Be aware of the signs, understand why victims stay, and learn how you can help


October is National Domestic Volence Awareness Month. UT Extension Family and Consumer Sciences urges everyone to be aware of the signs of domestic violence, understand why victims stay, and learn how you can help.

Domestic Violence Awareness Month is observed nationally in the month of October. Heather S. Wallace, assistant professor at the University of Tennessee in Family and Consumer Sciences, says statistics indicate that 10 million people will be a victim of domestic violence each year. With these staggering figures, it is important for everyone to be aware of the signs of abuse, understand why victims stay, and learn how you can help.

Red flags of an abuser include:

• Extreme jealousy                                                              

• Abuse of other family members or pets                             

• Unpredictability                                                                  

• Attempts to control what victim wears or how they act      

• Forced sex and sabotage of birth control

• A bad temper

• Controlling and possessive behavior

• Blaming victim for anything bad that happens

• Demeaning or humiliating victim either in in private or public

• Accusations of flirting or affair

There is no “typical victim,” as victims can come from all backgrounds. Victims might experience feelings of isolation, shame, depression, embarrassment, or helplessness; wanting the abuse to end, but not the relationship; feeling financially dependent on their abuser; hope that the abuse will stop; or fear for their own or their children’s safety if they leave. 

It may be difficult to understand why a victim stays with an abuser, but the reality is that the victim may face many obstacles when deciding whether to leave their partner. Understanding reasons victims stay with an abuser is critical to helping those in need. It is important to never blame the victim for staying with her or his abuser. Some reasons victims stay include:

• Fear that the abuser will become more violent or lethal

• Fear of the abuser’s threats becoming a reality (losing custody of children, physical harm to children, pets, or family, or self)

• Unsupportive family or friends

• Lack of a place to go or fear of homelessness

• Lack of knowledge of resources and support

• Religious or cultural beliefs that do not support divorce making them feel trapped

• Lack of ability to support themselves and their children or lack of access to bank accounts, money, or other assets

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, you can receive confidential help 24 hours a day, seven days a week from the National Domestic Violence Abuse Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE). At, users can access an interactive online tool for those wishing to create safety plans, and the National Center on Domestic Violence, Trauma, and Mental Health offers a guide for how to approach someone you think may be in an abusive relationship. 

For more information, log on to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence’s website, or contact your county’s UT Extension Family and Consumer Sciences agent at your local county Extension office. You can also visit the UT Extension Family and Consumer Sciences website:

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Lexi Jantz and Dr. Heather S. Wallace, UT Extension, 865-974-7193,