What is Domestic Violence?

Domestic violence is a pattern of physical assaults, threats and coercive behaviors used to maintain control over a current or former intimate partner. Abusive behaviors can include ongoing verbal, emotional, sexual, physical, psychological and economic abuse, and typically get worse over time. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence estimates that domestic violence is a crime that affects up to 30% of American women.

Examples of abusive tactics include:

  • Hitting, kicking and punching
  • Preventing access to or knowledge of family finances
  • Threatening to take custody of the children or threatening to take children away
  • Harming children as a punishment to one’s partner or spouse
  • Destroying property
  • Harming pets
  • Berating in front of children, family or friends
  • Threatening violence
  • Monitoring where she goes and who she sees
  • Restricting access to family and friends
  • Accusing her of infidelity
  • Forcing her to perform sexual acts or behaviors she does not want to do or is uncomfortable with

Domestic violence can result in death, serious injury, isolation, emotional damage, medical issues, and poverty for victims. Domestic violence remains the leading cause of injury to women, and is the leading cause of women’s visits to hospital emergency rooms. Nationally, one half of all homeless women and children are fleeing domestic violence.

Is it My Fault?

Domestic violence is never OK or acceptable. It is caused by the perceived right of one person to dominate the other. While stress, alcohol, drugs and anger may appear to cause domestic violence, this is not the case; however, abusers use anger, stress, alcohol use, etc. as excuses to be violent and controlling.

Is Something Wrong in Your Relationship?

Do you feel…

  • Confused about your relationship?
  • Like you are going crazy?
  • That you are “walking on eggshells”?
  • It is hard for you to spend time with family and friends?
  • As if you can’t do anything right?
  • That your partner decides when and where you have sex?
  • You don’t have the right or are fearful to say no when your partner initiates sex?
  • Like you are in a relationship with a different person?
  • That you need to justify everything you do and everyplace you go?
  • Drained?

Does your partner…

  • Call you names or put you down?
  • Want to know what you are doing and who you are with at all times?
  • Act extremely jealous?
  • Find excuses to keep you from getting enough sleep?
  • Push, shove or grab you?
  • Keep you from leaving when you want to leave?
  • Say he will kill himself if you leave?
  • Force you to do things sexually you don’t feel comfortable doing?
  • Promise to change (get counseling, go to AA, etc.)?

If you are experiencing any of the above, you may want to talk to an advocate. She can help you process what you are feeling. What an advocate will not do is make decisions for you or tell you what you should do. Only you can make decisions about your safety and your life.

What are the Dangers?

Why does she stay? This question is asked repeatedly and by asking it, we hold the victim responsible for the problem, when the responsibility rests squarely with the abuser. A more appropriate question would be “why does this person abuse their partner”? Still there are innumerable reasons for a woman to remain in an abusive relationship. Abusers don’t just let their partners leave, and they will use violence and other tactics to stay in control of the relationship.

The reasons for staying in a violent relationship are many and vary from person to person. They may include:

  • Fear of the abuser’s violence
  • The risk of being killed when leaving.
  • Believes she is unworthy of better treatment.
  • Fear that protective orders and/or the criminal justice system will not protect her.
  • Lack of economic resources with which to support herself and her children.
  • Does not want to separate children from their father.
  • Being told by family and friends that she can stop the abuse if she changes.
  • Threats of suicide by the abuser.
  • Threats of violence to others she cares about by the abuser.
  • Dependent on abuser for healthcare.
  • Lack of decent affordable housing.
  • Lack of affordable legal assistance to obtain a divorce, custody/visitation plan.
  • Lack of faith in the systems designed to help victims.
  • Inability to speak or understand English very well.
  • Lack of access to resources due to physical isolation or economic reasons.

75% of women killed by partners or ex-partners are murdered while they are attempting to leave or have left a violent relationship. One theory is abusers see their partner’s efforts to leave as the ultimate refusal to be controlled. Killing her is the only way to exert that control. Leaving an abusive relationship can be dangerous.