Domestic violence is a pattern of behavior used to control one person in an intimate relationship. There is no single profile of the abuser, or of the person being abused — anyone can become the victim of abuse in the relationship, regardless of age, race, creed, color, national origin, marital status, gender, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, military status, genetic predisposition or carrier status, disability, or any other protected class.
Domestic violence is physically dangerous, but many people in abusive relationships are never physically assaulted. Verbal and emotional abuse, threats toward children and pets, economic control and isolation are also abusive behaviors.
Along with the risk to physical safety, the feeling of always “walking on eggshells” in order to avoid the hurtful consequences can take an enormous emotional toll. Although you may be told that everything is your fault, the abuse is solely the fault of the abuser.
Some people choose to leave the relationship, but many do not — for understandable reasons. Talking to someone as you sort through your feelings and consider your options can help.
Types of abuse:
PHYSICAL ABUSE: Inflicting or attempting to inflict physical injury including grabbing, forcefully restraining, pinching, shoving, slapping, hitting with or throwing objects, hair-pulling, biting, arm-twisting, kicking, punching, choking, burning, threats or use of weapons. Withholding or controlling access to medication, medical care, food, or sleep, forcing alcohol or other drug use.
PSYCHOLOGICAL ABUSE: Instilling or attempting to instill fear, e.g. intimidation, threatening physical harm to self, victim or others, threats regarding children, blackmail, destruction of pets or property. Isolating one from family, friends, school and work, e.g. withholding access to phone or transportation, constant “checking up,” constant accompaniment, making unfounded accusations, irrational jealousy, interrogation, forced imprisonment.
EMOTIONAL ABUSE: Undermining a person’s sense of self-worth, e.g. constant criticism or blaming, belittling one’s abilities, appearance, name-calling, insults, put-downs, silent treatment, manipulating feelings and emotions – particularly guilt, and undermining relationships with others, including children.
ECONOMIC ABUSE: Making a person financially dependent, controlling all financial decisions, withholding access to money, interfering with school or ability to work, requiring accountability for all money spent, withholding information about family finances, refusing to contribute financially, running up bills for which the victim is legally responsible.
SEXUAL ABUSE: Coercing or attempting to coerce any sexual contact without consent, e.g. marital rape, acquaintance rape, forced sex and physical assault, attacks on the sexual parts of the body. Forced prostitution, unprotected sex, fondling, sodomy, sex with others, use of pornography. Attempts to undermine a person’s sexuality, e.g. treating one in a sexually derogatory manner, attempts to use sex to manipulate or degrade the other person.
Adapted from: Domestic Abuse Intervention Project, Duluth MN