What is domestic abuse?
Domestic abuse, also called "domestic violence" or “intimate partner violence,” is when one person in a relationship uses a pattern of behavior to control and cause fear in the other person in the relationship. This behavior can hurt, manipulate, blame, or injure the victim-survivor. The abuser uses this behavior to get the victim-survivor to do something, or to stop them from doing something.
An abuser can be an intimate partner, dating partner, family or household member or caregiver. Abuser’s actions are purposeful, chosen, and based on the belief that the abuser has the right to have power and control over the victim-survivor.
What does abuse look like?
Anyone can be a perpetrator of abuse or a victim-survivor, regardless of, race, religion, sexual orientation, economic or social status, education, profession, geographic location, ethnicity, ability, immigration status, age or childhood experience.
Here are some examples of how an abuser may behave:
- Call the victim-survivor names, insult the victim-survivor or putting the victim down
- Call the victim-survivor crazy
- Deny, minimize or makes light of the abuse
- Stop the victim-survivor from going to work, school, or a health care provider
- Blame the victim-survivor for the abuse, or tell them they caused it or deserve it
- Discourage or stop the victim-survivor from seeing friends and family
- Read or go through the victim-survivor’s phone, mail or personal property
- Limit the victim-survivor’s money or refuse to pay child support
- Accuse the partner of cheating
- Use alcohol or other substances as an excuse for one's behavior or anger
- Intimidate or make the victim-survivor feel like the victim-survivor is “walking on eggshells”
- Hit, kick, shove, slap, choke or the victim-survivor, children or pets
- Force or pressure the victim-survivor into sex or sexual acts
- Cause the victim-survivor to think about – or act on – calling the police
- Threaten the victim-survivor with physical violence or a weapon
- Tell the victim-survivor they will kill themselves, or the victim-survivor, if the victim-survivor leaves
Domestic physical abuse is common and widespread. According to a 2010 Center for Disease Control (CDC) study, 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men has experienced severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime (i.e. hit with a fist or something hard, beaten or slammed against something).
Your Identity Impacts Your Experience
A person's gender, race, age and other identities intersect to make up who they are. This is called "Intersectionality," a term coined by Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw. Abusers may use tactics specific to their victim-survivor’s identity (i.e., ethnicity, sexual orientation) to control them.
If the victim-survivor is part of the LGTBQ+ community:
- Threaten to “out” them to friends, family, work, etc.
- Try to convince the victim-survivor that the police won’t help because they are trans or gay.
If the victim-survivor is BIPOC (Black, Indigenous or a Person of Color):
- Accuse the victim-survivor of contributing to harmful stereotypes if they disclose the abuse.
- Say they can’t tell anyone because it will add to a harmful stereotype about BIPOC individuals.
- Call the victim-survivor racial slurs.
If the victim-survivor is differently abled:
- Refuse to allow their home to be made more accessible for the victim-survivor.
- Hide or break equipment they use or need.
Friends and Family
Friends and family members want the victim-survivor to be safe and may tell the victim-survivor to end the relationship with the abuser. But telling a victim-survivor to leave blames the victim-survivors for the abuse and is not sound advice. The most dangerous time for a domestic abuse victim-survivor is during the process of—or shortly after—leaving their partner. The decision if or when to end a relationship is entirely up to the victim-survivor and takes safety planning.
Every victim-survivor’s experience is unique and results in different emotions and needs. Victim-survivors may blame themselves for the abuse, be angry at themselves for not ending the relationship, or feel confused because they still love the abuser. All feelings are normal and valid. New Hope for Women works from an empowerment model. That means we listen to the victim-survivor and discuss options to support them as they create pathways to safety and fulfill their goals. We believe victim-survivors know the most about their own situation and what options will work best for them.
Any victim-survivor or concerned other is welcome to reach out to us 24/7 at 800-522-3304.