by looking for signs of coercive control.

Coercive Control: Increases Likelihood of Future Violence

Even before the outbreak of physical violence in an intimate relationship, coercive control or psychological abuse is almost always present. It’s a known precursor to physical violence. Although this does not mean all controlling partners resort to physical violence, it does mean that the likelihood is much greater to be hurt than it is for someone who isn’t abused.

Options for Self-Protection

Make safety and personal well-being priorities by seeking help. Even if you’re not ready to act on the advice yet, just knowing your options can protect you from harm or even save your life when you are ready to take action.

  • If you’re at risk for physical harm, call 911.
  • Contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline for access to trained professionals available 24/7 to learn more about your situation and what options you have to protect yourself. They can help with safety planning and referrals to local resources.
  • The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence helps with safety planning and provides a list of questions that can help you create your own personalized plan.

In my next post, I’ll elaborate on how the cycle of abuse operates. I’ll focus on how each phase that impacts the person being targeted contributes to her own entrapment, ultimately making self-protection so challenging.



Breiding, M.J., et al. 2014. “Prevalence and Characteristics of Sexual Violence, Stalking and Intimate Partner Violence Victimization.”

Campbell, J. C., S. W. Webster, J. Koziol-McLain, et al. 2003. “Risk Factors for Femicide Within Physically Abuse Intimate Relationships.” American Journal of Public Health 93(7): 1089–97.

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