Not all domestic violence looks the same. People who commit domestic violence to exert power and control over their partner may exhibit a wide spectrum of physically, sexually, and emotionally violent behaviors. Domestic violence is not always a punch or slap in the face, it’s not always pushing someone against a wall, and it’s not always calling the victim demeaning names. Domestic violence can be very subtle, and it can be egregious. It can happen suddenly with no warning, and it can gradually escalate over a period of many years.
The only thing certain about domestic violence is that it’s a serious problem that affects more than 10 million men and women in the United States each year. According to the website, socialsolutions.com, “more than 1 in 3 women (35.6%) and more than 1 in 4 men (28.5%) in this country report having experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime.”
Definition of Domestic Violence
Domestic violence (also referred to as “intimate partner violence” (IPV), “domestic abuse” or “relationship abuse”) is a “pattern of behaviors used by one partner to maintain power and control over another partner in an intimate relationship.” Anyone can be a victim of domestic abuse—women, men, and children. Domestic violence occurs in couples that are married, living together, and even just dating. It may have started in the early stages of the relationship, or it may have gradually gotten worse over time. Many domestic abusers appear perfect to their partners for a very long time, and then the abuse will start abruptly after many months or years.
According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, domestic violence is defined as “behaviors that physically harm, arouse fear, prevent a partner from doing what they wish or force them to behave in ways they do not want. It includes the use of physical and sexual violence, threats and intimidation, emotional abuse and economic deprivation.” Some perpetrators will subject their victims to more than once kind of domestic abuse; physical abuse almost always occurs in conjunction with emotional and/or mental abuse.
Warning Signs of Domestic Abuse
Because domestic abuse takes many forms, numerous warning signs may arise throughout the course of your relationship to indicate domestic violence exists in the union. Warning signs of physical abuse include:
- Pulling hair, punching, slapping, kicking, biting, or choking
- Forbidding from eating or sleeping
- Using weapons to hurt or threaten
- Preventing you from seeking help from police or medical attention
- Harming your children or threatening them to scare you
- Abandoning you in unfamiliar places
- Driving recklessly or dangerously when you are in the car with them
- Forcing you to use drugs or alcohol
Emotional abuse warning signs include:
- Name calling, criticizing, and insulting
- Refusing to trust you and acting jealous or possessive
- Isolating you from family or friends
- Monitoring where you go, who you call, and who you spend time with
- Demanding to know your whereabouts
- Trapping you in your home or preventing you from leaving
- Withholding affection
- Threatening harm to you, your kids, pets, or extended family
- Damaging your property
- Humiliating you
- Blaming you for the abuse
- Being jealous of your outside relationships
- Serially cheating on you and then blaming you for his or her behavior
- Threatening to cheat on you
- Controlling your appearance by telling you what to wear and how to cut your hair
- Telling you that you’re lucky he’s with you and that you’ll never do better than him
Warning signs of sexual abuse and coercion:
- Forcing your to dress in a provocative way
- Insulting you in sexual ways
- Calling you sexually demeaning names
- Forcing or manipulating you into to having sex
- Holding you down during sex
- Demanding sex when you’re sick, tired, or hurt
- Involving others in sexual activities with you against your will
- Ignoring your feelings about sex
- Forcing you to watch pornography
- Purposefully trying to pass on a sexually transmitted disease to you
The warnings signs of financial abuse against a partner include:
- Giving you an allowance and monitoring how you spend it
- Denying you access to paychecks
- Preventing you from accessing bank accounts
- Forbidding you to work or limiting the hours that you can work
- Using credit cards in your name without your knowledge
- Stealing money from you or your children
- Forcing you to pay all bills while he doesn’t work or contribute to the household
Digital abuse is the use of technology and social networking to bully, harass, stalk, or intimidate a partner. Signs of digital abuse include
- Dictates who you can interact with online
- Sends you insulting or threatening messages, tweets, DMs, or other messages online
- Uses Facebook and Twitter to monitor your day-to-day activities
- Insults you on their social network pages
- Sends you unwanted, explicit pictures, and demands you send some in return.
- Pressures you to send explicit videos.
- Steals your passwords or insists you tell him what they are
- Constantly checks in on you and insists you respond
- Looks through your phone frequently, checks up on your pictures, texts and outgoing calls.
- Uses technology to monitor your online activity and whereabouts
In July 2017, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published a study of the murders of women in 18 states. The report showed that from 2003 to 2014, 10,018 women were murdered, and half of those died at the hands of a current or former romantic partner, of which 98% were men. That means that 5,000 women were murdered over 11 years by intimate partners in just 18 states.
You have the right to feel comfortable and safe in your intimate relationship. If you are a victim of domestic violence, please reach out to law enforcement while you are able to, and remember that many abusers often escalate to murder during the course of the relationship. If you are getting a divorce, please share the facts regarding your abuse with your attorney even if it’s too painful to discuss. Your attorney is on your side, and the more he knows, the more he will be able to fight for you.