Domestic violence is more complicated than physical abuse, experts say, and harder to escape than just leaving
Written by
Haeley van der Werf
Graphic of a sad boy and girl
Image By
Lynne Hardy

Each year during the month of October, people all around the United States come together to mourn those who died due to domestic violence, celebrate those who survived and connect those who work to end violence.

The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) reports 20 people are abused per minute in the United States, totaling over 10 million men and women every year. Despite these seemingly statistics, Title IX coordinator Debbie Hippolite Wright said everyone should do their part to put an end to domestic violence.

At BYU–Hawaii, “We don’t tolerate [abuse],” explained Hippolite Wright. “We want to be able to give those families and relationships the support they need to change.”

According to the Break the Cycle website, “Domestic violence affects millions, both women and men, of every race, religion, culture, and status. It’s not just punches and black eyes – it’s yelling, humiliation, stalking, manipulation, coercion, threats and isolation.

“It’s stealing a paycheck, keeping tabs online, non-stop texting, constant use of the silent treatment or calling someone stupid so often they believe it.”

Domestic Violence Awareness Month was first observed on Oct. 1987, which is the same year the first national domestic violence toll-free hotline was initiated, says the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence website. Two years later, the United States Congress passed a law designating October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month each year.

Why they can’t ‘just leave’

Hippolite Wright said she has read it takes four times for a person to leave an abusive relationship permanently. “ Why? You’ve loved this per son. You may have children with them. Sometimes it might be economical or something else playing into it too.”

She said, “If the abused person doesn’t have their own money, if they don’t have a job and the other person is the source of income,” that can make it hard to leave. “There might be visa issues. The more reliant the victim is, the more difficult it is to get out.”

The NCADV website says leaving an abusive partner may be the most dangerous thing the victim does. Abusers can go to extremes to keep their partner in the relationship, threatening harm to the victim or their family members, they will ruin them financially, they will take custody of their children or a variety of other things.

Getting out is more complicated than just leaving the person, Hippolite Wright said. “You have to develop a safety plan, which is anything from putting away a little money to knowing where you are getting an extra ID so you can move quickly.”

Beyond that, leaving doesn’t necessarily guarantee the person’s safety. “People are killed even after they’ve left the relationship. How do you find safety? That’s where the safety plan comes in. Having a good network that is supportive and believes you and what’s going on and is not judgmental in terms of what your decisions are,” explained Hippolite Wright.


The No More movement is dedicated to unifying people from all over the world to end domestic violence. According to its website, “NO MORE is dedicated to ending domestic violence and sexual assault by increasing awareness, inspiring action and fueling culture change.

“NO MORE is a groundbreaking, global initiative comprised of the largest coalition of non-profits, corporations, government agencies, media, schools and individuals addressing domestic violence and sexual assault.

“We work to amplify and grow the movement to stop and prevent domestic violence and sexual assault, in homes, schools, workplaces and communities around the world by creating innovative campaigns, partnerships and tools that leverage the power of the media, entertainment, sports, technology and collective action.”

Hippolite Wright said Title IX has seen all kinds of violence and developed a clear line of help to those in need. “We have problems like the rest of the world, but thankfully we’ve got a modified path of how to seek help, whether it is through a bishop, Relief Society president, the Counseling Center or Title IX by just clicking the Report a Concern button” found on the BYUH website.

“If somebody is in immediate danger, they need to call the police. Sometimes we are a little bit scared to do that because what will our neighbors and friends think? But if you are in danger you need to call the police immediately.”

BYUH also has two trauma trained counselors and emergency shelter for students who are victims of violence, Hippolite Wright shared. “We also have a telemental health counselor. If students don’t want to go into the health center, they can have a session in private with their headphones on.

“No one knows who it is that person is talking to. People can access it on their phones. We are trying to reach more people to suit them. If a person is being violated, they can connect with the Counseling Center and have the session in their home when the person is out of the home.”

Even those who are not trained professionals can help those in an abusive situation, she explained. “We can all help. The way to do that is to believe what is going on, not be judgmental. Kind of direct the person to get help, whether it is police, at the Counseling Center, or making a report on Report a Concern, which can be anonymous.

“Don’t put yourself in danger, but do something. Don’t justify it away. Several years ago, we had two different incidents. In one, bystanders did something. In the other, bystanders did not [help] until later. Something needed to be done immediately ... We want students to be involved in [stopping] violence and sexual assault.”

If you are in danger, call 911 or call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800- 799-7233 or T T Y 1-800-787-3224. Domestic violence help websites, such as https://www., and, have safety exits built-in to protect you from being caught looking for help by an abuser. 

Date Published
October 28, 2019
Last Edited
October 28, 2019