‘It’s a social crisis:’ Therapist details signs of domestic abuse, how to get help

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SAN DIEGO — A local therapist wants to make sure San Diego County residents know help is out there for people suffering from domestic violence.

Dr. Vanessa Rodriguez, a marriage and family therapist, has worked with domestic violence victims for almost 20 years. She joined FOX 5 Monday morning to talk about an alarming uptick in domestic abuse recently highlighted by the disappearances of Gabby Petito and Maya Millete.

“The average person, when they think of domestic violence, they think of physical abuse. They think of what you would imagine in movies,” she said. “What domestic violence really is about at the crux of it is power and control.”

Rodriguez said domestic violence has been an increasing concern since the onset of the pandemic, when families were told to stay home as much as possible.

“For the first seven weeks, calls for service, 911 calls related to domestic violence, were happening once every 30 seconds,” Rodriguez said. “The most atrocious fact or statistic is that women killed by their lover, former and current, more than doubled after COVID. It’s been awful. … It’s a social crisis.”

Abusers use a variety of tactics to control their partner and, according to Rodriguez, that does not always include physical abuse. Many of the victims she’s worked with said the other types of abuse were more destructive and harmful to their wellbeing.

“It’s the emotional abuse, it’s the gaslighting, it’s the manipulation, it’s the using children, it’s threats, isolation, acts of intimidation, financial abuse. I can go on and on about this,” Rodriguez said. “You can be in an abusive relationship and no one has ever put their hands on each other.”

Rodriguez urged anyone who is in an abusive relationship to call 888-385-4657 to get help. Many resources are available, including shelter services, crisis counseling, legal services, advocacy and case management, though Rodriguez said she would like to see even more services for victims.

“There are absolutely people in the community that are waiting. Because we know how difficult it is,” she said.

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