Domestic violence or abuse is when one person controls or coerces the other in an intimate relationship. It is about power and control. Abusers choose to use physical violence or emotional battering to express anger and gain control. They are not provoked to use violence; they alone are responsible for their inappropriate and unacceptable behavior. Domestic violence is a crime and can result in the abuser being removed or restrained from the home and/or jailed.
We often think of abusive behavior being limited to physical battering and downplay the serious negative effects of verbal, emotional, or economic abuse by an intimate partner. Abusive methods of control can come in many forms, and often carry an obvious or unstated threat of physical or sexual violence. Some examples of tactics used by abusers include:
Put downs — making them feel bad — name calling — crazy making — playing mind games — humiliation
Controlling what they do, who they see and talk to — controlling where they go — limiting outside involvement — using jealousy to justify actions
Minimizing, Denying, and Blaming
Making light of the abuse and not taking their concerns about it seriously — saying the abuse didn’t happen — shifting responsibility for abusive behavior — victim blaming
Making them feel guilty about the children — using the children to relay messages — misusing visitation to harass the victim — threatening to take the children away
Using Male Privilege
Treating them like a servant — making all the big decisions — acting like the “master of the castle” — being the one to define men’s and women’s roles
Preventing them from getting or keeping a job — making them ask for money — giving them an allowance — taking their money — not letting them know about or have access to family income
Coercion and Threats
Making and/or carrying out hurtful threats — threatening to leave, to commit suicide — forcing them to drop the charges — making them do illegal things
Using looks, actions, gestures to scare them — smashing things — destroying their property — abusing pets — displaying weapons
Any kind of abusive behavior is serious and often gets worse over time. Bruises often heal faster than emotional scars.
Who are the victims?
Domestic violence affects people of all socioeconomic, racial, ethnic, and religious groups. Although most victims of reported domestic violence cases are women who are abused by men, there are reported cases of women who abuse their male intimate partners, women who abuse women, and men who abuse men. A person may be a victim even if s/he is not legally married to the abusive partner, is gay or lesbian, is separated or divorced, or is abused by someone else in the household, such as a parent or a child.