What Is Domestic Violence?
Domestic violence is an escalating pattern of abuse where one partner in an intimate relationship controls the other through force, intimidation, or the threat of violence. Domestic violence has no boundaries. It affects all ages, both sexes, all cultures, all religions, all professions, and people from all income levels.
Domestic violence is about power and control and includes many different types of abuse. It is more than just the bruises and broken bones often associated with physical abuse. Domestic violence can also include sexual, psychological or emotional, and financial abuse.
Types of Abuse
It is not always easy to identify domestic violence. The following list does not encompass all types or tactics of abuse but provides a variety of examples. Also, it is not necessary for a person to identify with all, or even several of the examples in order to be in an unsafe situation. Recognizing abuse is the first step to getting help.
- Physical abuse occurs when one person uses physical force or the threat of physical force to intimidate, injure or endanger another person. There is a wide range of behaviors that fall into the category of physical abuse, including: pushing, hitting, kicking, grabbing, choking, throwing things, reckless driving, abandoning you in a dangerous place, and assault with a weapon.
- Sexual abuse can be defined as any situation in which you are forced to participate in unwanted, unsafe, or degrading sexual activity. Forced sex, even by a spouse or intimate partner with whom you also have consensual sex, is an act of aggression and violence.
- Psychological or emotional abuse can be verbal or nonverbal. Emotional abuse includes verbal abuse such as yelling, name-calling, blaming, and shaming; and nonverbal abuse may include behavior such as isolation, intimidation, and controlling. Emotional abuse can be just as damaging as physical abuse.
- Financial abuse is another way an abusive partner may try to gain control over you. Financial abuse can take many forms including:
- Denying you access to funds
- Tracking every penny you spent
- Putting all bills in your name
- Demanding your paycheck
- Interfering with your work or not letting you work
- Taking your car keys or preventing you from using your car
There are many signs that you may be in an abusive relationship. Some may seem subtle, some may not seem obvious. There are warning signs that can help you identify an abusive relationship before things get out of control. Answer the questions below. The more “yes” answers, the more likely it is that you’re in an abusive relationship.
- Feel afraid of your partner?
- Avoid certain topics out of fear of angering your partner?
- Feel that you can’t do anything right for your partner?
- Believe that you deserve to be hurt or mistreated?
- Feel emotionally numb or helpless?
Does your partner
- Humiliate, criticize, or yell at you?
- Hit, punch, slap, kick, or bite you or the children?
- Criticize you for little things?
- Act excessively jealous and possessive?
- Control where you go or what you do?
- Keep you from seeing your friends or family?
- Limit your access to money, the phone, or the car?
- Constantly check up on you?
- Hurt you, or threaten to hurt or kill you?
- Threaten to take your children away or harm them?
- Threaten to commit suicide if you leave?
- Force you to have sex?
- Destroy your belongings or sentimental items?
- Threaten to “out” you at work or to family or friends?
Source: National Crime Prevention Council
What You Can Do
Remember, you have many options. Explore our web site to learn more about domestic violence. If you need help or would like to speak with someone about domestic violence, confidential help is available 24 hours a day by calling our crisis line at 859-623-4095. If you’re afraid for your safety, call 9-1-1 immediately!
Domestic violence may seem unpredictable; however, it does in fact follow a typical pattern no matter when it occurs or who is involved. The pattern, or cycle, repeats and can happen many times during a relationship. Each phase may last a different length of time and over time the level of violence may increase. It is important to remember that not all domestic violence relationships fit the cycle nor are everyone’s experiences the same.
In an abusive or violent relationship, power and control are repeatedly misused against a partner. The Power & Control Wheel displays examples of tactics an abuser may use to gain control over a partner:
Leaving an abusive relationship can be very difficult and there may be many reasons why a person stays. Some of the reasons a person might stay include:
Abusers often repeatedly threaten they will hurt the victim, their children, a pet, a family member, friend or themselves. Abusers may even threaten to kill the victim or themselves if their partner leaves. A person may stay in the relationship because they are afraid of what the abuser will do if they leave.
When an abuser calls their partner names, puts them down and plays mind games it can make the victim feel bad about themselves. Many times a person who is being abused believes that the abuse is their fault or that they deserve the abuse.
Victims may depend on their abuser for financial support. They may not leave because they are afraid they will not have enough money to support themselves – a fear that often gets worse if they have children.
It is very common for a person to stay with an abusive partner because they do not want to “break up” their family and are afraid that it might be hard on their children if they leave. They may be afraid that the abuser will take the children away or that they might hurt the children if they are not there to protect them.
Hope for Change
Abusers often promise that they will change and that the abuse will not happen again. Many victims want to believe this is true, and they hope that the abuse will end and things will get better.
An abuser may quote religious text to justify abuse or convince the victim that divorce is a sin. A victim may be told they are responsible for keeping the family together and may fear being cast out from their community if they separate or divorce their partner.
An abuser may choose not to file the papers necessary to legalize their partner’s immigration status, withdraw already filed papers, destroy important papers, or threaten to report them to Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). If English is not their first language, an abuser might isolate a victim from people who speak their language, prevent them from learning English, and not allow them to have access to information. If the person being victimized does not speak English, they may not have access to resources in their first language or know where to find them to get help.
Pressure from Family and Friends
Friends and family of a victim may not be supportive. Victims may not be believed, told that the abuse is their fault or that all relationships have bad times and they should try harder. Family and friends may also get angry because the victim stays with the abuser or has left and gone back. Plus, family and friends may be scared about their own safety – what will happen if the victim stays at my home, etc.
Doesn’t Know Help is Available
Many abusers isolate their victims from their friends and family in order to gain more control. By the time the victim decides they want to leave, they may feel like they have no one to turn to and nowhere to go. Victims might not know what help is available to them in their community.