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About the Issue
Domestic violence is a set of behaviors abusers deliberately use with their intimate partners to maintain power and control over them and the relationship. Partners should treat each other with respect and care. Healthy relationships should not include abusive behavior, such as name-calling or physical injuries.
What is domestic violence?
Domestic violence is an intentional pattern of physical, emotional, economic, and other tactics to instill fear and to coerce intimate partners to act against their own will or best interests. Victims should not blame themselves—it is not their fault.
The behavior can be subtle with abusers using a variety of ways to gain control, including insulting their partners, controlling their contact with family members and friends, or limiting how their partners can spend money. Abuse can worsen and become more frequent with consistent physical injuries, such as hitting or slapping; sexual assaults; or threats for victims’ safety.
What are some types of domestic violence?
There isn’t a single definition for domestic violence. It can take on several forms with a range of behaviors. There are some common areas where abuse often occurs:
- Physical abuse. This includes pain, injury, and harm, such as beating, kicking, suffocation, or slapping.
- Sexual abuse. This includes sexual harassment, sexual assault, or manipulating a person into having sex through guilt or threats.
- Emotional and/or verbal abuse. This includes constant criticism, threatening to hurt loved ones, or harassment at school or in the workplace.
- Economic abuse. This includes controlling a person’s income or financial assistance, misusing one’s credit, or making it difficult for a person to get or maintain a job.
- Psychological abuse. This includes minimizing or blaming a person for the abuse, intimidation, and/or threats or destroying property.
- Digital abuse. This includes controlling your passwords and social media accounts, searching your phone and text messages, and monitoring you with a GPS or related system.
What actions are considered domestic violence?
Several violent actions or threats comprise behaviors often associated with domestic violence. Abusers will use these maneuvers:
Why doesn’t a victim just leave the abuser?
While domestic violence victims may deal with severe abuse from their partners, they may still remain in the relationship. This can be confusing to family and friends who want their loved ones to be safe and have a violence-free life. It isn’t always easy to escape the abuse and remove the perpetrator from their lives. It is an individual decision.
The pattern of abusive behavior may begin well into a relationship after a strong attachment has formed and partners have experienced major life events together. The victim may have been in the relationship for a long time, may live with the perpertrator, and may be married and share children. These factors can become challenges to face when deciding to leave a relationship.
A victim may be in love with their abuser despite the unhealthy relationship. The offender could have been affectionate at some point, which can make a partner hold onto hope that the behavior will change.
Domestic violence can sometimes be hard to recognize. Victims may not realize they are experiencing abuse, especially when it can be subtle like intimidation or acting jealous. It can also be hard to grasp that someone they love can be hurting them. Some may also think they did something wrong to cause the abuse even though it is never a victim’s fault.
A parent may remain with a partner for the sake of their children. It may seem like the best option for children is to have a two-part household. Victims may also depend financially on the abusers causing concern that they won’t be able to care for their children on their own. It can, however, be more harmful to keep children exposed to such abuse, as they are vulnerable to being hurt themselves and can experience trauma.
Money and finances
Abusers may prevent their partners from working or they may control bank accounts and how money is spent. This can result in victims being unable to support themselves if they leave the relationship.
It isn’t easy to admit to being abused. If a partner leaves a relationship, other people in their lives may ask questions about the circumstances of the separation. This can make a survivor feel embarrassed and judged. Although this can cause worry, survivors should know there isn’t anything to be ashamed of and they did nothing wrong.
When victims realize they are in an abusive relationship, they may not feel ready to walk away from the relationship and the life they know right away. It is a survivor’s decision to move on from the relationship in their own time and pace.