Domestic violence is intentional violent or aggressive behavior. Forms of domestic violence include intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, and other abusive behaviors. Domestic violence is often used as a means of power and control typically by one intimate partner against another. This includes physical violence, sexual violence, psychological violence, and emotional abuse, and its frequency and severity varies significantly.
Dynamics of Abuse
Domestic violence does not discriminate, and it affects people everywhere, regardless of race, age, religion, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, or gender. It causes physical injuries, psychological trauma, and even death, and is not something that can be ignored. These devastating results of domestic violence last a lifetime.
Signs of an Abusive Partner
Oftentimes, abusers will seem calm and pleasant at the beginning of a relationship, which makes it difficult to determine who might become abusive. Whatever the abuse may be, it intensifies over time, with the abuser becoming more controlling and aggressive as the relationship continues.
Domestic abuse usually begins with behaviors that can be dismissed or easily swept under the rug, such as possessiveness, jealousy, distrust, or name-calling. Many abusers justify their actions as things they do out of love. This control always intensifies, however, and violence can follow.
What may have started out as behavior that could be forgiven with an apology, quickly turns into extreme control and abuse, whether it be physical, emotional, sexual, or psychological. The abuser may go from wanting the victim to spend all of their time with them, to threatening to kill them if they speak to family or friends.
While the signs of abuse vary from person to person, there are some common tendencies. These include:
- Accusing the victim of cheating
- Making the victim feel guilty if they spend time with family and friends
- Shaming them with put-downs and embarrassing comments
- Controlling all of the finances
- Dictating what the victim does or where they go
- Deciding how they dress and do their hair
- Telling the victim they are a bad parent or threatening to take their children
- Pressuring them to have sex or perform other sexual acts they don't want to do
- Intimidating them with guns, knives, or other weapons
- Making the victim feel as if they must rely on the abuser for everything
It is important to know that domestic violence and abuse is not always physical. Emotional and psychological abuse can be just as extreme as physical violence but is not as apparent to the victim. Emotional abuse is extremely damaging and causes lifelong damage. This does not make the abuser any less dangerous, however, and the lack of physical violence does not make the victim feel any less trapped.
Understanding Why Victims Stay
Blame is often put on the victim, as people assume that they are choosing to stay in the abusive situation. These unfair assumptions only continue to isolate the victim, as they feel that no one supports them or understands them. The truth is, choosing to leave an abusive relationship is not a matter of willpower; it is a matter of whether the victim can safely escape.
It is also important to note that domestic violence does not always end when the victim leaves or tries to seek help. In fact, often the abuse increases as the abuser begins to feel that they are losing control. If the victim stays, the harassment, physical abuse, and violence often intensify. If they leave, they are in great danger immediately after their escape. 1 out of 5 homicide victims with restraining orders are murdered within two days of getting the order, 1 out of 3 are murdered within the first month.
Do You Think You’re Being Abused?
If you feel that any of this information applies to you, there is help. You can talk to someone anonymously and confidentially, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE) or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY) now.