Domestic violence, or intimate partner violence, is when someone you're in a romantic relationship with tries to control you through fear and threats. Abuse may be emotional, sexual, or physical. It may also include threats and isolation.
Domestic violence isn’t about love. It's about power and control, and it affects people of all backgrounds. It can happen to anyone of any race, age, sexual orientation, religion, or gender. Violence can happen in couples who are married, living together, or dating. Intimate partner violence doesn't require sexual intimacy.
Domestic violence can show itself in these ways:
Physical abuse. The attacks can range from bruising to punching to life-threatening choking or use of weapons. A problem often starts with threats, name-calling, or harm to objects or pets. It can grow into more serious attacks.
Sexual abuse. A person is forced to have sex with the abuser or take part in unwanted sexual activity.
Psychological abuse. Psychological violence can include verbal abuse, harassment, excessive possessiveness. The abuser may cut off the victim from friends and family. They may withhold money, destroy personal property, hurt or kill pets, threaten to hurt or kill the victim's family members, or stalk the victim.
These signs often appear before abuse happens. They can be a clue to a possible problem:
Violent family life. People who were abused as children or saw abuse learn that violence is acceptable behavior.
Use of force or violence to solve problems. A person who has a criminal record for violence, gets into fights, or acts tough is likely to act the same way with their partner and children. Warning signs include having a quick temper and overreacting to little problems. They may be cruel to animals, destroy objects you value, or punch walls or throw things when upset.
Alcohol or drug abuse. Watch for drinking or illegal drug problems. Especially if the person refuses to admit a problem and get help.
Jealousy. The person keeps tabs on you and wants to know where you are at all times. They want you to spend most of your time with them. The person makes it hard for you to find or keep a job or go to school.
Access to guns or other weapons. The person may threaten to use a weapon against you. This danger is heightened if guns and ammunition are easily accessed in the home.
Expecting you to follow their orders or advice. The person gets angry if you don't fulfill their wishes or anticipate their wants. The abuser makes you feel responsible for their anger. The abuser controls all the money, sometimes down to each penny.
Very emotional highs and lows. The person can be very kind one day and cruel the next.
You fear their anger. You change your behavior because you are afraid of their reaction.
Rough treatment. The person has used physical force trying to get you to do something you don't want to do, or threatens you or your children.
Blocking aid. The person may prevent you from calling for help or getting medical care.
If someone you are with has these behaviors, talk with a domestic abuse counselor or another therapist. Call 800-799-SAFE (7233) to speak to a representative 24/7 from the National Domestic Violence Hotline . Advocates are also available to chat. If you're in immediate danger, call 911.
Many times abusers monitor your online activity. Consider using a computer the abuser can't access if you're looking for shelters or domestic violence resources.
Experts say that abusers don't fit a certain character type. They may seem charming or they may seem to be angry. What is consistent among abusers is their constant attempt to maintain power and control over the other person. The behaviors seen in attempts to gain this power are listed above.