Domestic violence doesn’t discriminate.

It can occur in any type of relationship. It can impact men, women, teens, children and the elderly. It can include physical or sexual violence or emotional, verbal and psychological abuse. 

And in cases of domestic violence, people are hurt not by strangers but by people they know and love.

“As a society, we don’t believe that what are supposed to be loving relationships can be violent,” said Erica Bower, Ph.D., assistant professor of sociology and political science at Tennessee Technological University. 

“There is a common misconception that most crime is committed by strangers, but most of the time we are victimized by people we know.”

The Centers for Disease Control estimates about 1 in 5 women and 1 in 7 men experience severe physical violence from an intimate partner during their lifetime. 

“We need to remember that men are victims, as well,” Bower said, adding that domestic violence can occur in heterosexual relationships, LGBTQ relationships, and across socioeconomic status.


Cumberland County Statistics

The Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office reported a 37.19% increase in domestic violence cases from 2019 to 2020, with 166 cases reported and all cases cleared. The Crossville Police Department reported a 5.21% decline in cases from 2019 to 2020, with 91 cases reported and 77 cases cleared. 

The Sheriff’s Office reported 69% of cases involved simple assault, 17.6% were aggravated assault and 13.3% involved intimidation. Among other offenses, there were two cases involving kidnapping or abduction and one case involving forcible sex offenses.

Crossville Police reported 80% of domestic violence assault offenses involved simple assault, 17.6% involved aggravated assault, and 2.4% involved intimidation. Among other offenses, the city reported five cases involving forcible sex offenses and one homicide.

The city reported 75.8% of victims were women and 24.2% men while the county reported 72.9% of victims were women and 27.1% were men.

Both law enforcement agencies found the greatest number of cases involved victims ages 25-34 and boyfriend/girlfriend relationships, with a total of 76 victims, followed by 48 victims age 45-54, 34 victims age 35-44, 31 ages 18-24, 22 ages 55 to 64, 21 over age 65, and 13 age 10-17.

There’s a cycle of violence in relationships, with a period of tension and building stress, an incident of violence followed by reconciliation and a period of calm.

Bower said, “We see this in television or movies, where the abuser tries to apologize, they are on their best behavior and say it will never happen again. But the honeymoon phase doesn’t last long before the cycle begins again.”


Red Flags

Bower said it’s important for young people to recognize signs of abuse as they begin dating and establishing relationships.

“These are often very emotionally intense relationships,” Bower said. “For individuals who have not emotionally matured … it can blind people from seeing these red flags.”

Domestic violence typically centers on control of the other partner.

“Love and emotion shouldn’t be predicated on violence or maintaining power or control,” she said.

One significant sign of concern is when one partner attempts to isolate the other partner, either from friends or family or from jobs or other places partners interact with others. 

In many situations, abusers may interfere with employment to increase the partner’s economic dependence.

“There’s a level of emotional and psychological abuse,” Bower said. 

That includes “gaslighting,” which is a form of emotional manipulation.

“Victims are made to feel that they’re ‘crazy’ or that the way see what’s going on isn’t what is happening,” Bower said. “It’s also sometimes blaming victims for their abuse.”

And if the victim threatens to leave, their abuser may manipulate them by threatening to harm themselves or others. 

Leaving can also be one of the most dangerous times for victims. 

Bower said social media can also play into decisions to stay, with scenarios of happy, healthy relationships.

“A lot of the time, most of that is fake,” she said. “It’s important to recognize that a relationship should be for the two people involved, and not for others for likes or comments.”


Family Impacts

Domestic violence often happens behind closed doors. It can impact adults and children, who can be direct or indirect victims.

“If there is primarily intimate partner violence among parents, and children are witnessing that, it’s going to affect the children,” Bower said.

It’s estimated 1 in 15 children are eyewitnesses to intimate partner violence each year.

Children may also be used as “pawns” in an abusive relationship, with abusers threatening to take the children or harm them, or the victim concerned about losing their children if law enforcement becomes involved.

Domestic violence can also be part of abuse and neglect of children. 

“Neglect is the most common form of child maltreatment,” Bower said. “This is where parents or guardians fail to meet children’s basic needs or put them in situations with a high risk of harm.”

Experts estimates domestic violence results in economic impacts of more than $8.3 billion each year, with victims losing 8 million days of work. Victims may also be at higher risk of depression and suicidal behavior and higher risk for substance abuse, and health impacts like chronic pain, PTSD or hypertension.

Bower said there can be a reluctance to report abuse to law enforcement. They may fear that they do not have enough evidence to support a charge or conviction, Bower said.

“There are fears of a victim reporting, and now their abuser knows they’ve reported,” she said. “That can be a potentially dangerous situation.”


Community Action

Promoting healthy, nonviolent relationships can reduce the intimate partner violence and domestic violence. 

The CDC recommends communitywide responses that include teaching people skills to have healthy relationships, creating safe environments, strengthening community supports, and supporting survivors.  

“We shouldn’t place responsibility for ending domestic violence on victims,” Bower said. “We need to teach everyone about appropriate and inappropriate behavior in relationships. We need to recognize that certain behaviors should not be accepted in society when it comes to violence.”

Overall awareness of domestic and intimate partner violence and training bystanders on how to intervene can help. That can include knowing about community resources for victims to refer people who need help.

Bower has also taken part in a bystander intervention program called “Green Dot,” which trains individuals to recognize red flags in relationships and how they can intervene to potentially neutralize those situations.

It’s also important to dispel common myths about domestic violence — especially the myth that victims can leave whenever they want.

“It’s a dangerous myth. Leaving a domestic violence situation is one of the most dangerous times for victims. It can even be fatal,” Bower said. 

In Cumberland County, the Avalon Center Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Program offers a host of services for victims of domestic violence, including a crisis line staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-800-641-3434.

The agency offers an emergency shelter, transitional housing, and advocates to assist victims in the court system and in seeking medical treatment or finding employment.

Heather Mullinix is editor of the Crossville Chronicle. She covers schools and education in Cumberland County. She may be reached at

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