What is Domestic Violence?
Throughout the United States, 1 out of every 4 women – and 1 out of every 7 men – will experience domestic violence in their lifetime. Here in Arizona, in a single 24-hour period in 2015, 1,106 victims of domestic violence were being served in emergency shelter or transitional housing programs and another 546 victims of domestic violence were receiving non-residential assistance. In 2015, more than 100 Arizonans were killed in domestic violence related homicides.
When many people hear or read the words “domestic violence,” they immediately think of one intimate partner hitting another. However, domestic violence is not always physical. In fact, domestic violence takes many different forms, including sexual, verbal, emotional, and financial.
This article describes the most common forms of domestic violence as well as some of the most common warning signs of domestic abuse. To learn more about resources available to victims of domestic violence, please see the “Statewide Resources for Victims of Domestic Violence” article on this website.
What is domestic violence?
Domestic violence is a pattern of power and control by one intimate partner against another. The perpetrator’s abuse has a purpose: to exercise and increase their power over the victim so that they can control the victim.
This pattern of power and control usually involves more than one form of abuse. Sometimes, the perpetrator of domestic violence uses physical abuse to control the victim. Sometimes, the perpetrator of domestic violence uses other forms of abuse to control the victim. Sometimes, the perpetrator of domestic violence uses both physical and non-physical forms of abuse to control the victim. Sometimes, the perpetrator leaves the victim alone for a while before later abusing the victim again.
Is domestic violence an impulse control or anger management problem?
No. Domestic violence abusers act deliberately and strategically. They abuse their intimate partners to increase and maintain their power and control. They do not abuse their intimate partners because they cannot control their impulses or because they cannot properly manage their anger.
Domestic violence abusers often try to deny that they are abusing their intimate partners or to minimize the seriousness of the abuse. They often also try to find excuses for why they abuse their intimate partners, by blaming external causes such as stress or addiction and even by blaming their intimate partners.
But domestic violence is not an accident. Domestic violence abusers abuse for a purpose: to increase and maintain their power and control.
What are the most common forms of domestic violence?
The most common forms of domestic violence, many of which overlap, are the following:
Physical abuse includes:
• Hitting, kicking, biting, slapping, shaking, pushing, pulling, punching, choking, beating, scratching, pinching, stabbing, shooting, drowning, or burning the victim; threatening to physically assault the victim; threatening the victim with a weapon
• Keeping physical needs from the victim, including interrupting the victim’s sleep or meals; denying the victim money, food, or transportation; denying the victim help if the victim is sick or injured; locking the victim into or out of their house
• Abusing, injuring, or threatening to injure others such as children or pets
• Physically restraining the victim against their will; trapping the victim in a room or blocking their exit; holding the victim down
• Hitting or kicking walls, doors, or other objects during an argument with the victim; throwing things in anger in the presence of the victim
• Damaging, destroying, or threatening to damage or destroy the victim’s or someone else’s property
Sexual abuse includes:
• Having sex with a victim who cannot consent to sexual activity because they are asleep, drunk, drugged, disabled, too young, too old, or dependent upon or afraid of the perpetrator
• Making sexual contact with the victim in any non-consensual way, including through unwanted penetration or touching
• Using force, coercion, guilt, or manipulation to have sex with the victim
• Refusing to use or lying about using birth control or STD protection
• Threatening to publicly “out” the victim
• Making the victim have sex with others, have unwanted sexual experiences, or be involuntarily involved in sex work
• Laughing or making fun of the victim’s body or sexuality; making offensive statements, insulting, or name-calling in relation to the victim’s sexual identity, preferences, or behavior
• Making false accusations of infidelity against the victim
• Having affairs with other people and using that information to taunt the victim
• Withholding sex from the victim as a mechanism of control
Verbal abuse includes:
• Threatening to hurt or kill the victim or their children, family, friends, pets, property, or reputation
• Yelling or screaming at the victim
• Refusing to talk to the victim
Emotional abuse includes:
• Insulting or criticizing the victim to undermine their self-confidence, self-esteem, or self-worth
• Gas-lighting the victim; blaming the victim; lying to the victim; guilt-tripping the victim
• Publicly humiliating the victim
• Threatening to leave the victim; threatening to commit suicide
• Threatening to report the victim to the authorities; threatening to publicly expose the victim’s personal information
• Using statements or behaviors to create confusion and insecurity in the victim, such as saying one thing and doing another, stating untrue facts as truth, or neglecting to follow through on stated intentions
• Denying that abuse has occurred and/or telling the victim that they are imagining it
• Telling the victim or other people that the victim is mentally unstable or incompetent
• Consistently disregarding, ignoring, or neglecting the victim’s needs and requests
Economic abuse includes:
• Controlling the family income; limiting the victim’s access to money; making the victim turn over their paychecks
• Refusing to pay or threatening not to pay important bills
• Giving the victim an insufficient allowance
• Preventing the victim from getting or keeping a job, including by making them late for work, by refusing to drive them to work, or by calling or harassing them at work
• Excluding the victim from major budget decisions
• Intentionally ruining the victim’s credit
• Stealing money from the victim
• Keeping financial secrets from the victim; keeping and using hidden accounts
Abuse through control includes:
• Not allowing the victim to use a phone or computer
• Monitoring the victim’s use of their phone or computer
• Calling the victim or coming home unexpectedly to check up on them
• Checking the mileage on the odometer after the victim uses the car
• Not allowing the victim to choose their own clothing, hairstyle, or makeup
• Invading the victim’s privacy by not allowing them time and space of their own
• Forcing or encouraging dependency by making the victim believe that they are incapable of surviving or performing simple tasks on their own or without the abuser
• Using children to control the victim by using the children as spies, by threatening to kill, hurt, or kidnap the children, by threatening physical and/or sexual abuse of the children, or by threatening to call the Department of Child Safety if the victim leaves the relationship or reports the abuser
Abuse through isolation includes:
• Not allowing the victim to communicate with certain people; choosing who the victim may communicate with
• Limiting the victim’s involvement in life outside the relationship
• Keeping the victim from spending time with their family or friends
• Saying or doing things to damage or destroy the victim’s relationships with other people
Abuse through stalking includes:
• Sending unwanted texts or emails to the victim
• Sending unwanted items (such as flowers) to the victim
• Harassing the victim on line
• Stealing or changing the victim’s personal passwords
• Stealing or reading the victim’s mail
• Listening to the victim’s phone conversations
• Following the victim; spying on the victim
• Breaking into the victim’s house or car; trespassing on the victim’s property; stealing things from the victim
• Calling the police on the victim; “swatting” the victim
• Harassing or intimidating the victim by filing unnecessary court pleadings against them
• Filing for custody of the victim’s children regardless of the children’s best interest
• Violating a protective order
What are some of the most common warning signs of domestic abuse?
Some of the most common warning signs of domestic abuse in the perpetrator are the following:
• The perpetrator is extremely jealous or possessive of the victim
• The perpetrator monitors the victim’s communications and activities
• The perpetrator constantly texts or calls the victim
• The perpetrator controls the victim’s choices
• The perpetrator undermines the victim’s independence
• The perpetrator blames the victim for everything bad that happens
• The perpetrator is physically or verbally abusive toward the victim
• The perpetrator is physically or verbally abusive toward the victim’s children, family, friends, or pets
• The perpetrator threatens to hurt or kill themselves
• The perpetrator controls all the finances
• The perpetrator criticizes the victim’s appearance
• The perpetrator deliberately insults or humiliates the victim in public
• The perpetrator harasses the victim at work
• The perpetrator damages or destroys the victim’s property
• The perpetrator claims that the victim is mentally ill
• The perpetrator claims that the victim is cheating on them
• The perpetrator forces unwanted sex on the victim or refuses to use birth control
Some of the most common warning signs of domestic abuse in the victim are the following:
• The victim has physical injuries that cannot be explained
• The victim wears clothes that seem inappropriate for the season, occasion, or time of day (to cover up bruises)
• The victim makes excuses for their intimate partner’s abusive behavior
• The victim keeps blaming themselves for the problems within their relationship
• The victim is constantly checking in with their intimate partner to report on where they are, what they are doing, and who they are doing it with
• The victim is overly worried about pleasing their intimate partner
• The victim is required to share their personal passwords with their intimate partner
• The victim is frequently absent from work or school without explanation
• The victim is isolating themselves from their family or friends
• The victim no longer has confidence in themselves and lacks self-esteem
• The victim seems overly nervous or anxious
• The victim is always tired or sick
• The victim is employed but has no money
Sources and further reading
To learn more about domestic violence, please see the following:
Arizona Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence – “Domestic Violence Myths and Misconceptions”: https://www.acesdv.org/domestic-violence-graphics/domestic-violence-myths-and-misconceptions
Arizona Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence – “The Impact of Domestic Violence”: https://www.acesdv.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/2016-DV-factsheet-final.pdf
Arizona Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence – “Types of Domestic Violence”: https://www.acesdv.org/domestic-violence-graphics/types-of-abuse
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – “Intimate Partner Violence”: https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/intimatepartnerviolence/index.html
National Coalition Against Domestic Violence – “Domestic Violence in Arizona”: https://assets.speakcdn.com/assets/2497/arizona_2019.pdf
National Coalition Against Domestic Violence – “Dynamics of Abuse”: https://ncadv.org/dynamics-of-abuse
National Coalition Against Domestic Violence – “Signs of Abuse”: https://ncadv.org/signs-of-abuse
National Institute of Justice – “Overview of Intimate Partner Violence”: https://nij.ojp.gov/topics/articles/overview-intimate-partner-violence
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Women’s Health – “Domestic or Intimate Partner Violence”: https://www.womenshealth.gov/relationships-and-safety/domestic-violence
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