What is Domestic Violence?

domestic violence can include emotional and verbal abuse

Many victims do not see themselves as a victim of domestic violence, and many abusers do not see themselves as abusive. While most people recognize physical violence as abusive, emotional, sexual, and even verbal abuse also are destructive. If allowed to continue, these behaviors can escalate to physical over time. Recognizing the signs of abuse is an important step in preventing or stopping violence before it becomes life-threatening.

Examples of verbal abuse:

  • Calls you names or puts you down
  • Curses/yells at you
  • Accuses you of things, especially about sex with others
  • Cruel and hurtful remarks to you or your family and friends
  • Flies into rages
  • “Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde” sides

Examples of emotional abuse:

  • Isolates you from friends or family
  • Insists on being involved in everything you do
  • Searches you or your things, goes through your phone/texts
  • Won’t let you check the mail or answer the door or phone
  • Ignores you/withholds affection to punish you
  • Makes all the decisions in your relationship
  • Controls finances, employment, or what you wear
  • Won’t let you work or go to school
  • Requires you to work excessively while he/she spends the money
  • Expects you to ask permission
  • Makes you feel worthless or devalued
  • Criticizes you or diminishes accomplishments
  • Degrades, embarrasses, or humiliates you in public or private
  • Blames you for their mistakes/makes you believe the abuse is your fault
  • Intimidates you
  • Threatens suicide to get you to do something
  • Threatens to hurt or take away the children
  • Threatens your loved ones
  • Threatens physical violence/murder—with or without weapons
  • Does not trust you and acts jealous or possessive
  • Follows or stalks you
  • Monitors where you go, who you call, and who you spend time with
  • Shows up at home or work for surprise visits
  • Constant texts/phone calls to see where you are, what you are doing, and with whom

Examples of physical abuse

  • Damages property by throwing, slamming, breaking, kicking, or punching
  • Abandons you in a dangerous or unfamiliar place
  • Subjects you to reckless driving
  • Holds you down or prevents you from leaving
  • Prevents you from calling police or seeking medical attention
  • Hurts your children or pets
  • Pushes, slaps, bites, kicks, punches, or chokes you
  • Uses a weapon to threaten or hurt you

Examples of sexual abuse:

  • Rape (yes, even your spouse can rape you)
  • Forces sex with multiple partners
  • Involves other people in sexual activities with you
  • Inflicts pain during sex
  • Insults you in sexual ways or calls you sexual names
  • Forces or manipulates you into to having sex or performing sexual acts
  • Demands sexual acts you do not like or are not comfortable with
  • Uses physical force or holds you down during sex
  • Demands sex when you are sick, tired, or after fights
  • Hurts you with weapons or objects during sex

Domestic violence is a pattern of abusive, manipulative, and coercive behaviors. Physical and sexual abuse are both criminal. Although emotional, spiritual, psychological, financial, and verbal abuse are not criminal, they can lead to criminal violence.

Without intervention, abuse escalates in frequency and severity. While the above lists are not all-inclusive, if you are experiencing any of them, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE for confidential help.

Learn more about getting help from the police and an attorney in this article from Joslyn Criminal Defense Law Firm. 

Read “What Can I Do?”

Read “How to Help a Loved One” »

Compiled from personal experience and from Genesis Women’s Shelter’s website, www.genesisshelter.org (with permission).