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Domestic violence is a deliberate pattern of assaultive and controlling behaviors, including physical, sexual, and psychological attacks, that one intimate partner does to another to gain power and maintain control. Those tactics may include verbal and emotional abuse, economic control, isolation, using the children as well as what is commonly understood to be DV, physical and sexual assaults.

It is not marital conflict, a lover’s quarrel, or just a private family matter. It is a serious social problem. The batterer may be a spouse, ex-spouse, dating partner, ex-partner, or any other intimate relationship. Abuse and violence are learned behaviors.

  • Physical abuse – includes slapping, hitting, kicking, choking, grabbing, pinching, shoving, punching, etc. or the use of a weapon; also includes being forced to use alcohol or drugs.
  • Sexual abuse/rape – includes any coerced or forced sexual contact, and rape in marriage and committed relationships.
  • Verbal/emotional abuse – includes name-calling, insults, put- downs, threats, belittling, silent treatment, criticism etc.
  • Psychological abuse – includes intimidation, isolation from family and friends, harassing, and/or attempts to control one’s behavior. Destroying possessions or treasured objects, hitting walls, breaking doors, abusing and /or killing one’s pets are acts of psychological domestic violence.
  • Economic abuse – includes attempts to make someone financially dependent i.e. withholding money, keeping someone from working or school, harassing someone at work, controlling all incomes, and requiring justification for any monies spent.
  • Legal abuse – includes dragging out legal/custody proceedings, refusing to pay support or alimony, withholding assets, and fighting for custody solely to maintain control over the victim’s whereabouts.

The information below describes the difference between healthy, unhealthy, and abusive relationships.

Healthy Unhealthy Abusive
Responsibilities are shared between both partners. Responsibilities are not equally distributed. One partner has all the responsibilities but no authority.
Your partner is supportive of your relationships with family and friends. Your partner is ambivalent and reluctant to be involved with your family and friends. One partner does not allow the other to maintain close relationships with family and friends.
The relationship is based on equal power and commitment. One or both partners feel unheard or poorly treated. One partner uses a systematic pattern of behavior to control and exercise power over the other.
Both partners exhibit honest and accountable behavior. One or both partners uses secrets/lies to hide their behaviors. One partner will not take responsibility for their own behavior and blames the other for his/her actions.
Problem solving is done through communication and fair negotiation. Partners are unable to negotiate to solve problems. Problems are solved using threats and coercion.
Partners have similar beliefs and values. Partners have different or conflicting values and beliefs. One partner is disrespectful of and criticizes the others values and beliefs.
Conflicts are communicated and lead to mutually acceptable resolution. Bickering occurs, conflict remains unresolved and is continually brought back up. Conflict is resolved by one partner dictating the solution, usually in a demeaning way.
Economic partnership. Mutual disagreements over finances. One partner controls all economic decisions and resources
Parenting responsibilities are shared between both partners. Parenting roles and responsibilities are difficult to determine. One partner uses the children as a weapon against the other.
Both partners openly trust and support one another. Lack of trust between partners. One partner regularly distorts the truth.
Both partners exhibit mutual respect and acceptance of each other. Partners blame themselves or each other for relationship problems. One partner uses criticism and humiliation to reinforce the other partners shame and guilt.
Partners are understanding and supportive of each other. Partners are indifferent to each other’s feelings. One partner withholds approval or affection.


Does your partner:

  • Constantly criticize you and your abilities as a spouse or partner, parent or employee?
  • Behave in an over-protective manner or become extremely jealous?
  • Threaten to hurt you, your children, pets, family members, friends or himself?
  • Prevent you from seeing family or friends?
  • Get suddenly angry or lose his temper?
  • Destroy personal property or throw things around?
  • Deny you access to family assets like bank accounts, credit cards, or the car, or control all finances and force you to account for what you spend?
  • Withhold medication or deny you access to health care?
  • Threaten to reveal your HIV status?
  • Force you to work in jobs not of your choosing?
  • Use intimidation or manipulation to control you or your children?
  • Hit, punch, slap, kick, shove, choke or bite you?
  • Deny you access to your immigration documents?
  • Prevent you from going where you want to, when you want to, and with whomever you want to?
  • Make you have sex when you don’t want to or do things sexually that you don’t want to do?
  • Control your expression of gender identity or sexual orientation?
  • Threaten to out you if you are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transsexual?
  • Humiliate or embarrass you in front of other people?
  • Speak disrespectfully about his former partners?
  • Do favors for you that you don’t want?
  • Make you feel as though everything is always your fault?
  • Use drugs and alcohol as an excuse for his behavior?
  • Treat you differently around other people?

If you answer yes to some or all of these questions, we hope you will consider talking with one of our advocates to learn more about resources available to you.