What is it?
Domestic Violence is a pattern of coercive, controlling behavior that may include physical, emotional, psychological, sexual, or financial abuse that is used to establish and maintain power and control over an intimate partner.
Who are the victims?
Anyone can be a victim of domestic violence. There is NO “typical victim.” Victims of domestic violence comes from all walks of life, varying age groups, all backgrounds, all communities, all education levels, all economic levels, all cultures, all ethnicities, all religions, all abilities, and all lifestyles.
What are the affects?
Domestic Violence can affect all aspects of a victim’s life. Victims can experience a wide range of emotions and feelings from abuse. They often survive with long-lasting and sometimes permanent effects to their mental and physical health and relationships with friends, family, and children; their career; and their economic well-being.
It is not uncommon to have feelings of isolation, shame, anxiety, or more. There is no one way to feel or cope with the effects of being abused.
Who are the abusers?
There is no one typical or detectable personality of an abuser. However, they do often display common characteristics.
- An abuser often denies the existence or minimizes the seriousness of the violence and its effect on the victim and other family members.
- An abuser objectifies the victim and often sees them as their property or sexual objects.
- An abuser has low self-esteem and feels powerless and often times will try to exert power and control over their victims.
- An abuser externalizes the causes of their behavior. They blame their violence on circumstances such as stress, their partner’s behavior, a “bad day,” on alcohol, drugs, or other factors. There is no excuse for someone to be abusive. It is the abuser’s choice to be abusive.
- An abuser may be pleasant and charming between periods of violence and is often seen as a “nice person” to others outside the relationship.
What are the warning signs?
Red flags and warning signs of an abuser include but are not limited to:
- Extreme jealousy and accusations
- Mood swings or anger outbursts
- Cruelty to animals
- Verbal abuse
- Extremely controlling behavior
- Outdated beliefs about societal roles of women and men in relationships
- Forced sex or disregard of their partner’s unwillingness to have sex
- Sabotage of birth control methods or refusal to honor agreed upon methods
- Constantly Blaming the victim
- Sabotage or obstruction of the victim’s ability to work or attend school
- Controls all the finances
- Abuse of other family members, children, or pets
- Control of what the victim wears and how they act
- Demeaning the victim either privately or publicly
- Embarrassment or humiliation of the victim in front of others
See our Power and Control Wheel for more information.
Why do victims stay?
When it is a viable option, it is best for victims to do what they can to escape their abusers. However, this is not the case in all situations. Abusers repeatedly go to extremes to prevent the victim from leaving. In fact, leaving an abuser is the most dangerous time for a victim of domestic violence. Victims are at 75% greater risk of being killed when they attempt to leave than if they stay.
A victim’s reasons for staying with their abusers are extremely complex and, in most cases, are based on the reality that their abuser will follow through with the threats they have used to keep them trapped: the abuser will hurt or kill them, they will hurt or kill the kids, they will win custody of the children, they will harm or kill pets or others, they will ruin their victim financially — the list goes on. The victim in violent relationships knows their abuser best and fully knows the extent to which they will go to make sure they have and can maintain control over the victim. The victim literally may not be able to safely escape or protect those they love. A recent study of intimate partner homicides found 20% of homicide victims were not the domestic violence victims themselves, but family members, friends, neighbors, persons who intervened, law enforcement responders, or bystanders.
Additional barriers to escaping a violence relationship include by are not limited to:
- The fear that the abuser’s actions will become more violent and may become lethal if the victim attempts to leave
- Unsupportive friends and family
- The victim feeling that the relationship is a mix of good times, love and hope along with the manipulation, intimidation and fear
- The victim’s lack of knowledge of or access to safety and support
- Fear of losing custody of any children if they leave or divorce their abuser or fear the abuser will hurt, or even kill, their children
- Lack of means to support themselves and/or their children financially or lack of access to cash, bank accounts, or assets
- Lack of having somewhere safe to go
- Religious or cultural beliefs and practices may not support divorce or may dictate outdated gender roles and keep the victim trapped in the relationship
- Belief that two parent households are better for children, despite abuse
Do you think you are being abused?
Look over the following questions. Think about how you are being treated and how you treat your partner. Remember, when one person scares, hurts, or continually puts down the other person, it is abuse.
Does your partner …
- Embarrass or make fun of you in front of friends or family? Put down your accomplishments or goals?
- Make you feel like you are unable to make decisions? Use intimidation or threats to gain compliance?
- Tell you that you are nothing without them?
- Treat you roughly — grab, push, pinch, shove or hit you? Threaten or abuse your pets?
- Call you several times a night or show up to make sure you are where you said you would be?
- Use drugs or alcohol as an excuse for saying hurtful things or abusing you?
- Blame you for how they feel or act?
- Pressure you sexually for things you aren’t ready for or don’t want to do?
- Make you feel like there “is no way out” of the relationship?
- Prevent you from doing things you want, like spending time with your friends or family?
- Try to keep you from leaving after a fight, or leave you somewhere after a fight to “teach you a lesson?”
Do you …
- Sometimes feel scared of how your partner will act?
- Constantly make excuses to other people for your partner’s behavior?
- Believe that you can help your partner change if only you changed something about yourself?
- Try not to do anything that would cause conflict or make your partner angry?
- Feel like no matter what you do, your partner is never happy with you?
- Always do what your partner wants you to do instead of what you want?
- Stay with your partner because you are afraid of what your partner would do if you broke up?
Without help, the abuse will continue.
If you are being abused by your partner, know there is nothing you have done or are doing to cause the abuse. It is solely the choice of the abuser to abuse. It may seem impossible to escape your abuser, change your circumstances, or find the help you need, but it is possible. However, you know your abuser best, so think carefully through your situation and circumstances and do what is the best for you. You are not alone and do not deserve to be abused. Our advocates are available 24/7 to help you develop a safety plan. See our Safety Plan for additional information.