What is Domestic Abuse?

Domestic abuse is a pattern of behavior used to control or overpower an intimate partner, like a girlfriend, wife, boyfriend, or husband. 

Domestic abuse, which is also commonly referred to as “domestic violence” or “intimate partner violence”, is a pattern of behavior that one person uses to control and overpower their intimate partner. This can be done through physical, sexual, emotional, economic, or psychological actions or threats of such acts.

Domestic abuse is a range of harmful behaviors that are used to control and subdue another person. This can include but is not limited to physical violence, emotional manipulation, sexual coercion, economic control, accusations, blame, and causing fear. Domestic abuse does not discriminate – it can happen to anyone regardless of race, gender identity, age religion or socioeconomic background.

You may be experiencing domestic violence if your partner…

  • Threatens you with physical or sexual violence
  • Makes decisions for you about how you live your life
  • Isolates you from family and friends
  • Tells you that it’s your fault they are abusive
  • Uses money to control or manipulate you.

If you or anyone you know is in an abusive relationship, it’s important to get help. Reach out to a trusted family member, friend or domestic abuse helpline for advice and support. You are not alone – there are people who can help. Remember that no one deserves to be abused and domestic violence is never okay.

Domestic violence does not discriminate. It can happen to anyone, regardless of their age, race, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, religion, or socioeconomic class.

Abuse does not discriminate based on relationship status, age, or gender. Whether you are a child, relative, friend, or partner; domestic abuse can still happen to anyone. It is commonly seen in the form of an ongoing pattern of behavior where one person tries to control and dominate their loved ones through various means such as emotional manipulation and/or physical violence.
Domestic abuse is not only brutal but also often deadly. It can take many forms, such as mental, physical, economic or sexual assault. And these incidents are never isolated—they usually get worse over time. If you’re facing domestic abuse, please understand that it could result in serious injury or death and reach out for help immediately.

Are You Being Abused? Here are Some Questions That Might Help Recognizing the Signs of Domestic Abuse

Are you, or someone you know experiencing any of the following behaviors?

Does Your Partner:

  • Make you feel uncomfortable or belittle you in front of those you care about
  • Minimize the significance of, or put down your accomplishments
  • Make you doubt your ability to make decisions
  • Use intimidation or threats to control you
  • Say things like you are nothing without them or can’t make it on your own
  • Are they physically rough with you (hitting, pushing, grabbing, pinching)
  • Do they follow you around to see where you are
  • Blame drugs or alcohol for being rough or verbally abusive with you
  • Blame you for their feelings or actions
  • Do things to make you feel trapped in the relationship
  • Keep you away from your friends or family
  • Abandon you somewhere after a fight

Do You…

  • Feel afraid of your partner
  • Make excuses for their behavior
  • Believe your partner would be different if you just change enough
  • Stay in your relationship because you are scared of what they would do to you if you left them

If your relationship is plagued with any of these issues, please reach out for help. Without outside intervention, the abuse will persist. Taking that first step to ask for help is hard! 

For an in-depth look at some videos explaining domestic abuse through the lens of the Power and Control Wheel, please visit this website.

The most apparent forms of abuse are physical and sexual assaults, or threats to commit them. However, regular use of other abusive behaviors combined with one or more acts of physical violence make up a larger system of abuse. Although physical assaults may only occur once or occasionally, they instill fear for future violent attacks and give the abuser power over the victim’s life.

The Power & Control Wheel is a particularly helpful tool in understanding the overall pattern of abusive and violent behaviors, which are used by an abuser to establish and maintain control over his/her partner or any other victim in the household. Very often, one or more violent incidents may be accompanied by an array of these other types of abuse. They are less easily identified, yet firmly establish a pattern of intimidation and control in the relationship.

Source: Developed by Domestic Abuse Intervention Project, Duluth, MN, https://www.theduluthmodel.org/

Emotional Abuse

Domestic Abuse often includes emotional abuse. Emotional abuse may include eroding a partner’s sense of self-worth by constant and often escalating criticism, verbal abuse, undermining your relationship with your children, and isolating you from friends and family support networks. All of these control mechanisms work to erode your sense of self-determinism; the ultimate goal of the abuser being to keep you under control and keep you trapped in their world.

If your partner does any of the following you may be a victim of emotional abuse:

  • Insults you
  • Barrages you with constant criticism
  • Calls you names
  • Keeps you away from family or friends
  • Monitors your phone calls or activities
  • Does not want you to have a job
  • Controls your money
  • Demands you ask their permission to do anything or go anywhere
  • Threatens to inflict violence on you, your children, your family, or your animals

When Emotional Abuse Becomes Psychological Abuse

If your partner makes you feel afraid by being physically aggressive, threatening to hurt you, or your kids, or your pets, or your property, or even themselves, they are engaging in psychological abuse. If they isolate you from friends, family, social activities, or work, they are engaging in psychological abuse, which can have lasting effects on you and anyone else involved in the situation.

Financial or Economic Abuse

If your partner works to make you financially dependent upon them, they are engaging in financial abuse. Financial abuse is a means of control by which your partner withholds financial resources to control you. This may include limiting or denying your access to debit cards or bank accounts or keeping you from working entirely as a means to keep you financially dependent on them for survival.

Domestic Abuse – Physical Abuse

If your partner causes you physical pain or discomfort, regardless of how they do it, this is physical abuse.

Examples of Physical Abuse

  • Hitting
  • Hair Pulling
  • Squeezing
  • Pinching
  • Slapping
  • Kicking
  • Stomping
  • Biting
  • Slamming Objects Loudly to Intimidate or Convey A Threat
  • Kicking doors
  • Punching Walls
  • Throwing or Breaking Objects
  • Scares you by driving recklessly
  • Threaten you with weapons or hurt you with them
  • Traps you in your home
  • Keeps you from calling police
  • Deprives you of medical assistance

And these are just some of the examples of physical abuse. If someone else’s actions cause you pain or discomfort, or prevents you from leaving, or seeking medical attention, or makes you feel afraid for your safety, the safety of your children, the safety of your pets, or the safety of your family, you may be experiencing physical abuse.

Domestic Abuse – Sexual Abuse

There are many facets of sexual abuse you may not have thought of. This might include forcing a partner to take part in a sex act when the partner does not consent, insulting or demeaning your sexuality, insisting upon sex when you don’t want to have sex, and more.

You may be in a sexually abusive relationship if your partner:

  • Regularly accuses you of cheating
  • Wants you to dress in a sexual way
  • Manipulates or forces you to have sex or perform sex acts
  • Holds you down during sex
  • Insists you have sex when you are sick, tired, don’t feel like it, or after beating you
  • Hurts you with weapons or objects during sex
  • Involves other people in sexual activities with you
  • Ignores your feelings about sex.

This is not a comprehensive list, but if your partner is causing you mental, emotional, or physical pain or discomfort about sex, prior to sex, during sex, or after sex, or is disrespectful to your sexuality, sexual preferences, or your desire to have or not have sex, you may be experiencing sexual abuse.

For Victims and Survivors

The most important thing to know if you are a victim or survivor of domestic abuse is that domestic abuse is NEVER your fault. Nobody deserves to be abused. The next thing you need to know is that you are not alone. There are many resources available to help people who are experiencing domestic abuse.

It is also important to not beat yourself up or feel discouraged if you have been a victim of abuse who returned to their abuser and want to make another attempt to get away. Survivors often make several attempts to leave the abusive relationship before succeeding. Just because you have tried to leave and returned, does not mean people won’t listen to you now, or blame you, or refuse to help you when you try to leave again.

Remember – NOBODY deserves to be abused. It is not your fault. And you are not alone.

If you or someone you know has experienced domestic abuse, it is important to get help right away. Reach out to a trusted friend or family member for support, contact your local police department, or call a rape crisis hotline like WOAR at 215-985-3333. You can call us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. We are always here for you.