What is Abuse?

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Digital & Mobile Safety

Computer and Internet Safety

Computers have the ability to store a lot of private information about what sites you visit on the Internet, the messages you send, internet-based phone calls you make, web-based purchases and banking, and many other activities. If you must use a computer your abuser can access, you can attempt to cover your tracks by doing the following:

  • Use an email account your abuser cannot access. If an abuser has access to your email account, he or she may be able to read your incoming and outgoing mail. Make sure you select a password they will not be able to guess.
  • Do not store passwords and change your password or passwords often. Do not use obvious passwords, such as your birthday or your pet’s name. Use passwords that include both letters and numbers.
  • Delete emails and files/documents. Delete emails from the “Send” or “Outbox” and then also delete emails from the “Deleted Items” box. In addition, empty the “Recycle” or “Trash Bin” of any documents before shutting down the computer. Make this a regular routine so it is not an unusual action that triggers suspicion.
  • Clear cookies, temporary web site files and browser history. Cookies are information that a web site leaves on your hard drive about your visit to that web site. A temporary web site file is left on your computer each time you visit a web site. One of its pages, usually the home page, is stored “temporarily” on your hard drive. Usually Internet browser software retains a list, or History, of all the websites you visit. Refer to your software “Help” menu or technical support for further information.
  • Clear the search engine. Many search engines retain and display past searches. Check whichever search engine you use for information on how to turn this feature off.
  • If you add a site to your “Favorites” (also known as bookmarking) other people who use your computer can use your Favorites to see what websites you have visited.

Mobile Safety

If you use a cell phone, be aware there are numerous ways an abuser can use cell phone technology to overhear your calls or locate you. Use a cell phone only if you do not have access to a regular phone, and make sure that you do not give any identifying details on a cell phone. If your abuser works for a phone company or law enforcement agency, use extreme caution, and discuss cell phone safety with a domestic violence advocate.

A cellular phone in "silent mode" or "auto answer" can serve as a tracking device. Most cell phones have GPS (Global Positioning System), which is a location-finding feature. Programs can also be added to phones to access the microphone to eavesdrop, track keystrokes, and more. If you are fleeing from your abuser, either turn off your cell phone or leave it behind.

Wireless carriers are required to complete 9-1-1 calls, even when a phone is not activated. Any phone that turns on and receives a signal is capable of making 9-1-1 calls. It is important to know that if the phone you're using isn't activated, i.e., there isn't a phone number assigned to it, and you're disconnected from the 9-1-1 dispatch center, you must call 9-1-1 back.


Domestic Violence

What is Abuse?

Domestic violence, stalking, and sexual assault result from a batterer’s need to exert power and control over the victim, and can include many different types of abuse, not all physical. It is more than just the bruises and broken bones. Interpersonal violence can also include sexual, psychological/emotional, and financial abuse.

Power & Control

Why They Stay

Leaving an abusive relationship can be very difficult, and there are many reasons why a person may stay in an unhealthy relationship. Some of these reasons may include:

  • Fear of what the abuser may do to them, children, pets, relatives, friends, etc. if they leave
  • Low self-esteem from guilt, shame, name calling, and insults, and the feeling that the abuse is the victim’s fault
  • Lack of money, as victims are often forced to be financially dependent the abuser
  • Not wanting to break up their family or hurt their children
  • Hoping to control the abusers behavior by “being perfect” or that the abuser will change
  • Religious beliefs
  • Immigration status, as abusers may sabotage legalizing their victim’s status, or isolate the victim
  • Pressure from family and friends who may not support or believe the victim

If you think someone you know is in an abusive relationship, there are ways you can help, including listening to and believing their story and being supportive. Make sure they know they are not alone, and that you will help them. Offer them information about abuse and agencies like Avalon that can assist them. Be sure to not be judgmental, don’t tell them what to do, and keep what they tell you confidential, unless they ask you to reach out on their behalf.

Avalon’s 24-hour Helpline is available to both victims and their supporters. If you have any questions or concerns, please call us at (757) 258-5051.

Domestic Violence

Domestic violence is an escalating pattern of abuse where one partner in an intimate relationship controls the other through force, intimidation, or the threat of violence. Domestic violence has no boundaries. It affects all ages, both sexes, all cultures, all religions, all professions, and people from all income levels.Domestic violence often follows a typical pattern of behavior. Each phase may last for a different length of time. Over time, the phases may grow shorter and the overall level of violence may increase.

Physical abuse occurs when one person uses threats or physical force to intimidate, injure or endanger another person. There is a wide range of behaviors that fall into the category of physical abuse, including: pushing, hitting, kicking, grabbing, choking, throwing things, reckless driving, abandoning you in a dangerous place, and assault with a weapon.

Psychological or emotional abuse can be verbal or nonverbal. These include: yelling, name-calling, blaming, and shaming, isolation, intimidation, and controlling. Emotional abuse can be just as damaging as physical abuse.

Financial abuse can take many forms including denying you access to funds, having you account for money spent, putting all bills in your name, demanding your paycheck, interfering with your work or not letting you work, and preventing you from using the car .


Sexual Assault

New: Sexual Assault Group. Call 903-4371 for information.

Sexual assault is unwanted sexual contact or threats without that person’s consent.  This includes rape or attempted rape, sodomy (oral or anal sexual acts), child molestation, incest, sexual harassment, exhibitionism, voyeurism, or fondling. Assailants can be strangers, acquaintances, friends, or family members. Assailants commit sexual assault by way of violence, threats, coercion, manipulation, pressure or tricks. Forced sex, even by a spouse or intimate partner with whom you also have consensual sex, is an act of aggression and violence.

Survivors of sexual assault often experience a number of effects from this trauma. These effects may include:

  • Flashbacks
  • Nightmares
  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • Anger and rage
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Hypervigilance
  • Anxiety and panic
  • Self-blame, guilt, and shame
  • Emotional numbing
  • Physical symptoms and health problems



Stalking is a pattern of repeated, unwanted attention, harassment and contact. It is a pattern of conduct that can include:

  • Following the victim
  • Appearing at the victim's home or place of work
  • Making unwanted and frightening contact with the victim through phone, mail and/or email
  • Harassing the victim through the Internet
  • Making threats to harm the victim, the victim's children, relatives, friends or pets
  • Sending the victim unwanted gifts
  • Intimidating the victim
  • Vandalizing the victim's property
  • Securing personal information about the victim, sometimes by using public records or online search services, hiring investigators, going through your garbage, or contacting friends, family, neighbors, or coworkers
  • Using technology, like hidden cameras or global positioning systems (GPS), to track where you go, or to cyberstalk online

If you or someone you know are being stalked, you should trust your instincts - if you think you are unsafe, you probably are. You should take any threats seriously, as danger levels can be higher when a stalker talks about suicide or murder. Develop a safety plan and tell others how they can help keep you safe. Do your best to not communicate with your stalker, but do keep track of the stalker’s activities, keep records of their contacts, photograph any damages or injuries.

If you are comfortable doing so, contact the police to keep a record of the stalking activity, and to see if the stalker is breaking other laws. Also tell family, friends, and employers about the situation and to get their support and help to watch out for your safety.

More information: http://stalkingawarenessmonth.org/awareness



Children who witness interpersonal violence are at the greatest risk for becoming victims of violence themselves during teenage and young adult romantic relationships. Children often see and hear more than those around them may be aware of, but they don't always understand what is happening or why. Every child may react differently, but may experience some of the following feelings:

  • Powerless because they can’t stop the violence
  • Confused because it doesn’t make sense
  • Angry because it shouldn’t be happening
  • Guilty because they think they’ve done something wrong
  • Afraid because they may be hurt, they may lose someone they love, others may find out
  • Alone because they think it’s happening only to them

To help protect these children, it is important for them to find ways to stay safe and get help if violence is happening at home. To do this, teach them not to try to get into the middle of a fight, tell them who to call for help, and how to get to safety. Schools should also be contacted to give any court papers and make sure the school knows who can contact the children.

For some children, things can be scarier when adults don’t talk to them about what is happening. Help them by acknowledging that the violence happened, that you know it was hard for them, and that it is not okay. Listen to them, let them talk about their feelings, and let them know you love them and that the violence is not their fault. Know that not all children will be willing or able to talk immediately. Make sure to act in ways that are non-threatening and non-violent, and take them to counseling if they need it.

As children turn into teenagers, many begin dating. Not all teenage relationships are healthy, and some may experience dating violence. Dating violence is a pattern of assaultive and controlling behaviors that one person uses against another in order to gain or maintain power in the relationship. The abuser intentionally behaves in ways that cause fear, degradation, and humiliation to control the other person. Forms of abuse can be physical, sexual, emotional and psychological.

And while it may be hard to believe, dating violence is happening. Nearly 1 in 5 high school students (including males and those in same-sex couples) will experience physical violence from someone they’re dating. Even more teens will experience verbal or emotional abuse during the relationship. Between 10 and 25 percent of girls between the ages of 15 and 24 will be the victims of rape or attempted rape.



Culture and Immigration

The United States is a very diverse country and home to many different groups of people with differing ideas about domestic violence. It is important to understand how and in what ways culture shapes individuals, families, and communities to ensure that victims of domestic violence are able to make decisions for the best outcomes in their attempts to live violence free lives.

Culture cannot and should not be used as an excuse for domestic violence. As is the case with most domestic violence cases, abused refugees and immigrants experience physical violence, coercion, threats, intimidation, isolation, destruction of important documents or possessions, and emotional, sexual or economic abuse.

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Relationships

The signs and symptoms of abuse within LGBT relationships are similar to those seen in heterosexual relationships. They may include physical violence, sexual assault, financial abuse and emotional and/or psychological abuse. Some myths around violence and LGBT relationships include the thought that only men abuse women, so it can’t happen in same-sex relationships or that it’s really “mutual battering” and not domestic violence. But the truth is that interpersonal violence can happen regardless of gender, identity, or sexual orientation.


Religious teachings can serve as either a resource or a roadblock when addressing domestic violence - the outcome depends on how they are handled. It is the responsibility of the religious community to minimize any barriers facing abused members of their congregations and maximize the resources that exist within their religious traditions. Regardless of which religious doctrine guides the personal lives of individuals, one thing is clear: the religious and domestic violence communities must work together to raise awareness and educate society regarding domestic violence and its effects on individuals, families, and the community so that the cycle of violence can end.

There is nothing in Christian, Jewish, Muslim or Hindu teachings that can be used to justify the abuse of one person over another person. However, there are teachings that can be misused and distorted to suggest that domestic violence may be acceptable or even God's will. When these teachings or interpretations of scripture are misused, they become obstacles to ending the abuse. (Source: Faith Trust Institute)

Violence Later in Life

Violence in later life occurs when older individuals are physically, sexually, or emotionally abused, exploited, or neglected by someone with whom they have an ongoing relationship. Abusers frequently look for someone they can dominate, someone believed to be weak, or unlikely or unable to defend themselves. Abusers intentionally use coercive tactics such as isolation, threats, intimidation, manipulation, and violence to gain and maintain control over the victim. In later life, abusers can include spouses and former spouses, partners, adult children, extended family, and in some cases caregivers.

If you are experiencing this, protect yourself by telling others what is happening and asking for help, or call 9-1-1.


About Abusers

Many people think of domestic violence abusers as being out of control, crazy, and unpredictable but the contrary is often true. The violence used by abusers is controlled and manipulative. Domestic violence abusers have been described as having a "Jekyll and Hyde" personality, often experiencing dramatic mood swings - loving one minute, and spiteful and cruel the next. Abusers are frequently characterized by those outside the home as generous, caring, and good, but behave drastically differently in their home environment.

Anyone can be an abuser. While most abusers are men it is important to remember that women can be abusers too. Avalon does not provide direct services for abusers, but it is important for an abuser to understand that there are steps they can take to defuse a volatile situation and get help.

Batterer intervention services in Virginia:

Red Flags/Warning Signs

There are warning signs that can help you identify an abusive relationship before things get out of control. Answer the questions below. The more “yes” answers, the more likely it is that you’re in an abusive relationship.

Do you:

  • Feel afraid of your partner?
  • Avoid certain topics out of fear of angering your partner?
  • Feel that you can’t do anything right for your partner?
  • Believe that you deserve to be hurt or mistreated?
  • Feel emotionally numb or helpless?

Does your partner:

  • Humiliate, criticize, or yell at you?
  • Hit, punch, slap, kick, or bite you or the children?
  • Criticize you for little things?
  • Act excessively jealous and possessive?
  • Control where you go or what you do?
  • Keep you from seeing your friends or family?
  • Limit your access to money, the phone, or the car?
  • Constantly check up on you?
  • Hurt you, or threaten to hurt or kill you?
  • Threaten to take your children away or harm them?
  • Threaten to commit suicide if you leave?
  • Force you to have sex?
  • Destroy your belongings or sentimental items?
  • Threaten to “out” you at work or to family or friends?

If you think someone you know might be an abuser, speak up. If you don’t, your silence is the same as saying abuse is okay. They could hurt someone. Because you care, you need to do something … before it is too late. You can:

  • Draw attention to it  -“Did you mean to be so rough? That’s not okay.”
  • Tell them what you think - “I am surprised to see you act that way. You’re better than that.” or “I care about you, but I won’t tolerate it if you abuse them.”
  • Express ideas about loving behavior - “Loving them doesn’t mean abusing them.” or “Kids learn from their parents. Is this how you want your kids to treat their partners some day? How would you feel if your kids chose someone who acted like this?”
  • If their behavior is criminal, tell them - “You could end up in jail if you don’t find another way to deal with your problems. Then what would happen to you and your family?”



Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance

The Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance operates the statewide Virginia Family Violence & Sexual Assault Hotline, which links thousands of survivors and professionals to services in their communities and educates individuals, professionals, communities, and legislators on how to stop sexual and domestic violence from happening and how to help those who have been hurt by violence.

American Institute on Domestic Violence

The American Institute on Domestic Violence offers on-site workshops and conference presentations that address the corporate cost of domestic violence in the workplace.

Asian and Pacific Islander Institute on Domestic Violence

The Asian and Pacific Islander Institute on Domestic Violence is a national network that works to raise awareness in Asian and Pacific Islander communities about domestic violence; expand leadership and expertise within Asian and Pacific Islander communities about prevention, intervention, advocacy, and research; and promote culturally relevant programs, research, and advocacy by identifying promising practices.

Communities Against Violence Network

Communities Against Violence Network (CAVNET) provides an interactive, online database of information; an international network of professionals; and real-time voice conferencing with professionals and survivors, throughout the world, using the Internet. CAVNET addresses violence against women, youth violence, and crimes against people with disabilities.

Corporate Alliance to End Partner Violence

The Corporate Alliance to End Partner Violence (CAEPV) is a national, nonprofit alliance of corporations and businesses throughout the United States and Canada, working to prevent partner violence. CAEPV provides technical assistance and materials to help corporations and businesses address domestic violence in their workplaces.

FaithTrust Institute

Formerly known as The Center for the Prevention of Domestic and Sexual Violence, FaithTrust Institute is an interreligious, educational resource that addresses sexual and domestic violence issues. Its goal is to engage religious leaders in ending abuse and to prepare human services professionals to recognize and address the religious questions and issues that arise in their work with women and children in crisis.

Family Violence Prevention Fund

For more than two decades, the Family Violence Prevention Fund (FVPF) has worked to end violence against women and children around the world. The FVPV was instrumental in developing the landmark Violence Against Women Act passed by Congress in 1994. The FVPV continues to reach new audiences, including men and youth; promote leadership within communities to ensure that violence prevention efforts become self-sustaining; and transform the way health-care providers, police officers, judges, employers, and others address violence.

Institute on Domestic Violence in the African American Community

The Institute on Domestic Violence in the African-American Community seeks to create a community of African- American scholars and practitioners who address violence in the African-American community, further learning about African-American violence, raise community awareness of the impact of violence in the African-American community, inform public policy, organize and facilitate local and national conferences and training forums, and identify community needs and recommend best practices.

Minnesota Center Against Violence and Abuse

The Minnesota Center Against Violence and Abuse (MINCAVA) is an electronic clearinghouse with educational resources about all types of violence, including higher education syllabi, published research, funding sources, upcoming training events, individuals or organizations that serve as resources, and searchable databases with more than 700 training manuals, videos, and other education resources. MINCAVA is also part of a cooperative project-Violence Against Women Online Resources-comprising the Center and the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, and Violence Against Women Office. The project's web site provides current information about interventions to stop violence against women to law, criminal justice, and social service professionals.

National Center for Victims of Crime

The National Center for Victims of Crime (NCVC) is a nonprofit organization that serves victims of all types of crime, including intimate partner violence. The Center provides public policy advocacy; training and technical assistance to victim service organizations, counselors, attorneys, criminal justice agencies, and allied professionals; a toll-free hotline for crime victims; and a virtual library containing publications, current statistics with references, a list of recommended readings, and bibliographies.

National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence

The National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence develops and provides innovative training and consultation, influences policy, and promotes collaboration and diversity in working to end domestic and sexual violence. NCDSV has a staff of nationally known trainers and sponsors national and regional conferences.

National Coalition Against Domestic Violence

The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) is a membership organization of domestic violence coalitions and service programs. NCADV provides training, technical assistance, legislative and policy advocacy, and promotional and educational materials and products on domestic violence; coordinates a national collaborative effort to assist battered women in removing the physical scars of abuse; and works to raise awareness about domestic violence.

National Domestic Violence Hotline

The National Domestic Violence Hotline connects individuals to help in their area by using a nationwide database that includes detailed information about domestic violence shelters, other emergency shelters, legal advocacy and assistance programs, and social service programs. Help is available in English or Spanish, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Interpreters are available to translate 139 additional languages.

National Latino Alliance for the Elimination of Domestic Violence

The National Latino Alliance for the Elimination of Domestic Violence (the Alianza) is a group of nationally recognized Latina and Latino advocates, community activists, practitioners, researchers, and survivors of domestic violence. Members of the Alianza work together to promote understanding, sustain dialogue, and generate solutions to end domestic violence affecting Latino communities, with an understanding of the sacredness of all relationships and communities. Support from the Administration on Children and Families, Department of Health and Human Services, has allowed the Alianza to establish El Centro: National Latino Research Center on Domestic Violence and the Alianza Training and Technical Assistance Division.

National Network to End Violence Against Immigrant Women

The National Network to End Violence Against Immigrant Women was cofounded in 1994 by the Family Violence Prevention Fund, AYUDA, NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund, and the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild. The Network coordinates national advocacy efforts aimed at removing the barriers battered immigrant women and children face when they attempt to leave abusive relationships. Each organization provides leadership in its area of expertise.

National Network to End Domestic Violence

The National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) is a membership and advocacy organization of state domestic violence coalitions. NNEDV provides legislative and policy advocacy on behalf of the state domestic violence coalitions and provides training, technical assistance, and funds to domestic violence advocates through the NNEDV Fund.

National Violence Against Women Prevention Research Center

The National Violence Against Women Prevention Research Center provides information to scientists, practitioners, advocates, grassroots organizations, and any other professional or lay person interested in current topics related to violence against women and its prevention.

Violence Against Women Electronic Network

The National Online Resource Center on Violence Against Women (VAWnet) provides a collection of full-text, searchable resources on domestic violence, sexual violence, and related issues as well as links to an "In the News" section, calendars listing trainings, conferences, grants, and access to the Domestic Violence Awareness Month and Sexual Assault Awareness Month subsites.




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"The help from the staff was exceptionally well. Everyone was professional, knowledgeable and helpful. The service from this organization is great!"

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"The positive experiences I had with the program is the grounding techniques and the ability to focus and understand who I am as an individual a person. That my past does not define me."

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Testimonial 7

"The positive experience I have had with Avalon and the services they offered me is the interaction that I now have with me. I am able to love me and love others. To be able to interact with other women in my life and around me. Seeing the beauty in women and their strength. I am an overcomer and Avalon helped me to own and claim that."

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"The shelter assisted my family with a safe environment to reside while moving forward with our lives. Staff has always been helpful when needed and my children participate in the programs available to them. I was an all around good experience for us."

Testimonial 3

I really have no idea what I could have done if Avalon didn’t accept me or exist.

Testimonial 2

Without Avalon’s shelter… I probably would have stayed in the relationship because I had no where else to go. This seems to be the trend for women who are abused. I may have lost my life.

Testimonial 1

I usually do not talk to anyone about our problems at home and I just plow through the crappy part and try to forget it. But coming here I just got a break and talking to your staff just let me get my frustrations out and vent my fears… Thank you for listening and thank you for allowing us to stay in a protected space.

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"I thank God each and every day for Avalon and their staff, for God only knows where I would be today without Avalon."


P. O. Box 6805 Avalon is a 501c3 organization
Williamsburg, VA 23188 Tax ID: 52-1208945



Supported by Grant #15-D2631SP14 awarded to the Virginia Department of Criminal justice by the Office for Victims of Crime, U.S. Department of Justice. Points of view or opinions contained herein are those of Avalon and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice. 


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