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What is Domestic Violence (DV)?

Domestic violence is perpetrated by a romantic partner, household or family member. It is defined as a pattern of violent, controlling, coercive behaviors intended to punish, abuse, and ultimately control the thoughts, beliefs, and actions of the victim. Domestic violence occurs in both opposite-sex and same-sex relationships and can happen to intimate partners who are married, living together, or dating. This abuse usually increases over time.


Domestic violence occurs in all segments of our society regardless of religion, race, class, sexual preference, or education level. Domestic violence can be physical, sexual, emotional, economic, or psychological actions or threats of actions that influence another person, including behaviors that intimidate, manipulate, humiliate, isolate, frighten, terrorize, coerce, threaten, blame, hurt, injure, or wound someone. 


One in four women in the U.S. has experienced domestic violence in her lifetime, and nearly three out of four people in the U.S. personally know someone who is or has been a victim of domestic violence. Abusive relationships can be very diffucult to leave. Some of the reasons include fear, effects of abuse, children, finances, isolation, personal history, love and hope. 


Following are different types of abuse someone might experience in a domestic violence situation: 


  • Physical Abuse: This includes hitting, slapping, shoving, grabbing, pinching, biting, hair pulling, and other types of abuse that physically hurts someone. Physical abuse also includes denying a partner medical care or forcing alcohol and/or drug use upon him or her.


  • Sexual Abuse: Coercing or attempting to coerce any sexual contact or behavior without consent. Sexual abuse includes, but is certainly not limited to, marital rape, attacks on sexual parts of the body, forcing sex after physical violence has occurred, or treating one in a sexually demeaning manner.


  • Emotional Abuse: Undermining an individual's sense of self-worth and/or self-esteem is abusive. This may include, but is not limited to constant criticism, diminishing one's abilities, name-calling, or damaging one's relationship with his or her children.


  • Economic Abuse: Is defined as making or attempting to make an individual financially dependent by maintaining total control over financial resources, withholding one's access to money, or forbidding one's attendance at school or employment.


  • Psychological Abuse: Elements of psychological abuse include, but are not limited to, causing fear by intimidation; threatening physical harm to self, partner, children, or partner's family or friends; destruction of pets and property; and forcing isolation from family, friends, or school and/or work.


  • Digital Abuse: Digital abuse is the use of technologies, such as texting and social networking, to bully, harass, stalk or intimidate a partner. In most cases, this type of abuse is emotional and/or verbal and though it is perpetuated online, it has a strong impact on a victim’s real life.


There is no right or wrong thing to do when experiencing domestic violence. No two situations are the same, and there are a lot of factors in play when someone is deciding if they want to leave an abusive relationship, or if they choose to stay.


Leaving can be one of the most dangerous times for someone experiencing domestic violence. Here are a few safety tips when preparing to leave: 

  • Keep your purse and important documents in a safe place where you can easily grab them if you are leaving.

  • Pack a small bag with essential items that you could easily grab while leaving. Important items to consider are: car keys, money, credit cards, birth certificates, social security cards, IDs, and pictures. 

  • Find a safe place you can flee to if you need to leave, such as a neighbor’s house, a family or friend’s house, or local domestic violence shelter. 


Protective orders can prevent someone from harming you, contacting you, and sometimes, they can require someone to leave your residence even if it is their residence as well. They can also grant you temporary custody of your children.


Protective orders are civil, not criminal, matters, BUT if someone violates a protective order, they could face criminal charges. If there is a criminal case happening at the same time that you file a protective order, the information provided in the order can be taken into account the criminal proceedings. Please talk to a trained advocate or attorney to discuss options. 

While there is a large continuum of behaviors that are defined as domestic violence, in order to obtain a protective order there must have been a crime of domestic violence committed that fits the legal definition of domestic violence. Here, you will find the Legal Definition of Domestic Violence. For more information on domestic violence and the law, visit the Alaska Court System website, which has resources to assist people in representing themselves in civil matters.


Here are instructions on filing a Domestic Violence Protective OrderYou can file for a 72-hour emergency protective order on nights or weekends, a 20-day order, or a longterm order that lasts one year. You can file for protective orders on behalf of yourself, or on behalf of your children.

Here is more detailed information on How to Represent Yourself in Alaska's Domestic Violence Protective Order process. Please remember that if someone violates a protective order, they will only be arrested if the police are notified, so it is important to do other safety planning in addition to filing a protective order. 


When violence occurs, you can report it to law enforcement. "Mandatory Arrest" is required if there is probable cause and the report came within 12 hours of the violence occuring. If you report after 12 hours, an arrest without a warrant can still be made if there is probable cause. Officers determine probable cause by talking to you, to the perpetrator, and any witnesses. They examine the place where the act happened, and consider other relevent factors.


"Mandatory Arrest" is the requirement of law enforcement to make an arrest when there is probable cause to believe that someone committed domestic violence knowingly or attemped to commit an act that violates provisions of a protective order, or violates conditions of release in connection with a domestic violence charge. 


When more than one complaint of domestic violence comes in about the same incident, the officer must determine who the principle aggressor is. They consider severity of injuries, prior domestic complains, self-defense, and likelihood of future injry of doemstic violence to each person. For more information, check out this Legal Rights Handbook. 


You can contact your local domestic violence program for support. Whether you choose to stay or leave, domestic violence programs can provide confidential support to people who have experienced or are currently experiencing domestic violence. SAFV is staffed 24/7 with advocates trained in crisis intervention. They can provide assistance with shelter, obtaining safe housing, counseling, legal assistance, and other resources. For a list of SAFV's resources, visit our Advocacy services page. 


Witnessing domestic violence is classified as a form of child abuse (emotional abuse) in Alaska. Child abuse is 15 times more likely to occur in families where domestic violence is present. Children who witness violence at home display emotional and behavioral disturbances such as withdrawal from family, friends, and school, have low self-esteem, nightmares, self-blame, and aggression toward peers, family members, property, and pets.


A comparison of delinquent and non-delinquent youth found that a history of violence or abuse in the family is the most significant difference in the two groups. Over three million are at risk of exposure to parental violence each year and are seven more times more likely to commit suicide.


  • Alaska ranks first in the nation with the highest homicide rate for female victims killed by a male perpetrator.

  • One in every four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime

  • An estimated 1.3 million women are victims of physical assault by an intimate partner each year.

  • Almost 75% of Alaskans have experienced or know someone who has experienced domestic violence or sexual assault.

  • There were over 6,000 reported cases of domestic violence in Alaska in 2005

  • More than 3 out of every 4 American Indian and Alaska Native women will be physically assaulted in her lifetime.

  • The 2012 Alaska Victimization Survey conducted in Sitka showed that 47% of adult women have experienced intimate partner violence (IPV), sexual violence (SV), or both, in their lifetimes. Statewide results from 2010 revealed a staggering 59% of adult women who have experienced IPV, SV, or both, in their lifetimes.


  • Sitkans Against Family Violence: 1-800-478-6511 (Toll-free in Alaska)

  • The National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)

  • National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255


For online education, you can access these online resources provided by the Alaska Network on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault (ANDVSA):

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