What is Domestic Violence?

Domestic violence is a learned pattern of physical, verbal, sexual and/or emotional behavior in which one person in a relationship uses force and intimidation to dominate or control the other person. The partners may be married or not; heterosexual or homosexual; living together, separated, dating, have a child in common; or related by blood. Domestic violence occurs within all ethnic groups, all religions, all economic brackets, and all degrees of physical and mental ability, all categories of sexual preference, and all age groups.

Physical Abuse

pinching; shoving; kicking; grabbing; jerking; slapping; punching; spitting on; pulling hair or ears; scratching; strangling; twisting arms; bending back fingers or toes; restraining against will; throwing out of a vehicle; dragging; imprisoning; throwing objects at; burning; throwing down stairs, against a wall or furniture, etc.

Sexual Abuse

rape (often after a battery or when victim is asleep); forcing to perform degrading and/or humiliating acts; forcing victim to “perform” in front of others or the children; forcing victim to “pose” for degrading and/or humiliating pictures, etc.

Emotional Abuse

name-calling; put downs; insults; extreme “jealousy” (possessiveness); criticism; sexual “jokes”; degrading references; withholding affection as “punishment”; “jokes” concerning the victim’s appearance, mannerisms, faults, gender; threats and intimidation; insulting victim’s abilities as a parent, spouse, lover; resenting and/or mistreating children because of attention victim shows to children; accusing victim of having affairs; telling partner about one’s own affairs; threatening to abuse and/or take children away from victim; threatening to kill self and/or children if partner tries to leave; threatening to assault others (victim’s parents, siblings, best friend) if s/he tries to leave; screaming and yelling; ignoring victim; demanding that victim account for every minute of the day; icy silences; gross selfishness; dishonesty; attitude of entitlement; manipulation; arrogance; always blaming decisions and behaviors on victim; exploiting any perceived weakness the victim may have; Dr. Jekyll/ Mr. Hyde syndrome; etc.

Economic Abuse

Economic abuse occurs where one partner has control over all financial resources. For example, a man may forbid the woman to work, or, if she does, he may insist that she hand her paycheck over to him. She may have to beg for money to buy necessities and when it is given, it may often be insufficient. She is then criticized for being stupid and incompetent in failing to provide adequately with her “allowance.”

Social Abuse

This may include: delivering verbal abuse in front of other people, such as put-downs, “jokes,” criticisms about partner’s weight, appearance, sexuality, intelligence, etc.; controlling behaviors such as following partner to work, controlling access to friends, constant phone calls at work, or accusations of imagined affairs etc.; isolating partner by tearing down friends and family and causing arguments; locking partner in or out of the house, cutting off the telephone, never letting partner use the car, etc. Social abuse is the constant monitoring and control of a partner’s activities, outings, and friendships.

How are you affected?

  • Are you unable or afraid to make decisions for yourself?
  • Do you do anything you can to avoid upsetting your partner?
  • Do you make excuses for your partner’s behavior?
  • Are you forgetful, confused or unable to concentrate?
  • Have you noticed changes in your eating, sleeping, alcohol or drug use?
  • Have you lost interest in or energy to do things you used to enjoy?
  • Do you feel sick, anxious, tired or depressed a lot of the time?
  • Have you lost contact with friends, family or neighbors?
  • Have you lost self-confidence and feel afraid that you could not make it on your own?
  • What can you do about it?
  • Realize that emotional abuse is a serious problem and you can get help.
  • Recognize that emotional abuse is as bad as or worse than physical abuse.
  • Take your own safety and the safety of your children seriously.
  • Know that emotional abuse can lead to sexual and physical violence or death.
  • Know that you are not responsible for your partner’s abusive behavior.
  • Find people to talk to who can support you. Consider going for counseling.
  • Do not give up if traditional therapists are not helpful. Keep looking for someone who will listen to you and take domestic abuse seriously.
  • Recognize that you have the right to make your own decisions, in your own time, and that dealing with any form of abuse may take time.

Trust yourself and your own experiences. Believe in your own strengths. Remember that you are your own best source of knowledge and strength, and that you already have the tools you need to survive.


Characteristics of a Batterer

You may be in an abusive relationship if your partner:

  • Is jealous or possessive toward you.
  • Tries to control you by being very bossy or demanding.
  • Tries to isolate you by demanding you cut off social contacts and friendships.
  • Is violent and/or loses his or her temper quickly.
  • Pressures you sexually, demands sexual activities you are not comfortable with (or withholds affection in an attempt to control you).
  • Abuses drugs or alcohol.
  • Claims you are responsible for his or her emotional state.
  • Blames you when he or she mistreats you.
  • Has a history of bad relationships.
  • Makes “jokes” that shame, humiliate, demean or embarrass you, whether privately or around family and friends.
  • Grew up witnessing an abusive parental relationship, and/or was abused as a child.
  • Goes into “rages” when they feel hurt, shame, fear or loss of control.

Other red flags include the following:

  • Your family and friends have warned you about the person or told you that they are concerned for your safety or emotional well being.
  • You frequently worry about how he or she will react to things you say or do.
  • Both parties in abusive relationships may develop or progress in drug or alcohol dependence in a (dysfunctional) attempt to cope with the pain.
  • You leave and then return to your partner repeatedly, against the advice of your friends, family and loved ones.
  • You have trouble ending the relationship, even though you know inside it’s the right thing to do.

Tactics of Batterers

Does your partner…

  • Constantly keep track of your time?
  • Act jealous and possessive?
  • Accuse you of being unfaithful or flirting?
  • Discourage your relationships with friends and family?
  • Prevent or discourage you from working, interacting with friends or attending school?
  • Criticize or belittle you?
  • Control all finances and force you to account for what you spend? (Reasonable cooperative budgeting excepted.)
  • Humiliate you in front of others? (Including “jokes” at your expense.)
  • Destroy or take your personal property or sentimental items?
  • Have affairs?
  • Threaten to hurt you, your children or pets? Threaten to use a weapon?
  • Push, hit, slap, punch, kick, or bite you or your children?
  • Force you to have sex against your will, or demand sexual acts you are uncomfortable with?

Cycle of Violence

Tension Buildup Stage:  This is usually the longest period of the cycle.

The abuser may:

  • be moody, sullen faultfinding and very critical
  • withdraw affection
  • isolate partner
  • drink and/or take drugs
  • make threats
  • destroy partner’s personal property
  • engage in inconsistent behavior

The victim may:

  • attempt to keep partner calm
  • become overly accommodating, agreeable, and nurturing
  • become silent or overly talkative
  • withdraw from/avoid family and friends
  • try to keep the kids quiet and “out of the way”
  • Constantly feel as if she is “walking on eggshells”

Explosion Stage:  This is usually the briefest period of the cycle.

  • beat partner, often severely
  • rape partner
  • attack partner
  • isolate partner with weapon
  • isolate partner from family and friends
  • imprison partner
  • become extremely verbally abusive
  • humiliate and degrade partner, often publicly

Honeymoon Stage:  

The abuser may:

  • apologize, cry, and beg for forgiveness
  • make declarations of love and want to “start over”
  • promise to get help, to go for counseling to AA, to do “whatever it take”
  • send flowers and presents
  • take partner out lavishly
  • enlist support from family, friends, clergy and the children
  • promise it will never happen again

The victim may:

  • agree to stay, return, or take abuser back
  • cancel or try to cancel legal proceedings
  • make appointments with counselor or therapist for abuser and self
  • cancel those appointments because things seem to be better
  • feel happy and hopeful
  • believe it will never happen again

Adapted from Domestic Abuse Services, Inc. at www.dasi.org


Stalking is a series of actions that make you feel afraid or in danger.  Stalking is serious, often violent, and can escalate over time.  STALKING IS A CRIME.

A stalker can be someone that you know well or not at all.  Most have dated or been involved with the people they stalk.  About 75% of stalking cases are men stalking women, but men do stalk men, women do stalk women, and women do stalk men.

Some things stalkers do:

  • Follow you and show up wherever you are.
  • Repeatedly call you, including hang-ups.
  • Damage your home, car, or other property.
  • Send unwanted gifts, letters, cards, or e-mails.
  • Monitor your phone calls or computer use.
  • Use technology, like hidden cameras or global positioning systems (GPS), to track where you go.
  • Drive by or hang out at your home, school, or work.
  • Threaten to hurt you, your family, friends, or pets.
  • Find out about you by using public records or on-line search services, hiring investigators, going through your trash, or contacting friends, family, neighbors, or co-workers.
  • Other actions that control, track, or frighten you.

Things you can do:

  • If you are in immediate danger, call 911.
  • Trust your instincts.  Don’t downplay the danger.  If you feel you are unsafe, you probably are.
  • Take threats seriously.  Danger generally is higher when the stalker talks about suicide or murder, or when a victim tries to leave or end the relationship.
  • Contact a crisis hotline, victim service agency, or a domestic violence or rape crisis program.  They can help you develop a safety plan, give you information about local laws, refer you to other services, and weigh options such as seeking a protection order.
  • Develop a safety plan, including things like changing your routine, arranging a place to stay, and having a friend or relative go places with you.  Also, decide in advance what to do if the stalker shows up at your home, work, school, or somewhere else.  Tell people how they can help you.
  • Don’t communicate with the stalker or respond to attempts to contact you.
  • Keep evidence of the stalking.  Write down times, dates, places and witnesses of any suspicious or threatening incidents.
  • Contact the police.  The stalker may have a criminal record.
  • Tell family, friends, and coworkers about the stalking and seek their support.

Stalking Resource Center: 1-800-FYI-CALL

National Center for Victims of Crime: www.ncvc.org or gethelp@ncvc.org.

The Effects of Domestic Violence on Children

Domestic violence affects every member of the family, including children. Family violence creates a home environment where children live in constant fear. Children who witness family violence are affected in ways similar to children who are physically abused. They are often unable to establish nurturing bonds with either parent.  Children are at greater risk for abuse and neglect if they live in a violent home. Statistics show that over 3 million children witness violence in their homes each year. Those who see and hear violence in the home suffer physically and emotionally, often for a lifetime.

“Families under stress produce children under stress. If a spouse is being abused and there are children in the home, the children are affected by the abuse.” (Ackerman and Pickering, 1989)

Animal Cruelty and Family Violence

Pets are part of the family in the majority of American households, where nearly ¾ of families with school-age children have at least one companion animal. These animals are often treated like members of the family, but if the family is experiencing violence the pets can become targets as well. Pets are often an important source of comfort and stability to the victims of abuse, particularly children. Abusive family members may threaten, injure, or kill pets, often as a way of threatening or controlling others in the family.

A 1997 survey of 50 of the largest shelters for battered women in the United States found that 85% of women and 63% of children entering shelters discussed incidents of pet abuse in the family. Children who have witnessed domestic violence or who have been the victim of physical or sexual abuse may also become animal abusers themselves, imitating the violence they have seen or experienced. A study conducted in 1995 noted that 32% of the pet-owning victims of domestic abuse reported that one or more of their children had hurt or killed a pet. Similarly, a 1983 study noted that children were reported to be abusive to animals in more than 1/3 of a sample of pet-owning families referred to New Jersey’s Division of Youth and Family Services for suspected child abuse.

Batters threaten, abuse, or kill animals to:

  • Demonstrate and confirm power and control over the family.
  • Isolate the victim and children.
  • Eliminate competition for attention.
  • Force the family to keep violence a secret.
  • Teach submission.
  • Retaliate for acts of independence and self-determination.
  • Perpetuate the context of terror.
  • Prevent the victim from leaving or coerce her/him to return.
  • Punish the victim for leaving.

Animal abuse should be recognized as a form of battering because it:

  • Exposes the deliberateness of battering as opposed to it being a loss of control.
  • Is closely related to child abuse.
  • Is often a tool used by batterers to emotionally control or coerce victims.
  • It can indicate the potential for increased violence or lethality.
  • Victims may postpone leaving out of fear for their pets’ safety.
  • Identifying animal abusers can help identify other victims of violence within the family.

The Humane Society of the United States (www.hsus.org).