What is Domestic Violence?
Domestic violence is a range of behaviors used to exert control or establish power by one intimate partner over the other. The range of behaviors can include psychological, emotional, verbal, sexual, financial, spiritual, and physical abuse, as well as stalking and threatening behaviors.
Abuse and violence are learned behaviors and as such, can be unlearned. People who are abusive are responsible for their behavior and should be held accountable for their actions by the legal and judicial systems, media, friends, family, co-workers and communities.
A few of the most common ways abusers control victims:
- Emotional abuse
- Using children
- Dominating finances and family resources
- Physical and sexual assault
Forms of Abuse
An abusive partner may...
Verbal Abuse - Call you derogatory names or slurs related to your identity. Make you feel bad about yourself. Say you caused the abuse. Yell, scream, name-call, put-down, cuss, use sarcasm, put you down for your religious beliefs or ethnic background. Threaten to harm you, your children, pets or another person. Threaten to spread rumors, gossip, post your personal information or pictures on the internet, in email, or through text. Threaten to take children or to commit suicide. Verbal abuse can take place in person, over the phone, in letters, through email, texting or other means.
Emotional Abuse - Manipulate, deny abuse, withdraw affection, control, have extreme jealousy and possessiveness, blame the abuse on you, humiliate you, make you think that you are crazy, create FEAR, give guilt trips. Threaten to out you, insult or belittle your sexual orientation or gender identity, threaten to reveal your HIV status, or accuse you of "mutual abuse." Dismiss your sexual orientation as a phase. Use heterosexual roles to shame partner for same sex and bisexual desires. Refuse to use the name or pronouns you choose for yourself.
Intimidation - Coerce you into making decisions through guilt, anger, or by saying "If you loved me you would do…" Lock you in or out of the house. Use force, throw objects, or punch a hole in a wall. Threaten to harm you, to hurt family, friends, children and pets, threaten to leave, to commit suicide, report immigration status, or report you to the police. Destroy property, make you do illegal things, smash things, display or handle guns or other weapons, use intimidating body language (angry looks, raised voice), use hostile questioning, drive reckless, stalk you.
Isolation - Not let you be alone with friends or family. Control what you do, who you see and talk to, where you go, and what you read. Keep you from making new friends, talking to family, having a job, having any money, etc. Use their jealousy to justify their actions and be possessive of your time.
Physical Abuse - Take away your wheel chair, crutches or hearing aids. Put you into situations that jeopardize your health and safety. Withhold food, water, or medications from you. Force you to use drugs or alcohol. Push, shove, hit, slap, choke, hair-pull, punch, grab, kick, bite, shake, burn, use a weapon against you (i.e., knives, guns, heavy objects...), threaten to physically harm you, murder.
Sexual Abuse - Force or threaten you to perform sexual acts you don't want to do or that cause pain or humiliation; rape; physically attack the sexual parts of your body, force you to have sex with others, force pregnancy, have affairs, and not practice safe sex. Get you drunk or use drugs to get sex. Not respect boundaries or safe words. Post or share nude videos/pictures without your permission. Refuse to practice safe sex.
Denial of Rights - Hide necessary medication or hormones or cause sleep deprivation. Control your expression of identity. Control your connections to community. Not let you wear clothes that express your gender or individual identity. Not allow you to have any privacy. Lock you up in a room, tie you to a chair, force you to go without food or water, not allow you to bathe.
Economic Abuse - Steal your money or identity. Threaten to "out" you to your employer. Run up debt in your name. Use money or gifts to make you feel like you owe them something. Get you fired from your job. Force you to give up your money, control how all of the money is spent, make you steal, only allow you to have a small allowance, make you work or not let you work, make you show receipts for everything you buy, keep track of the mileage in the car.
You might be in an abusive relationship if you
- Fear your partner will hurt you, your pets, or themselves if you leave the relationship.
- Miss work, classes or meetings because your partner prevents you from attending.
- Cover bruises and injuries or make up excuses for behavior towards you.
- Feel confused about the rules of your relationship and responsible for your partner's behavior.
- Believe your partner is the only person who can make you feel good about yourself.
- Feel nervous around other friends or family about what your partner might say or do to embarrass or humiliate you.
- Feel like your partner does not respect your sexuality.
- Feel pressured to share passwords to email accounts, social networking sites, or to show your partner your cell phone.
- Feel like your partner keeps track of you all the time.
- Are embarrassed to tell your friends or family how your partner treats you.
- Feel controlled.
Who are Victims?
Anybody can be a victim — rich or poor, any race, age, or religion. High school drop-out or Ph.D. Studies have shown no characteristic link between personality type and being a victim. If you are worried about yourself or a loved one, help is available.
Domestic violence is still overwhelmingly a problem of male violence against women. Here are a few statistics that may clarify the issue. These are a compilation of stats from Bureau of Justice Statistics, National Institute of Justice and the Centers for Disease Control.
- Women compose 84% of spouse abuse victims and 86% of victims abused by a boyfriend or girlfriend.
- Nearly 75% of murder victims killed by an intimate partner are women.
- While the number of male victims killed by an intimate partner fell an average of 4% per year from 1976-1998, the number of female victims fell only by an average of 1% per year.
- Females aged 16-24 are most likely to experience physical violence in their intimate relationships than any other group.
Who are Abusive Partners?
Like victims, domestic violence abusive partners come from all backgrounds. However, abusive partners do share some characteristics in that they tend to justify their abusive behaviors, fail to take responsibility for the abuse and use similar tactics to gain and maintain power and control over their partners.
Abusive partners typically present a different personality outside of their relationship than they do to their intimate partner, which complicates victims' ability to describe their experience and seek assistance.These are some red flags of a potentially abusive partner.
- Wants to move too quickly into the relationship.
- Does not honor your boundaries.
- Is excessively jealous and falsely accuses you of cheating.
- Wants to know where you are all of the time and frequently calls, emails and texts you throughout the day.
- Criticizes you or puts you down; most commonly tells you that you are "crazy," "stupid" and/or "fat," or that no one would ever want or love you.
- Says one thing and does another.
- Takes no responsibility for their behavior and blames others.
- Has a history of battering.
- Blames the entire failure of previous relationships on their partner; for example, "My ex was a total bitch."
- Grew up in an abusive or violent home.
- Insists that you stop spending time with your friends or family.
- Seems "too good to be true."
- Insists that you stop participating in leisure interests.
- Rages out of control and is impulsive.
Pay attention to the "red flags" and trust your instincts. Survivors of domestic violence frequently report that their instincts told them that there was something wrong early on but they disregarded the warning signs or didn’t know that these signs were indicative of an abusive relationship. Always take time to get to know a potential partner and watch for patterns of behavior in a variety of settings. You can lower your risk of being involved in an abusive relationship if you keep in touch with your support system, maintain your own identity, and practice good self-care.