What is Domestic Violence?
Domestic violence is a pattern of coercive, controlling behavior that can include physical abuse, emotional or psychological abuse, sexual abuse, or financial abuse (using money and financial tools to exert control).
What are the Forms of Abuse?
Physical violence may include: hitting, punching, kicking, slapping, strangling, smothering, using or threatening to use weapons, shoving, interrupting your sleep, throwing things, destroying property, hurting or killing pets, and denying medical treatment.
Some form of sexual abuse is common in abusive relationships, but it is often the least discussed. It can be subtle or overt. The impact on the victim is commonly feelings of shame and humiliation.
Sexual abuse may include: physically forcing sex, making you feel fearful about saying no to sex, forcing sex with other partners, forcing you to participate in demeaning or degrading sexual acts, violence or name calling during sex, and denying contraception or protection from sexually transmitted diseases.
Emotional abuse occurs in some form in all abusive relationships. It is a very effective tactic used by abusive partners to obtain power and control, and it can cause extreme damage to the victim’s self esteem. Commonly, emotional abuse makes the victim feel like they are responsible for the abuse and to feel crazy, worthless, and hopeless. It is so damaging that many survivors of domestic violence report that they would rather “be hit” than endure the ongoing psychic damage of emotional abuse.
Emotional abuse can include: constant put downs or criticisms, name calling, “crazy making”, acting superior, minimizing the abuse or blaming you for their behavior, threatening and making you feel fearful, isolating you from family and friends, excessive jealously, accusing you of having affairs, and watching where you go and who you talk to.
This form of abuse is least commonly known, but one of the most powerful tactics of entrapping victims in a relationship. It is so powerful that many victims of abuse describe it as the main reason that they stayed in an abusive relationship or went back to one.
Some forms of financial abuse include: giving you an allowance, not letting you have your own money, hiding family assets, running up debt, interfering with your job, and ruining your credit.
What are the Red Flags of Abuse?
"Red flags" include someone who:
- Wants to move too quickly into the relationship.
- Early in the relationship flatters you constantly and seems "too good to be true."
- Wants you all to him- or herself; insists that you stop spending time with your friends or family.
- Insists that you stop participating in hobbies or activities, quit school, or quit your job.
- Does not honor your boundaries.
- Is excessively jealous and accuses you of being unfaithful.
- Wants to know where you are all of the time and frequently calls, emails, and texts you throughout the day.
- Criticizes or puts you down; says you are crazy, stupid, and/or fat/unattractive, or that no one else would ever want or love you.
- Takes no responsibility for his or her behavior and blames others.
- Has a history of abusing others.
- Blames the entire failure of previous relationships on his or her former partner; for example, "My ex was totally crazy."
- Takes your money or runs up your credit card debt.
- Rages out of control with you but can maintain composure around others.
Abuse is never the fault of the victim. If you experience these "red flags," you can confide in a friend or reach out for support from a domestic violence advocate. If you believe a friend or relative is being abused, offer your nonjudgmental support and help.
Why do victims stay with or return to abusers?
Victims stay or return for many reasons, such as:
- The deck is stacked against a victim when confronted with leaving or not.
- Abusers work very hard to keep victims in the abusive relationship.
- There is a real fear of death or worse abuse if they leave.
- In fact, a victim’s risk of getting killed greatly increases when they are in the process of leaving or have just left.
- On average, three women die at the hands of a current or former intimate partner every day.
- Batterers are very good at making victims believe that the abuse is their fault. Victims often believe that if they caused the violence, they can also stop it.
- Victims stay because they are made to think they cannot survive on their own, financially or otherwise. Often abusers create a financial situation that makes leaving nearly impossible.
- Survivors sometimes want the abuse to end, not the relationship. A survivor may return to the abuser because that’s the person she the survivor fell in love with, and she believes his promises to change. It’s not easy for anyone to let go of hopes and dreams.