Domestic violence is a pattern of assaultive and/or coercive behavior used to gain power and control over a current or previous intimate partner. This behavior can consist of sexually, physically and emotionally abusive acts, in addition to economic coercion. Domestic violence can occur in any kind of personal relationship: marriages, dating relationships, same-sex relationships, living-together relationships, individuals that have children in common, siblings, parent-child relationships, etc.
Domestic violence can happen to anyone. In other words, survivors of domestic violence come from all socio-economic classes, educational levels, races, cultural backgrounds, religions, and ages.
Domestic violence does not go away without intervention, and it almost always gets more severe and frequent over time.
The most important thing to remember about domestic violence is that it is about power and control. This means that the violence is NEVER the fault of the survivor. Nothing a person says or does can make another become violent. A person who engages in domestic violence chooses to use abusive and/or coercive behavior in order to gain power and control over their partner. Because domestic violence is about power and control, one of the most dangerous times for a survivor can be when she or he is attempting to get out of the relationship, or has just left.
The following are some examples of different behaviors that a person might use in order to gain or maintain power and control in an abusive relationship. It is important to remember that not all of the following behaviors will be present in every relationship, nor will they be present all of the time.
Emotional abuse often precedes and/or accompanies physical violence.
Physical abuse rarely only happens once. It almost always increases in frequency and severity over time.
Sexual abuse in a relationship is still abuse even if the two people are married or in an intimate relationship.
It is crucial to remember that battering escalates. An abusive relationship does not usually begin with life-threatening physical abuse. It often begins with emotional abuse, such as extreme possessiveness, name-calling, threats, violence in the partner’s presence (such as punching a wall) and damage to objects. This abusive behavior may escalate over time to include such physical acts as restraining, pushing, slapping, etc. Finally, the abusive behavior may become life threatening.
Are you a victim of domestic violence?
Has your partner ever . . .
If any of these things are happening to you in your relationship, or did happen to you, you may be a victim of domestic violence. Please talk with someone about what is happening to you and develop a safety plan.
Myths and Facts about Domestic Violence
Myth: I am to blame for my partner’s violence.
Fact: No. Violence is never justified, no matter what problems might or might not exist in a relationship. One person cannot make another violent. If a person uses violence or coercion in a relationship, he or she does so by making a conscious choice to do so.
Myth: Women are as violent as men.
Fact: Women are not as violent as men in intimate relationships. FBI statistics show that in 85% of all domestic assaults, the man is abusing his female partner. The other 15% include women assaulting male partners, women assaulting female partners, and men assaulting male partners.
Myth: My partner is only violent because she or he drinks and/or uses drugs.
Fact: Alcohol and drugs do not cause violence. However, some people do make the choice to be abusive while under the influence. Additionally, the violence or abuse may be more severe when the person is under the influence. If a person abuses alcohol and/or drugs and is violent, this only means there are two problems he or she must take responsibility for. Seeking help for only the substance abuse will not end the violence.
Myth: Couples counseling will end the abuse.
Fact: Marriage/Couples counseling will not only not end the violence; it can actually increase the danger. If the abused partner feels safe enough to tell the counselor of the abuse, this may place her or him in greater danger once the couple leaves the counselor’s office. The theory behind most couples counseling is that there is a lack of communication and that both partners are responsible for the breakdown of the relationship. This places blame on the abused partner instead of recognizing that the only person responsible for the abuse and violence is the partner who chooses to use such behavior. In violent relationships, it is the abusive partner who must take responsibility for his or her behavior and seek specialized help. It is, however, always beneficial for the abused partner to seek support and individual counseling during this time.
Myth: Stress causes domestic violence.
Fact: Stress does not cause domestic violence. The only thing that causes domestic violence is a person’s decision to use violence and/or coercion against an intimate partner. For example, if stress caused people to be violent towards others, there would be many more reports of physical assaults at the workplace. However, batterers know that the consequence of assaulting a co-worker or boss at work will result in the loss of their job, therefore they choose not to be violent at work.
Myth: People abuse their partners because they are out of control.
Fact: People who use violence against their partners are in complete control and know exactly what they are doing. These individuals are usually not violent towards anyone but their partners or children. Battering is a choice.
Whether or not you are still living with your abusive partner, it is often helpful to develop your own safety plan. You can make one yourself or you can call a local domestic violence program and ask for assistance. If you do write out a safety plan, it is extremely important that you keep it in a safe place where your partner won’t find it.
The following are some questions and suggestions that may be helpful in developing your safety plan. This is not intended to be a complete list, merely a starting point for you.
If you are still living with your abusive partner:
If you have left the relationship:
High Risk Indicators
While it is true that all abusers are dangerous, some are life threatening. There is no foolproof way to assess lethality, however, there are a number of indicators that should be seriously considered as very high risk:
If your partner (or ex-partner) is abusive, the most important thing to remember is that it is not your fault. It is equally important to do everything you can to keep safe. There are several things you can do to increase your safety, the first of which is to talk to someone about what you have been through. Call a support-line or a private therapist that has experience with domestic violence and ask for assistance in formulating your own safety plan.
Leaving an abusive relationship can be a very dangerous time. If there comes a time when you fear for your safety, immediately call 911.
Counseling and Referral Phone List
Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault Emergency Shelter and 24-Hour Crisis-Lines
Additional Domestic Violence Counseling and Assistance
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