Domestic violence, also known as intimate partner violence, can happen to anyone, anywhere, regardless of age, economic status, race, religion, nationality or educational background. It isn’t a personal matter or even a family issue, but an alarming and pervasive problem that impacts victims, abusers, family members, friends and entire communities. Despite this fact, most cases of domestic violence are never reported. The hidden nature of the crime makes it difficult for others to recognize, and instances of domestic violence are often excused, denied, concealed, or overlooked by the victim.
Domestic Violence Defined
Domestic violence (DV) is a pattern of abusive behavior committed by an intimate partner with the intent to dominate and control a victim. Domestic violence can occur in many forms including physical, sexual, emotional, psychological and economic abuse. Acts of domestic violence may be either overt (e.g. punching) or covert/passive (e.g. mind games or neglect). These acts may differ in range and severity.
Statistics and Facts
Approximately a quarter (12,547) of all applications submitted to CalVCB in Fiscal Year 2019-20 were from intimate partner violence victims and their children, who received nearly $13 million in compensation:
- Mental Health: $6,869,715.83
- Relocation: $2,742,022.00
- Income/Support Loss: $1,550,391.66
- Medical: $734,752.20
- Funeral/Burial: $356,216.33
- Dental: $297,869.11
- Residential Security: $255,113.42
- Crime Scene Clean-Up: $9,898.94
The California Victim Compensation Board (CalVCB) is available to assist eligible victims with crime-related expenses. Victims of domestic violence can apply for CalVCB assistance in several ways:
- Create an application using CalVCB Online — a secure and private portal that can be easily accessed from a smartphone, tablet or computer.
- Contact a local county Victim Witness Assistance Center.
- Call the CalVCB Help Line at (800) 777-9229.
- Download an application from CalVCB's How to Apply page.
Direct and derivative victims may apply for an emergency award to avoid or mitigate a substantial hardship that is a direct result of the crime, including the inability to provide food, shelter or medical care. CalVCB regulations (§ 649.8. Emergency Awards) state victims can indicate on the application, subsequent application or a bill that they are applying for an emergency award. Upon receipt, CalVCB expedites the process for verifying the application, subsequent application or bill to determine if an emergency award is appropriate. A decision is then promptly communicated to the applicant. If approved, the amount of an emergency award is based on the applicant's immediate financial need as a direct result of the qualifying crime. In Fiscal Year 2019-20, CalVCB approved 114 domestic violence claims within 30 days of receipt, awarding those victims more than a half-million dollars.
When submitting a completed application, include one or more of the following forms of documentation if you have it available:
- Crime report
- An affidavit from a caseworker
Why Do Abuse Victims Stay?
One of the most perplexing questions surrounding domestic violence is why a victim chooses to stay in an abusive relationship. People who have never experienced intimate partner violence may think it incomprehensible. However, there are many reasons a victim might stay put; reasons that are rooted in strong emotional and psychological ties that are not easily broken. Victims who have suffered long term physical and emotional abuse are often in the depths of despair and paralyzed with trauma. They may be too fearful, confused or impaired to make decisions.
Domestic violence rarely ends at the time of separation from the abuser; in fact, the most dangerous period for a victim is when he or she chooses to leave the abusive relationship. Some of the reasons victims choose to stay in toxic relationships include:
- Belief that they will not be taken seriously by family, friends, or even law enforcement
- Threats to harm, take away, or take custody of their children
- Fear of being fatally harmed by the abuser
- Anxieties of living alone
- Shame or guilt over the failure of marriage/relationship
- Economic dependency
- Lack of job skills
- Lack of housing options
- Unawareness or lack of community resources
- Emotional impairment (confusion, feeling trapped or helpless)
- Belief the abuser will change because of their remorse or promises
- Lack of emotional support
- Not understanding they are being abused. “It is normal.”
- Traumatic bonding to the abuser
- Cultural or religious beliefs
- Self-blame — feeling that they deserved to be abused
- Social isolation from friends and family as a result of the abuser’s controlling behavior
If you are in an abusive relationship and need to escape a violent environment, consider developing your own personal safety plan. A safety plan may reduce your chance of injury or even save your life. If you need help, contact your local domestic violence advocate, who can assist you in developing a viable plan and obtaining the resources you need. Leaving a batterer is one of the most dangerous times in an abusive relationship; therefore, take extra precautionary measures when exercising a safety plan.
Tips for Using Technology
Computers, phones, and other devices can be monitored by a suspicious abuser, even if you delete information from a device. Even deleting your web browsing history or changing your behavior online may arouse suspicion. Also, your cell phone may have a GPS system that your abuser can use to track you.
Be cautious. If possible, only use devices that your abuser cannot access when you research domestic violence resources or contact an advocate. For example, use a public computer at a library or purchase a prepaid cell phone.
- Document the abuse. Take photos of your injuries, and keep a journal in a safe place, such as a trusted friend’s house.
- Show your injuries to your friends or family.
- Take a picture of property damage.
- Identify exits and devise escape routes. Frequently practice your escape plan.
- When the abuse escalates and you feel your safety is jeopardized, go to a room with an exit. Never go to a room with items that could be used as weapons. Be aware that innocuous items such as a broomstick, beer can, or pen can quickly turn into a weapon in the hands of an abuser.
- Keep important phone numbers handy, including family, friends, and emergency shelters. Memorize them if possible.
- Choose a code word or signal. Inform friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers that this is your signal for them to call law enforcement.
- Teach your children to call 911 in case of an emergency.
- Purchase a prepaid cell phone and hide it in a safe place.
- Remove guns or other weapons from the house, unless this will jeopardize your safety. If so, put them in hard-to-reach places.
- Keep your car filled with gas, and park it in a position for a quick getaway.
- Open your own bank account and start saving money.
Preparing to Leave
- If you don't have a secure cell phone, keep money available for phone calls.
- Pack a “grab-and-go bag” with essential items. Do not keep where the abuser can find it. Leave the bag with family, trusted friends, a storage rental, or in a secured area at work. Include items such as:
- Copies of your keys
- Copies of important legal documents to help you obtain services and, if necessary, take legal action:
- Medical Cards
- Medical Records, Prescriptions
- Passports/Immigration papers
- Social Security Cards
- Driver’s license
- Marriage License
- Birth certificates
- Paystubs (proof of income for both parents)
- Documentation of past abuse (photos, police reports, restraining order)
- Receipts of property that has been paid
- Car title and registration
- Insurance policies
- Tax records
- Social Service papers
- Address book
- Rent receipts or mortgage papers
- Charge Cards
- Bank statements
- Check books
- Choose a time to leave. Make certain that your abuser is not home at that time.
- Contact law enforcement for assistance when you are ready to leave.
- Contact a lawyer to discuss custody issues.
- Contact Child Protective Services if you feel your children are in danger.
After Leaving an Abuser
- Get a new cell phone and a new number.
- Document all interactions involving the abuser.
- Change the locks on your house and car if you have access to them.
- Meet with a domestic violence advocate or go to a shelter.
- Avoid being alone whenever possible.
- If it is necessary to meet with your abuser, do so only in a public place.
- Change your daily routine often: your abuser may attempt to stalk you.
CalVCB uses website links to share public information posted on the Internet. CalVCB does not endorse third-party websites, their associated organizations or persons.
211 can be accessed by phone or computer and is a confidential service that helps people across North America find the local resources they need.
The Judicial Branch of California provides information about domestic violence including information about domestic violence restraining orders.
California Coalition Against Sexual Assault
Within California, CALCASA is an advocate for prevention activities, and provides training and technical assistance to support prevention practitioners in building effective prevention efforts in their communities. CALCASA provides training and technical assistance to California’s Rape Crisis Centers, including those centers that receive Rape Prevention and Education contracts from the California Department of Public Health.
California Partnership to End Domestic Violence
The California Partnership to End Domestic Violence offers a list of organizations throughout California that are members of their program and may be able to offer services to victims.
Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline
The Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline offers crisis intervention, information and referrals to thousands of emergency, social service and support resources. All calls are confidential.
Crime Survivors Resource Center
The mission of Crime Survivors is to provide hope and healing to victims and survivors of crime through advocacy and the support of resources, information, and empowerment from the critical time after a crime occurs through the challenges and successes of surviving and thriving.
myPlan is a tool to help with safety decisions if you, or someone you care about, is experiencing abuse in their intimate relationship.
National Domestic Violence Hotline
The National Domestic Violence Hotline offers highly-trained advocates that are available 24/7/365 to talk confidentially with anyone experiencing domestic violence, seeking resources or information or questioning unhealthy aspects of their relationship.
The Victims of Crime Resource Center
The Victims of Crime Resource Center is dedicated to helping victims across the State of California find necessary resources and learn about their rights in the criminal justice system.