Domestic Violence

What is domestic violence?

Domestic violence is a pattern of abusive and controlling behaviors used by one person in a relationship to control another by preventing a person from doing what they wish or forcing them to behave in ways they do not want. Domestic violence affects men, women, children, elderly and disabled and crosses all lines of income, race, religion, gender, sexual identity and education.

Partners can be married, single, heterosexual, gay, lesbian, transexual, disabled, co-habitating, separated or dating.

Abuse can range from emotional battering to physical attacks. Most abuse begins with small problems that lead to more frequent and serious attacks. Domestic violence and intimate partner violence are social issues that are rooted in social values, where the importance of having power over another person is emphasized.

Try starting here: Am I being abused?

Cycle of Violence

Domestic violence often occurs in cycles of three phases that illustrates how one partner gains control over another.

Most relationships start out in the honeymoon phase. This is the phase where partners are infatuated with one another and show one another only their very best side. Of course, the victim does not realize that he/she is involved with an abuser, because during this phase, the abuser is a charming, wonderful, and loving person, offering sweet words and gifts and going out of their way to express their love and affection.

Eventually, the tension building phase begins to replace the honeymoon phase. During this phase, the victim often feels like she/he is walking on eggshells, always trying to keep the peace because it feels as though the abuser gets upset at the slightest provocation. The abuser will seem moody and blame their problems on the victim. During the tension building phase abusers may become more demanding and jealous, constantly checking up on their partner and becoming angry when their partner does not follow his/her itinerary exactly.

The tension phase eventually leads to an explosion of physical, verbal or sexual violence. The abuser will come up with all kinds of excuses for his/her actions, and often the victim will be inclined to forgive the abuser; it was just that one time, after all.

After the explosion phase, the abuser cycle will quickly transition back to the honeymoon phase, with apologies and promises that the violence it will never happen again. The abuser may bring flowers and remind the victim of the person that they first met and fell in love with. When the victim forgives the abuser, the cycle continues and the couple becomes more dependent on each other. Eventually the honeymoon phase will once again disappear entirely as it transitions into the tension building phase, and the cycle repeats itself.

Types of Abuse

Emotional/Verbal Abuse: Mental, psychological and emotional abuse can be verbal or nonverbal. Verbal and nonverbal abuse often consist of more subtle actions or behaviors than physical abuse, including:

  • Threatening or intimidating to gain compliance
  • Yelling, screaming, name-calling, constant harassment
  • Criticizing or diminishing victim’s accomplishments/goals
  • Telling victim they are worthless without the abuser
  • Blaming the victim for how the abuser acts or feels
  • Making the victim feel there is no way out of the relationship
  • Excessive possessiveness, isolation from family & friends
  • Sabotaging efforts for self-improvement
  • Destroying/threatening to destroy victim’s personal possessions
  • Excessive checking up on
  • Embarrassing, mocking, humiliating & making fun of victim in public, in private or in front of family & friends

Social Abuse/Financial: Using gender “myths” and roles, destroying or damaging property, controlling major decisions, forced economic dependence, isolation

Physical: the use of physical force against another person in a way that ends up injuring the person, or puts the person at risk of being injured. Physical abuse includes:

  • Pushing, throwing, kicking
  • Slapping, grabbing, hitting, punching, beating, tripping
  • Battering, bruising, choking, shaking
  • Pinching, biting
  • Holding, restraining, confinement
  • Breaking bones
  • Assault with a weapon such as a knife or gun
  • Burning
  • Murder

Sexual: Sexual or demeaning gender remarks, unwanted jealousy, coercive sex, rape.