Domestic Violence Can be Easily Hidden, Hard to Identify

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- Even though more than 10 million men and women experience domestic violence every year....the signs of abuse are not always visible. It can often time be hard to identify.

We spoke with a survivor and two Mercy Hospital employees. They said victims are often too scared to talk about what's happening in the privacy of their home so they do their best to hide it.

"Typically one in five women will deal with domestic abuse," said Tanya Marion, Regional Vice President for Mercy Central Community.

"It happens to anybody. It happens to educated people, doctors, lawyers, teachers. It happens to stay at home moms. It happens to everyone," said a survivor who asked that we hide her identity.

It's been more than twenty years now since the survivor we talked to was able to get away. She said most of the time the injuries were easy to cover.

"They were covered with clothing. I would put scarves around my neck if I had finger marks or bruises. Makeup would cover some of the rest," she said.

But sometimes they were too bad to hide. Prompting those closer to her to ask questions.

"That was usually excused by I ran into the door or I hit my head on the car door or I fell down the steps. I always had an excuse or a reason to explain the marks or the bruises or injuries," said the survivor.

"They do not make eye contact with you. They say it doesn't matter, I don't remember, oh it's okay, nothing happened," said Dawn Day, RNBSN and SANE Coordinator at Mercy.

Day works in the Mercy Emergency Room. She said even victims treated for injuries are often times hesitant to talk about it.

"Sometimes they will stutter. They will get lost in us point blank saying what is that? That looks like a handprint," Day said.

And sometimes an ER patient can be even more hesitant if someone is with them.

"We use any opportunity we can to get them alone so we can say hey what happened," said Day.

Day said Mercy looks for signs in the victim's demeanor.

"Are they quiet? Are they time? Are they hiding things," Day said.

"So we do see a lot of that absenteeism in cases of those who are dealing with domestic abuse. We may see that work performance that would not be up to the part that it was before. That sometimes is a trigger for us. The timidness that is sometimes out of character for someone," said Tanya Marion, Regional Vice President for Mercy Central Community.

Marion said often times the person in the relationship just doesn't want to talk about it yet.

"Typically someone will struggle with domestic abuse for quite awhile before they will really confide in anyone," said Marion.

Marion said the most important things is to show support.

"No matter where they are we just really want to make sure that we're connecting with them, letting them know that we care about them, that we're here to help keep them safe," Marion said.

"I would want to tell them there is help out there. There is support. There are people willing to help and get you out of that situation. You're never stuck," said the survivor.

For those dealing with domestic violence Harmony House is a good resource to help get you out. To find out more information about Harmony House visit their website. 

See all of our special reports about domestic violence in the Ozarks here

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