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Understanding Domestic Violence
Domestic violence can take many forms.
In an abusive relationship, what motivates the abuser is having power and control over a partner. An abuser uses violence to get this position of power. That violence can be ongoing, or it can be a few occasions with an ongoing threat of more violence.
While the use and threat of violence is how the abuser gains control, there are many other forms of abuse they will use to keep that control and prevent their partner from leaving the relationship. Generally, these forms of abuse can be grouped into a few categories:
Any threat or use of force or threat of force against a partner is physical abuse. This includes extreme violence, like punching, kicking, and restraining. There are also some especially dangerous tactics, which show a high chance the violence could get worse and even become lethal. Those include strangulation and the threat or use of a weapon.
There are many other types of physical abuse that people don’t always think of as very dangerous but should be taken seriously. These include slapping, spitting, shaking a person, and throwing objects.
Common types of sexual abuse include rape, unwanted sexual contact, forcing sex by using threats or withholding access to resources, and ignoring a partner’s boundaries. Sexual abuse can happen with people who are married or dating as well — a person does not have a right to demand sex from their partner, even if they are in a relationship.
An abuser can also control their partner’s reproductive abilities. For example, they can stop the victim from getting or using contraception, like birth control. They can also make their partner end a pregnancy or carry an unwanted pregnancy to full term.
For every emotion a person experiences, there is a way for an abuser to take advantage. They may humiliate or insult their partner, or make their partner feel bad about themselves. Abusers will manipulate their partners in many ways, including blaming them for the abuse.
Gaslighting is another common form of emotional abuse. This is when an abuser does or says things to make the victim doubt their memory or sanity, like saying there was no abuse, or that the victim is making a big deal out of nothing.
Isolation is a form of emotional abuse that’s especially dangerous, because the abuser makes sure their partner doesn’t know where to turn for help, doesn’t have a way to access help, or doesn’t think they have anywhere they can go for help. The abuser will push away the victim’s friends and family, prevent the victim from getting to their car, or monitor phones to keep the victim isolated from any support system.
Economic abuse is one of the biggest barriers for a victim trying to leave the abusive relationship, because the abuser makes the victim depend on them financially.
That means, if the victim does leave, they don’t know if they will have a roof over their head, or how they will afford to feed their children.
This type of abuse includes basic finances — an abuser will limit the victim’s access to money, force the victim into debt, damage the victim’s credit, or leave the victim off important documents like car titles, so they have trouble showing ownership of assets.
Abusers may also limit the victim’s opportunity to get education or actively harm the victim’s success at work by taking away their work-from-home laptop, forcing them to be late to work, harassing them through the workday, and similar steps.