Two words, one big concept – domestic violence. Formerly known as “wife beating”, sometimes used interchangeably with intimate partner violence, and including a number of individual abuses, domestic violence is a problem that impacts individuals but must be addressed as a nation. Domestic violence is an epidemic affecting individuals in every community, regardless of age, economic status, sexual orientation, gender, race, religion, or nationality. Understanding what domestic violence is and the many ways it can show up in relationships is the first step to creating a culture that has zero tolerance for domestic violence. After all, how can you change what you can’t understand? By the end of this post, you’ll know what domestic violence is and the specific abusive behaviors that are considered part of domestic violence.

What Is Domestic Violence?

Domestic violence is the willful intimidation as part of a systematic pattern of power and control perpetrated by one intimate partner against another. Frequency and severity of domestic violence can vary dramatically, but the constant of domestic violence is one partner’s consistent efforts to maintain power and control over the other.

What Domestic Violence Includes

It’s important to note that domestic violence doesn’t always manifest in one specific way. Physical and sexual assaults, or threats to commit them, are the most apparent forms of domestic violence and are usually what makes others aware of the problem. But regular use of other abusive behaviors by the abuser, when reinforced by one or more acts of physical violence, make up a larger scope of abuse. Although physical assaults may occur only occasionally, they instill fear of future violent attacks and allow the abuser to control the victims’ life and circumstances. A lack of physical violence doesn’t mean the abuser is any less dangerous to the victim, nor does it mean the victims is any less trapped. Emotional and psychological abuse can often be just as extreme as physical violence.

But what kinds of actions are considered abusive? Read on for examples of each kind of abuse.

Emotional abuse includes …

  • Telling the victim they can never do anything right
  • Showing jealousy of the victim’s family/friends and time spent away
  • Accusing the victim of cheating
  • Keeping or discouraging the victim from seeing friends/family
  • Embarrassing or shaming the victim with put-downs
  • Dictating how the victim dresses, wears their hair, etc.
  • Telling the victim they are a bad parent or threatening to hurt, kill or take away their children
  • Destroying the victim’s property

Psychological abuse includes …

  • Looking at or acting in ways that scare the person they are abusing
  • Controlling who the victim sees, where they go, or what they do
  • Stalking the victim or monitoring their victim’s every move (e.g. in person, online, and/or by GPS tracking on the victim’s phone)
  • Preventing the victim from making their own decisions
  • Pressuring or forcing the victim to use drugs or alcohol
  • Preventing the victim from working or attending school, harassing the victim at either, keeping their victim up all night so they perform badly at their job or in school

Financial abuse includes …

  • Controlling every penny spent in the household
  • Taking the victim’s money or refusing to give them money for expenses

Sexual abuse includes …

  • Pressuring the victim to have sex when they don’t want to or to do things sexually they are not comfortable with
  • Forcing sex with others
  • Refusing to use protection when having sex or sabotaging birth control

Physical abuse includes …

  • Threatening to hurt or kill the victim’s friends, loved ones or pets
  • Intimidating the victim with guns, knives, or other weapons

Domestic violence is a term that includes many different abuses with a multitude of different ways to exert power and control over the abuser’s victim. If you think you are being abused by someone you love, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE for confidential, anonymous help.