Domestic abuse often escalates from threats and verbal abuse to physical violence. Domestic violence may even end up in murder.
The key elements of domestic abuse are:
humiliating the other person
Domestic abuse is not a result of losing control; domestic abuse is intentionally trying to control another person. The abuser is purposefully using verbal, nonverbal, or physical means to gain control over the other person.
In some cultures, control of women by men is accepted as the norm. This article speaks from the orientation that control of intimate partners is domestic abuse within a culture where such control is not the norm. Today we see many cultures moving from the subordination of women to increased equality of women within relationships.
What are the types of domestic abuse?
The types of domestic abuse are:
physical abuse (domestic violence)
verbal or nonverbal abuse (psychological abuse, mental abuse, emotional abuse)
stalking or cyberstalking
economic abuse or financial abuse
The divisions between these types of domestic abuse are somewhat fluid, but there is a strong differentiation between the various forms of physical abuse and the various types of verbal or nonverbal abuse.
What is physical abuse of a spouse or intimate partner?
Physical abuse is 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 ranges from physical restraint to murder. When someone talks of domestic violence, they are often referring to physical abuse of a spouse or intimate partner.
Physical assault or physical battering is a crime, whether it occurs inside a family or outside the family. The police are empowered to protect you from physical attack.
Physical abuse includes:
pushing, throwing, kicking
slapping, grabbing, hitting, punching, beating, tripping, battering, bruising, choking, shaking
holding, restraining, confinement
assault with a weapon such as a knife or gun
What is emotional abuse or verbal abuse of a spouse or intimate partner?
Mental, psychological, or emotional abuse can be verbal or nonverbal. Verbal or nonverbal abuse of a spouse or intimate partner consists of more subtle actions or behaviors than physical abuse. While physical abuse might seem worse, the scars of verbal and emotional abuse are deep. Studies show that verbal or nonverbal abuse can be much more emotionally damaging than physical abuse.
Verbal or nonverbal abuse of a spouse or intimate partner may include:
threatening or intimidating to gain compliance
destruction of the victim’s personal property and possessions, or threats to do so
violence to an object (such as a wall or piece of furniture) or pet, in the presence of the intended victim, as a way of instilling fear of further violence
yelling or screaming
embarrassing, making fun of, or mocking the victim, either alone within the household, in public, or in front of family or friends
criticizing or diminishing the victim’s accomplishments or goals
not trusting the victim’s decision-making
telling the victim that they are worthless on their own, without the abuser
excessive possessiveness, isolation from friends and family
excessive checking-up on the victim to make sure they are at home or where they said they would be
saying hurtful things while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and using the substance as an excuse to say the hurtful things
blaming the victim for how the abuser acts or feels
making the victim remain on the premises after a fight, or leaving them somewhere else after a fight, just to “teach them a lesson”
making the victim feel that there is no way out of the relationship
What is sexual abuse or sexual exploitation of a spouse or intimate partner?
Sexual abuse includes:
sexual assault: forcing someone to participate in unwanted, unsafe, or degrading sexual activity
sexual harassment: ridiculing another person to try to limit their sexuality or reproductive choices
sexual exploitation (such as forcing someone to look at pornography, or forcing someone to participate in pornographic film-making)
Sexual abuse often is linked to physical abuse; they may occur together, or the sexual abuse may occur after a bout of physical abuse.
How do I know if I am in an abusive relationship?
What are the signs and symptoms of an abusive relationship?
The more of the following questions that you answer Yes to, the more likely you are in an abusive relationship.
Examine your answers and seek help if you find that you respond positively to a large number of the questions.
Your inner feelings and dialogue: Fear, self-loathing, numbness, desperation
* Are you fearful of your partner a large percentage of the time?
* Do you avoid certain topics or spend a lot of time figuring out how to talk about certain topics so that you do not arouse your partner’s negative reaction or anger?
* Do you ever feel that you can’t do anything right for your partner?
* Do you ever feel so badly about yourself that you think you deserve to be physically hurt?
* Have you lost the love and respect that you once had for your partner?
* Do you sometimes wonder if you are the one who is crazy, that maybe you are overreacting to your partner’s behaviors?
* Do you sometimes fantasize about ways to kill your partner to get them out of your life?
* Are you afraid that your partner may try to kill you?
* Are you afraid that your partner will try to take your children away from you?
* Do you feel that there is nowhere to turn for help?
* Are you feeling emotionally numb?
* Were you abused as a child, or did you grow up with domestic violence in the household? Does domestic violence seem normal to you?
Your partner’s lack of control over their own behavior
* Does your partner have low self-esteem? Do they appear to feel powerless, ineffective, or inadequate in the world, although they are outwardly successful?
* Does your partner externalize the causes of their own behavior? Do they blame their violence on stress, alcohol, or a “bad day”?
* Is your partner unpredictable?
* Is your partner a pleasant person between bouts of violence?
Your partner’s violent or threatening behavior
* Does your partner have a bad temper?
* Has your partner ever threatened to hurt you or kill you?
* Has your partner ever physically hurt you?
* Has your partner threatened to take your children away from you, especially if you try to leave the relationship?
* Has your partner ever threatened to commit suicide, especially as a way of keeping you from leaving?
* Has your partner ever forced you to have sex when you didn’t want to?
* Has your partner threatened you at work, either in person or on the phone?
* Is your partner cruel to animals?
* Does your partner destroy your belongings or household objects?
Your partner’s controlling behavior
* Does your partner try to keep you from seeing your friends or family?
* Are you embarrassed to invite friends or family over to your house because of your partner’s behavior?
* Has your partner limited your access to money, the telephone, or the car?
* Does your partner try to stop you from going where you want to go outside of the house, or from doing what you want to do?
* Is your partner jealous and possessive, asking where you are going and where you have been, as if checking up on you? Do they accuse you of having an affair?
Your partner’s diminishment of you
* Does your partner verbally abuse you?
* Does your partner humiliate or criticize you in front of others?
* Does your partner often ignore you or put down your opinions or contributions?
* Does your partner always insist that they are right, even when they are clearly wrong?
* Does your partner blame you for their own violent behavior, saying that your behavior or attitudes cause them to be violent?
* Is your partner often outwardly angry with you?
* Does your partner objectify and disrespect those of your gender? Does your partner see you as property or a sex object, rather than as a person?