Domestic Violence

Page updated on Dec 14, 2018 at 3:32 PM

What is Domestic Violence?

Domestic violence is a pattern of abusive or coercive behaviors that may include, but are not limited to:

  • physical assaults
  • verbal abuse
  • emotional abuse
  • sexual abuse
  • harassment
  • threat or harm

These behaviors are used by one individual to exert power or control over another individual in the context of a family or intimate relationship. This includes relationships such as boyfriend/girlfriend who do not live together, parent/child (child or elder abuse/neglect) and persons in  same-sex relationships. Overwhelmingly, domestic violence is perpetrated by men against women. Nationally, statistics indicate 95 percent of the victims are women.

In Alexandria alone, hundreds of women and their children live in constant terror and pain as a result of family violence. The abuse can be physical, ranging from slaps and kicks to punching and stabbing; or psychological, including threats or verbal abuse that make a person fear for her or his safety.

Are You a Victim?

Quiz: How Is Your Relationship? Does your partner: 

  • V erbally insult, demean or threaten you?
  • I solate you from friends, family or other people? Do they become excessively jealous, possessive and/or angry in attempt to control you?
  • O rganize schedules to follow or harass you?
  • L imit your mobility or access to money and/or other resources?
  • E xplode into a rage and abusive behaviors after using drugs and/or alcohol?
  • N egate your words, abilities, ideas and actions?
  • C hoke, punch, slap, kick, pull hair, bite, throw things, abuse or damage your personal belongings or force you to have sex?
  • E xcuse each attack and promise to stop?

If you answered "yes" to some of these questions, you may be in an abusive relationship.

However, you are not alone. Whether you need information, support, or a safe place to stay, the Domestic Violence Program has people who can help.

Call 703.746.4911 (TTY- 703.746.3288) to speak with someone from the Domestic Violence Program about the services offered.   

Dating Violence 

Early Warning Signs of Dating Violence

These warning signs apply to partners of any age.  These signs do not mean a relationship will definitely turn violent. However, if you notice several of them in your partner, you may need to reevaluate your dating relationship. These warning signs include:

  • Is excessively jealous
  • Constantly checks in with you 
  • Attempts to isolate you from friends and family
  • Insults people that you care about
  • Is too serious about the relationship too quickly
  • Has bad prior relationships and blames the problems on the previous partners
  • Is controlling- gives you orders, tells you what to wear, tries to make decisions for you
  • Blames you when he or she treats you badly by telling you all of the ways you provoked it
  • Has an explosive temper
  • Pressures you into sexual activity with which you are not comfortable
  • Leads you to worry about how he/she will react to the things you say (Fear of provoking your partner)
  • Leads you to making excuses or apologizing for his/her behavior
  • Refuses to let you end the relationship  

Notice these Signs in your Relationship?
Trust your intuition! If you believe there may be a problem in your relationship, you are probably right. Do not ignore the warning signs. It gets worse, not better.

  • Spend time with people you care about other than your partner
  • Stay in touch with your friends
  • Keep up with activities that you enjoy and that make you feel good about yourself
  • Learn more on this site about available help and resources

Call 703.746.4911 (TTY- 703.746.3288) to speak with someone from the Domestic Violence Program about the services offered. 

Warning Signs

Additional Dating Violence Resources for Parents of Teens

Love is Respect
Futures Without Violence
CDC Intimate Partner Violence Prevention

Starting the Conversation Early

Protective Orders

What is a Protective Order? 

A Protective Order is a civil order that can:

  • order the respondent to refrain from acts of family abuse against you
  • prohibit contact between the abuser and you, including in person, phone and /or mail contact with you
  • give you temporary possession of your residence
  • grant you possession of a jointly owned automobile
  • order the abuser to stay away from you, your children or any family members
  • order the abuser to stay away from your residence and/or place of employment
  • order the abuser into a counseling program

Who can get a Protective Order? 

  • Protective orders are designed for people who are experiencing family abuse. Family abuse is any act of violence, force, or threat, including any forceful detention, which results in physical injury or places one in reasonable apprehension of serious bodily injury and is committed by a family or household member.
  • If you are related or married to, living together in the last 12 months or have children in common with the abuser, you are eligible to apply for a protective order.

Please contact 703.746.4911 (TTY- 703.746.3288) for more information about protective orders.

Kinds of Protective Orders (Three types) 

  • Emergency Protective Orders (EPO)
    • requested by petitioner at time of the incident
    • valid for 72 hours or until 5 p.m. the next day that court is in session
  • Preliminary Protective Orders (PPO)  
  • Protective Order (PO)
    • entered by the judge at the final hearing
    • valid up to two years from date of issuance and must be personally served on respondent to be enforceable
    • valid in all fifty states and US territories, so wherever you go, you must carry it with you.

How to get a Protective Order: 

Protective Orders are free. There is no charge for petitioning for a protective order, filing copies of a protective order, or having the order served on the abuser.

I-Can is a computer program that asks questions and completes the correct court forms. The completed forms must be taken to the Court Services Unit that serves the appropriate Juvenile & Domestic Relations District Court.  Click here for the  Internet-Based System for Filing Protective Orders.

If you are an Alexandria resident or City employee:

You need to apply at the Court Services Unit located in the Alexandria Courthouse - 520 King Street, 1st floor, 703.746.4144  between the hours of 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. You will meet with an intake worker who will help you fill out the paperwork. You do not need to have any witnesses or a police report with you to file for the order. After hours and on weekends, the Magistrate can issue an Emergency Protective Order. There is no cost for this service.

If you reside outside the City of Alexandria: 

Please call your local domestic violence or victim-witness assistance program, or  Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance  at 1.800.838.8238.

If you do not meet the criteria to obtain a protective order, you may be able to qualify for a Stalking Protective Order. 

Disclaimer: The information provided on this website as a public service. While the information on this site is pertaining to legal issues, it is not legal advice. If you need legal advice, please contact an attorney.

Safety Plan

A safety plan is a tool designed to help a victim consider options and develop a plan of action when living in an abusive relationship. Safety planning should always be done without the abuser's knowledge and should include the children (if possible). Here are some key points to include in your personal safety plan:

  • Call a shelter or family violence hotline, 703.746.4911 (TTY- 703.746.3288), and talk to an advocate to find out what help is available to you and to help you with your safety plan.
  • Have money, clothes, (copies of) important papers, and extra keys, concealed in a safe place in case you need to leave in a hurry. A safe place may include a neighbor or friend's house, or hidden by the front door.
  • Think through all possible escape routes and a plan where you will go ... before an attack starts.
  • Do emergency drills with your children. Teach them how to dial 911.
  • If you have a protective order, carry it with you at all times. Make extra copies and if you can, give it to your employer, the school, and/or your residential management company.
  • Talk to neighbors, co-workers, etc. about your situation and work out a signal so they know when to call police. A signal can be verbal or non-verbal.
  • Trust your own judgment and intuition. Read The Gift of Fear, by Gavin de Becker.
  • You have to protect yourself until you are out of immediate danger.
  • Leaving your partner can be a dangerous time, plan for safety carefully and always remember ... You don't deserve to be hit or threatened!  

Domestic Violence Support Groups

Although every domestic violence situation is different, domestic violence survivors and those currently in an abusive relationship may find it helpful to talk about their feelings with others who are going through similar experiences. Our confidential group meets weekly and addresses a variety of issues related to domestic violence in a caring and nurturing environment. There is also a children's support group that meets concurrently with the women's group. Please call the Domestic Violence Program at 703.746.4911 if you are interested in attending the support group. The location of both groups is confidential.

Who?    Women who are residents of the City of Alexandria
What?   Confidential weekly support group sessions for survivors of domestic violence or those currently in
               an abusive relationship.
When?   Please call for details.                 
Where? Please contact 703.746.4911 (TTY- 703.746.3288) for information.
Why?     To understand the impact of violence on your relationship and on you.
               To learn tools to empower you and keep you safe.
               To share your experiences with others.
               To be supported as you move forward with your life.

            24-Hour Domestic Violence Hotline:  703.746.4911  (TTY-703.746.3288 )

Domestic Violence & Children

Family violence affects children from every income level, race and religion. Witnessing or hearing violence among family members damages children and as a result many children develop serious physical and mental health problems. They may have learning difficulties, troubled relationships with adults and peers and be at risk for suicide.

What is it like for children growing up in a violent home? 

These children are in danger and their homes are in chaos. They live in daily fear and tension, which can cause them to be afraid of everything–and trust no one. The children often blame themselves for the violence, but they are powerless to prevent, stop or escape it. Some children will develop a love-hate relationship with parent(s). Though they feel protective of an abused parent, they may also resent that parent for not stopping the abuse. They are often isolated and feel hopeless.

Warning signs of a child living in a violent home include: 

For all ages... 

  • behaving overly responsible (as if the child is the “little adult in the family”)
  • depression and low-self-esteem
  • difficulty expressing emotions other than anger
  • use of violence to solve conflicts

For preschool children... 

  • frequent crying
  • stuttering
  • frequent hitting, biting or kicking
  • regression (a return to bed-wetting or thumb sucking)

For school-age children... 

  • trouble concentrating at school
  • fighting, bullying or self-abuse
  • stealing, cheating or lying
  • unusual knowledge of sex or violence for their age

For teenagers... 

  • talking about or attempting suicide (can also be true for school-age children)
  • running away or dropping out of school
  • joining a gang, committing crimes or using weapons
  • abusive relationships

How can you help? 

  • promote nonviolence by discouraging children from fighting and teasing
  • teach children how to handle conflict without violence
  • teach personal safety rules like how to dial 911, escape routes and safe places to go if there is a fight

Children's Services

The Domestic Violence Program offers a Children’s Program in which a family services specialist is available to provide short-term individual counseling to children living in abusive homes. A children’s support group is offered and runs concurrently with the women’s support group. This group provides children, who share their circumstances, an opportunity to meet and talk. For children whose mother’s have relocated to the battered women’s shelter, the family services specialists available on-site for support and counseling.

Note: If you suspect child abuse or neglect, report this immediately to Child Protective Services or the police. Even if you are unsure about the abuse, report it. As long as you make the report in good faith, your rights are protected and you may save a child’s life!

Friends and Family of Survivors

Become Informed 

Gather all of the information you can about domestic violence. Check out this website and its links. You may also contact the Alexandria Domestic Violence Program at 703.746.4911, which assists battered persons and their children.

Lend A Sympathetic Ear 

Let your friend know you care. Don't force the issue; allow the friend to confide in you at her/his pace. Keep your mind open. Never blame your friend! 

Guide Her/Him to Community Services 

Share the information you have gathered with her/him privately. Let your friend know she/he is not alone and caring people are available to help. Encourage the friend to seek assistance at a local domestic violence hotline or program. Encourage your friend to develop a safety plan to protect her/himself and children.

Focus on His/Her Strengths 

Give your friend the emotional support she/he needs to believe she/he is a good person. Help your friend examine strengths and skills she/he possess. Emphasize she/he deserves a life free from violence.

If She/He Decides To Leave 

The first place your friend should call is a domestic violence hotline. They can help your friend examine the options available.

Be careful when offering and providing safety in your home. The battered person frequently faces the most physical danger when s/he attempts to flee. Be discreet and talk to domestic violence program staff about the best way to handle this.

What To Say When Your Friend Says She/He Can't Leave 

  • I am afraid for your safety.
  • I am afraid for the safety of your children.
  • It will only get worse.
  • I am here for you when you are ready to leave.
  • You don't deserve to be abused.

When To Intervene 

Domestic violence is a crime that can result in serious physical injury and even death. If you are a neighbor and know that a battering incident is occurring, call the police immediately. Calling the police is simply the most effective way to protect the victim and children from immediate harm. Your friend will thank you for this later.  

Family Violence in the Workplace

What is Domestic Violence? 

  • A pattern of abusive and violent behavior between people who are married or living together, or who have an ongoing or prior intimate relationship.
  • Includes physical assaults and psychological threats as well as verbal abuse and economic control that make a person fear for her or his safety.

Why should businesses care? 

  • Family violence is estimated to cost up to $5 billion a year in reduced productivity and absenteeism - costs absorbed by the company.
  • Companies are at risk for increased liability for the safety of both workplace and employees.
  • From a survey of senior executives in Fortune 1000 companies, it is reported that 66 percent believe if family violence issues were addressed with employees, the company's financial performance would improve.
  • The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that in 60,000 incidents of on-the-job violence, the victims knew their attackers intimately.

Workplace Warning Signs 

  • Unexplained bruises of defensive injuries
  • Increased absenteeism
  • Increased threating and/or harassing phone calls
  • Lack of concentration and decreased work performance
  • Personal visits to the workplace that are disruptive and/or frequent
  • Lack of interest in social activities and being withdrawn with co-workers

What your company can do 

  • Make it safe for the victim to talk to someone in your organization. Telling someone is the first step towards getting help.
  • Establish policies and procedures that address family violence. Remember family violence can also mean a threat to workplace security.
  • Presentations on this issue are available. Call 703.746.4911 for information.

What managers and supervisors can do 

  • Be aware of any visible warning signs.
  • Offer referrals with domestic violence services.
  • Help to create a workplace safety plan.
  • Be sure to respect the employee's privacy. This is a very difficult time for her/him and confidentiality is important.
  • Attend Family Violence issues training.

Workplace Safety Plan 

Creating a safety plan for the workplace can be an effective tool for both the employer and employee. Here are a few suggestions to include:

  • I can inform ____________ at work of my situation. (My boss, security, a co-worker)
  • I can give a photo of the abuser and a description of the car to ____________.
  • I can move my work space to a more secure area.
  • Safe places at work to escape to are ____________.
  • I can use voice mail, a receptionist, or a co-worker to screen my calls at work.  

Protecting Your Family Pet

Family abuse crosses all categories, even the family pet. Animal cruelty is often an early warning sign of violent tendencies that may turn into domestic violence. Several recent surveys indicate that nearly half of all women entering domestic violence shelters reported that a pet had also been threatened, injured or killed by their abuser.

If you are a victim of domestic violence, your pet may have been hurt, or is in danger of being hurt. Often an abuser will hurt the family pet as a way to gain power and control. If your abuser has harmed your pet, you may be in increasing danger of being hurt yourself. If animal abuse is happening in your home, you should consider leaving however, your pet should not be left in the home if you do decide to leave. 

How You Can Protect Your Family Pet 

It's very important to have an emergency shelter plan for your pet as well as for yourself and for your children. If you have a pet, ask yourself the following questions before leaving a violent situation (Taken from The Humane Society of the United States, First Strike Campaign):

  • Who will give my pet food, water, shelter, companionship, and medical care? Make arrangements with a friend or family member to care for your pet, before you leave. If no one can do this, get in touch with the Alexandria Domestic Violence Program, who will assist you in placing your pet temporarily with the Alexandria Animal Welfare League. Rest assured, your pet will be able to stay with the local animal shelter for up to ten days and will be provided with food, water, and lots of love, while you concentrate on other important decisions affecting your future.
  • Is my pet up to date on all of its vaccinations? Veterinary clinics, kennels, and the animal shelter require proof of vaccination for boarding. If you don't have proof, they may vaccinate your pet and charge you for it. Keep vaccination and other veterinary records together so you can take them with you. If you don't have these records, ask your veterinarian to send you copies. If your pet is not current on its vaccinations, make arrangements with your veterinarian or the local Animal Welfare League for low-cost vaccinations.
  • Does my pet have a current license with the City? If your pet's safety is at risk and is licensed under the abuser's name, re-license your pet in the name of whoever is caring for it. This will prevent the abuser from using the license as proof of ownership to claim the animal.
  • Would my pet be better off if I put it up for adoption? Giving up a beloved pet is a hard decision, but it may be best for both of you. It is expensive to relocate and not all landlords accept pets, or they may charge an additional security deposit. Realizing that your pet is safer in a new home can make the decision a little easier. While animal shelters cannot guarantee to place every animal, they do find permanent homes for many animals. It is easier for shelter staff to find a home for your pet if they have certain information. Is the animal housetrained, obedience trained, good with children or other animals? Also, they will need to know your pet's medical history, behavior, and its likes and dislikes. To ease that pain of separation, you may want to take photos of your pet for you and your children to keep.
  • What should I take when I move my pet to safety? Some emergencies allow for little or no preparation. However, if you are able to prepare for your pet's departure, try to have the following on hand: vaccinations and medical records; collar and identification tags; leashes; carriers; your pet's medication; information on feeding schedules, daily walks, likes and dislikes, and any behavior problems; and your pet's favorite personal items (bowls, bedding, grooming supplies, and toys). 

Domestic Violence Intervention Project (DVIP)
A Coordinated Community Response

The Domestic Violence Intervention Project (DVIP) is dedicated to promoting safe and healthy relationships through community coordination.

All residents of Alexandria are affected by domestic violence. Because domestic violence occurs in all areas of our community, there is a need for a coordinated community response. DVIP addresses arrest, prosecution, victim advocacy, treatment, education, and training.

The goals of DVIP are to coordinate and monitor the response of the legal system and the community to family violence incidents in Alexandria, Virginia. Specifically, our goals are:

  • to ensure that victims are provided with effective protection and services
  • to see that assailants are held accountable for illegal behavior; and
  • to increase community awareness of family violence

Participating Agencies (not inclusive) 

  • Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS)
  • Alexandria INOVA Hospital
  • Court Services Unit
  • Department of Community & Human Services
  • Fire Department
  • Health Department
  • Legal Services of Northern Virginia
  • Office of the Commonwealth's Attorney
  • Office of Housing
  • Office of the Magistrate
  • Office of Probation and Parole
  • Office of Sheriff
  • Private Citizens
  • Police Department
  • Social Services
  • Stop Child Abuse Now (SCAN)
  • Substance Abuse Services
  • Victim Witness Assistance Program (VWAP)

Your participation is needed! If you would like to attend our monthly DVIP meeting, or have a suggestion to improve the coordinating council and Alexandria's response to domestic violence, please contact 703.746.4911 for meeting times and information.

How to Help the Domestic Violence Program

  • Volunteers are an integral part of the Domestic Violence Program. After a comprehensive training course, volunteers may become client advocates. Volunteers answer the 24-hour hotline on weekends. They provide emotional support and information to assist victims in regaining control of their lives. Volunteers also accompany victims of domestic assault to the police department and/or hospital. If you are interested in more information about volunteering, call 703.746.4911 to speak to Jennifer Enslen, the volunteer coordinator or submit a volunteer application.
  • Become involved with the events hosted by the Domestic Violence Program such as the Children’s Holiday Party.  Every year, we organize a Holiday Party for children and their mothers, who have been recently served by our Domestic Violence Program. At the party, the families can reunite with past shelter friends and staff, eat, and take pictures with Santa Claus, among other events. Each mother and child also receives a bag of gifts to wrap and place under their own tree on Christmas Day. Over one hundred families look forward to this exciting event annually, and our community's generosity is what makes it such a success.

    If you wish to donate children's toys or other gifts, we ask that you provide newly purchased, unwrapped items.  We will provide each mother with wrapping paper to personalize each child's gift.  For mothers' presents, we request that you donate gift certificates to local stores in denominations of $25.00.  This way each woman will have the opportunity to purchase something special for herself. If you need help deciding what to purchase or if you have any other questions about donating for this event, please call 703.746.4911.  We would be happy to assist you in any way we can in this process. 

    We accept donations at 123 N. Pitt Suite 225, Alexandria VA 22314. The office is open from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
  • Make a tax-deductible donation to the Lydia Carter Memorial Fund - This fund honors a 17-year volunteer for the Domestic Violence Program (DVP) who died of cancer in 2001. This fund provides a financial resource for children from the DVP needing to receive therapy. Learn more information about Children and Domestic Violence.
  • Home-Warming Basket from Alexandria Crime Prevention Council and Neighborhood Watch Captains
  • Domestic Violence Program Children’s Holiday Party  
    Every year, the Alexandria Domestic Violence Program (DVP) organizes a Holiday Party for children and mothers who have been recently served by the program. At the party, the families reunite with past shelter friends and staff, eat and take pictures with Santa Claus, among other activities. Each mother and child also receives a bag of gifts to wrap and place under their own tree on Christmas Day. More than 100 families look forward to this exciting event.

    The 2017 Children’s Holiday Party will be held on December 14. If you would like to participate in the party this year, DVP offers a gift suggestion list for ideas. If you wish to donate children’s toys or other gifts, please provide newly purchased, unwrapped items. DVP will provide each mother with wrapping paper to personalize each child’s gift.

    DVP is requesting gift certificates to local stores in denominations of $25. This way, each woman will have the opportunity to purchase something special for herself or her children. Donations can be sent to 123 N. Pitt Street, Suite 225, Alexandria, VA from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, except on holidays. The deadline for delivery or pick-up of unwrapped gift donations is December 11.

    If you need help deciding what to purchase, or if you have any other questions about donating for this event, call Magdalia or Hewan at 703.746.4911.  

Silent Witness Project and Candlelight Vigil

Each year, in Market Square, in front of City Hall at 301 King Street, the Domestic Violence Program holds the  Silent Witness Candlelight Vigil, an annual event during which we remember and honor all those who have died, or are still suffering, due to acts of domestic violence. Learn more.

Resources, Reading Lists & Related Links

Resources in Virginia 

City of Alexandria 

  • Alexandria Domestic Violence Program: 703.746.4911 (TTY- 703.746.3288)
  • Alexandria Sexual Assault and Awareness Program: 703.683.7273

Arlington County 

  • Arlington Community Temporary Shelter (TACTS) Safehouse: 703.237.0881
  • Arlington Violence Intervention Program: 703.228.4848
  • Arlington Batterer's Intervention Program: 703.228.4848

Fairfax County 

  • Fairfax County Women's Shelter: 703.435.4940
  • Fairfax County Victim's Assistance Network: 703.360.7273
  • ADAPT (Fairfax County Men's Program): 703.968.4000


  • Rappahannock Council on Domestic Violence: 540.373.9373
  • Rappahannock Council Against Sexual Assault: 540.371.1666

Loudoun County 

  • Loudoun County Abused Women's Shelter: 703.777.6552

Prince William County 

  • ACTS.Turning Points (Prince William Co.. Manassas City, Manassas Park, Woodbridge): 703.221.4951
  • Prince William County Sexual Assault and Victim's Advocacy (SAVAS): 703.368.4141

Resources Outside of Virginia 

Maryland & District of Columbia 

  • House of Ruth (DC): 202.347.2777
  • My Sister's Place (DC): 202.529.5991
  • Montgomery County (MD): 301.654.1881
  • Prince George's County (MD): 301. 864.9101

State/National hotlines 

  • Family Violence & Sexual Assault Virginia Hotline:  1.800.838.8238 (Voice/TTY)
  • National Center for Victims of Crime Hotline: (800) FYI-CALL
  • National Domestic Violence Hotline: (Voice) (800) 799-SAFE, (TTY) 1.800.787.3224

Recommended Reading Lists 

Related Links 

Clicking on the links below takes you out of  the City web site. The City of Alexandria  takes no responsibility for, and exercises no control over the organizations, views, accuracy, copyright, trademark compliance or legality of the material. 

Domestic Violence