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Abuse, sexual assault, and stalking are not your fault. You did not do anything to provoke the attack against you. These acts are committed out of an attacker’s need to exert power and control, not out of love or desire.

What is abuse? What is domestic violence?

Domestic violence is a pattern of abusive behavior in a relationship used by one partner to maintain power and control over the other. It can happen to anyone, young or old, male or female, in straight or same-sex relationships.

Sometimes it can be hard to tell whether what you’re experiencing is really abuse. Abuse usually emerges over a period of time, starting small and becoming more violent as the relationship progresses. Abusers are often charming to begin with and very manipulative, making it easy to believe they would never mean to harm you. Physical abuse is what most people think of when they hear the word “abuse”, but this isn’t the only kind of abuse.

  • Physical abuse: hitting, punching, choking, throwing things at you, biting, kicking, slapping, abandoning in a dangerous place, threatening with a weapon, using a weapon, forcing you to have sex or perform a sexual act
  • Emotional abuse: name calling, threatening to hurt or kill you, intimidating, becoming jealous for no reason, keeping you isolated from family and friends, telling you what to do, blaming you for their actions, checking your phone or email without your permission, controlling your social media accounts
  • Financial abuse: taking your paycheck, denying you money, maxing out your credit cards, applying for credit using your name, preventing you from going to work, harassing you at work
  • Sexual abuse: forcing unwanted sexual acts, insisting on uncomfortable touching, rape, treating others as sexual objects, making demeaning sexual comments, pressuring you to send explicit photos or videos

It is important to remember that abuse usually becomes worse over time, so get help as soon as you notice the signs.

Some warning signs of abuse:

  • Checking your phone or email without permission
  • Extreme jealousy
  • Making false accusations
  • Possessiveness or treating you like property
  • Explosive temper
  • Isolating you from family and/or friends
  • Telling you what to do
  • Not letting you do things you want to do
  • Making you feel crazy and like you are the cause of all the problems

Making a safety plan, telling a trusted friend, or calling us at Tri-County Help Center are a few good ways to start getting help if you need it.

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What is sexual assault? What is rape?

Sexual assault is any type of sexual activity that you do not explicitly consent to.

Sexual assault includes much more than just rape, and while one out of four women will be assaulted within their lifetime, anyone can be a victim of sexual assault.

Sexual assault includes:

  • Rape
  • Incest
  • Child molestation
  • Sexual harassment
  • Indecent exposure
  • Voyeurism
  • Any unwanted or uncomfortable touching

Rape is defined as a sexual assault that includes but is not limited to forced vaginal, anal, or oral penetration. People often think rape is mostly committed by strangers, but almost two-thirds of all rapes are committed by someone known to the victim. Rapists can be a friend, a partner, a date, or a stranger.

Consent should be the basis for any sexual encounter. Rape and sexual assault occur when a sexual act is performed on you without your consent. An individual cannot consent if they are asleep, incapacitated, or intoxicated. Deception, threats, physical force, or coercion cannot be used to force consent. Simply put, no means no, and silence does not mean yes. Consent is nothing short of a resounding “yes,” it must be freely and enthusiastically given by both parties, and it cannot be forced.

If you have been raped or sexually assaulted, it is important to get medical treatment for your injuries. It is best not to wash or shower before getting treatment so that the physical evidence of the attack may be preserved. Medical treatment is important to prevent further damage to your health, including treatment for physical injuries and testing for STDs and HIV. You do not have to go to the hospital or doctor alone. A friend or family member may accompany you, or a trained Rape Crisis Advocate can accompany you and provide useful information to aid in your recovery.

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What is stalking?

Stalking is a pattern of repeated, unwanted attention including following, harassment, and any form of contact.

Stalking behaviors include, but are not limited to:

  • Following you
  • Showing up wherever you go
  • Sending unwanted gifts, letters, or cards
  • Emailing, text messaging, or calling you frequently
  • Using technology to track your whereabouts (GPS monitoring, spyware)
  • Harassing you on social media
  • Driving by your work, home, or school
  • Posting information or spreading rumors about you
  • Threaten to hurt you, your family, or your pets
  • Damage your home, car, or other property

Stalkers can use information on the internet to find your address, phone number, email address, and other information about you. Stalking can make you feel fearful, depressed, helpless, and as though your life is out of control. It is a form of abuse, and its effects can be just as severe. It is important to know that stalking is a crime, and that interacting with a stalker will not usually discourage or stop them. Keeping a record of the stalker’s attempts to contact you can help with things like talking to the police, filing for a protection order, and/or filing charges. Stalking, like abuse, usually escalates over time, and can be equally dangerous.

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Tri-County Help Center, Inc. is a private, non-profit contract agency of the Mental Health and Recovery Board serving Belmont, Monroe, and Harrison counties in Ohio.