>> Domestic Violence
If you think your husband or boyfriend is abusive,
or you suspect that someone you know is in an abusive
relationship, review the red flags of domestic violence
and abuse listed in this article. Recognizing the
warning signs and symptoms of spousal abuse is the
first step to breaking free.
If you’re afraid for your immediate safety,
call 911. For help and advice on escaping an abusive
relationship, call the National
Domestic Violence Hotline
(7233) or 1-800-787-3224.
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE and ABUSE
Domestic abuse, also known as spousal abuse, occurs
when one person in an intimate relationship or marriage
tries to dominate and control the other person. An
abuser doesn’t “play fair.” He uses
fear, guilt, shame, and intimidation to wear you down
and gain complete power over you. He may threaten
you, hurt you, or hurt those around you. Domestic
abuse that includes physical violence is called domestic
Victims of domestic abuse or domestic violence may
be men or women, although women are more commonly
victimized. This abuse happens among heterosexual
couples and in same-sex partnerships. Except for the
gender difference, domestic abuse doesn’t discriminate.
It happens within all age ranges, ethnic backgrounds,
and financial levels. The abuse may occur during a
relationship, while the couple is breaking up, or
after the relationship has ended.
Despite what many people believe, domestic violence
is not due to the abuser’s loss of control over
his behavior. In fact, violence is a deliberate choice
made by the abuser in order to take control over his
wife or partner.
Although men also suffer from domestic abuse and violence,
women are five to eight times more likely than men
to be victimized by an intimate partner. Because men
are more often the abusers, abusers are referred to
as "he" in this article.
Behavior is an Abuser's Choice
know an abuser's behaviors are not about anger
Source: Mid-Valley Women's Crisis Service
- He does not batter other individuals
- the boss who does not give him time off or
the gas station attendant that spills gas down
the side of his car. He waits until there are
no witnesses and abuses the person he says he
- If you ask an abused woman,
"can he stop when the phone rings or the
police come to the door?" She will say
"yes". Most often when the police
show up, he is looking calm, cool and collected
and she is the one who may look hysterical.
If he were truly "out of control"
he would not be able to stop himself when it
is to his advantage to do so.
- The abuser very often escalates from
pushing and shoving to hitting in places where
the bruises and marks will not show. If he were
"out of control" or "in a rage"
he would not be able to direct or limit where
his kicks or punches land.
Spousal abuse and battery are used for one purpose:
to gain and maintain total control over the victim.
In addition to physical violence, abusers use the
following tactics to exert power over their wives
- Dominance — Abusive
individuals need to feel in charge of the relationship.
They will make decisions for you and the family,
tell you what to do, and expect you to obey without
question. Your abuser may treat you like a servant,
child, or even as his possession.
- Humiliation — An abuser
will do everything he can to make you feel bad
about yourself, or defective in some way. After
all, if you believe you're worthless and that
no one else will want you, you're less likely
to leave. Insults, name-calling, shaming, and
public put-downs are all weapons of abuse designed
to erode your self-esteem and make you feel powerless.
- Isolation — In order
to increase your dependence on him, an abusive
partner will cut you off from the outside world.
He may keep you from seeing family or friends,
or even prevent you from going to work or school.
You may have to ask permission to do anything,
go anywhere, or see anyone. (Source: Domestic
Abuse Intervention Project, MN)
- Threats — Abusers commonly
use threats to keep their victims from leaving
or to scare them into dropping charges. Your abuser
may threaten to hurt or kill you, your children,
other family members, or even pets. He may also
threaten to commit suicide, file false charges
against you, or report you to child services.
- Intimidation — Your
abuser may use a variety of intimation tactics
designed to scare you into submission. Such tactics
include making threatening looks or gestures,
smashing things in front of you, destroying property,
hurting your pets, or putting weapons on display.
The clear message is that if you don't obey, there
will be violent consequences.
- Denial and blame — Abusers
are very good at making excuses for the inexcusable.
They will blame their abusive and violent behavior
on a bad childhood, a bad day, and even on the
victims of their abuse. Your abuser may minimize
the abuse or deny that it occurred. He will commonly
shift the responsibility onto you: Somehow, his
violence and abuse is your fault.
Domestic abuse falls into a common pattern,
or cycle of violence:
- Abuse — The abuser
lashes out with aggressive or violent behavior.
The abuse is a power play designed to show
the victim "who is boss."
- Guilt — After
the abusive episode, the abuser feels guilt,
but not over
what he's done to the victim. The guilt is
over the possibility of being caught
and facing consequences.
- Rationalization or excuses
— The abuser rationalizes what he's
done. He may come up with a string of excuses
or blame the victim for his own abusive
behavior—anything to shift responsibility
- "Normal" behavior
— The abuser does everything he can
to regain control and keep the victim in
the relationship. He may act as if nothing
has happened, or he may turn on the charm.
This peaceful honeymoon phase may give the
victim hope that the abuser has really changed
- Fantasy and planning
— The abuser begins to fantasize about
abusing his victim again, spending a lot
of time thinking about what she's done wrong
and how he'll make her pay. Then he makes
a plan for turning the fantasy of abuse
- Set-up — The abuser
sets up the victim and puts his plan in
motion, creating a situation where he can
justify abusing her.
FULL CYCLE OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
|A man abuses
his partner. After he hits her, he experiences
self-directed guilt. He says,
"I'm sorry for hurting you." What
he does not say is, "Because I might get
caught." He then rationalizes
his behavior by saying that his partner is having
an affair with someone. He tells her "If
you weren't such a worthless whore I wouldn't
have to hit you." He then acts
contrite, reassuring her that he will
not hurt her again. He then fantasizes
and reflects on past abuse and how he will hurt
her again. He plans on telling
her to go to the store to get some groceries.
What he withholds from her is that she has a
certain amount of time to do the shopping. When
she is held up in traffic and is a few minutes
late, he feels completely justified in assaulting
her because "you're having an affair with
the store clerk." He has just set
Source: Mid-Valley Women's Crisis Service
Your abuser’s apologies and loving gestures
in between the episodes of abuse can make it difficult
to leave. He may make you believe that you are the
only person who can help him, that things will be
different this time, and that he truly loves you.
However, the dangers of staying are real.
Domestic abuse often escalates from threats and verbal
abuse to physical violence and even murder. And while
physical injury may be the most obvious danger, the
emotional and psychological consequences of domestic
abuse are also severe. No one deserves this kind of
pain—and your first step to breaking free is
recognizing that your situation is abusive. Once you
acknowledge the reality of the abusive situation,
then you can get the help you need.
SIGNS OF AN ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIP
There are many signs of an abusive relationship. The
most significant sign is fear of your partner. Other
signs include a partner who belittles you or tries
to control you, and feelings of self-loathing, helplessness,
To determine whether your relationship is abusive,
answer the questions in the table below. The more
“yes” answers, the more likely it is that
you’re in an abusive relationship.
TYPES OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
|SIGNS OF AN ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIP
|Your Inner Thoughts and
Your Partner’s Violent Behavior
- feel afraid of your partner much
of the time?
- avoid certain topics out of fear
of angering your partner?
- feel that you can’t do anything
right for your partner?
- believe that you deserve to be
hurt or mistreated?
- wonder if you’re the one
who is crazy?
- feel emotionally numb or helpless?
Does your partner:
- have a bad and unpredictable temper?
- hurt you, or threaten to hurt or
- threaten to take your children
away or harm them?
- threaten to commit suicide if you
- force you to have sex?
- destroy your belongings?
|Your Partner’s Belittling Behavior
Does your partner:
- humiliate, criticize, or yell at
- treat you so badly that you’re
embarrassed for your friends or family
- ignore or put down your opinions
- blame you for his own abusive behavior?
- see you as property or a sex object,
rather than as a person?
Your Partner’s Controlling
Does your partner:
- act excessively jealous and possessive?
- control where you go or what you
- keep you from seeing your friends
- limit your access to money, the
phone, or the car?
- constantly check up on you?
There are different types of domestic abuse, including
emotional, physical, sexual, and economic abuse. Many
abusers behave in ways that include more than one
type of domestic abuse, and the boundaries between
some of these behaviors may overlap.
Emotional or psychological abuse
Emotional or psychological abuse can be verbal or
nonverbal. Its aim is to chip away at your feelings
of self-worth and independence. If you’re the
victim of emotional abuse, you may feel that there
is no way out of the relationship, or that without
your abusive partner you have nothing. Emotional abuse
includes verbal abuse such as yelling, name-calling,
blaming, and shaming. Isolation, intimidation, and
controlling behavior also fall under emotional abuse.
Additionally, abusers who use emotional or psychological
abuse often throw in threats of physical violence.
You may think that physical abuse is far worse than
emotional abuse, since physical violence can send
you to the hospital and leave you with scars. But,
the scars of emotional abuse are very real, and they
run deep. In fact, emotional abuse can be just as
damaging as physical abuse—sometimes even more
so. Furthermore, emotional abuse usually worsens over
time, often escalating to physical battery.
When people talk about domestic violence, they are
often referring to the physical abuse of a spouse
or intimate partner. Physical abuse is the use of
physical force against someone in a way that injures
or endangers that person. There’s a broad range
of behaviors that come under the heading of physical
abuse, including hitting, grabbing, choking, throwing
things, and assault with a weapon.
Physical assault or battering is a crime, whether
it occurs inside or outside of the family. The police
have the power and authority to protect you from physical
Sexual abuse is common in abusive relationships. According
to the National
Coalition Against Domestic Violence
, between one-third
and one-half of all battered women are raped by their
partners at least once during their relationship.
Any situation in which you are forced to participate
in unwanted, unsafe, or degrading sexual activity
is sexual abuse. Forced sex, even by a spouse or intimate
partner with whom you also have consensual sex, is
an act of aggression and violence. Furthermore, women
whose partners abuse them physically and sexually
are at a higher risk of being seriously injured or
Economic or financial abuse
Remember, an abuser’s goal is to control you,
and he will frequently hurt you to do that. In addition
to hurting you emotionally and physically, an abusive
partner may also hurt you in the pocketbook. Economic
of financial abuse includes:
VIOLENCE WARNING SIGNS
- Controlling the finances.
- Withholding money or credit cards.
- Giving you an allowance.
- Making you account for every penny you
- Stealing from you or taking your money.
- Exploiting your assets for personal gain.
- Withholding basic necessities (food,
clothes, medications, shelter).
- Preventing you from working or choosing
your own career.
- Sabotaging your job (making you miss
work, calling constantly)
It's impossible to know with certainty what goes on
behind closed doors, but there are some telltale signs
and symptoms of domestic violence and abuse. If you
witness a number of warning signs in a friend, family
member, or co-worker, you can reasonably suspect domestic
- Frequent injuries, with the excuse of
- Frequent and sudden absences from work
- Frequent, harassing phone calls from
- Fear of the partner, references to the
- Personality changes (e.g. an outgoing
woman becomes withdrawn)
- Excessive fear of conflict
- Submissive behavior, lack of assertiveness
- Isolation from friends and family
- Insufficient resources to live (money,
credit cards, car)
- Depression, crying, low self-esteem
Reporting suspected domestic abuse is important. If
you're afraid of getting involved, remember that the
report is confidential and everything possible will
be done to protect your privacy. You don’t have
to give your name, and your suspicions will be investigated
before anyone is taken into custody. Most important,
you can protect the victim from further harm by calling
Call 911 or the police in your community if you suspect
a case of domestic violence.
Pat Davies, Melinda Smith, M.A., Tina de Benedictis,
Ph.D., Jaelline Jaffe, Ph.D., and Jeanne Segal, Ph.D.,
contributed to this article. Last modified on 12/14/07.
Reprinted with permission from http://www.helpguide.org/.
C 2008 Helpguide.org. All rights reserved.
You can find the original article at
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