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Domestic violence is a pattern of behaviors used by a partner to maintain power and control over another partner in a relationship. Domestic violence includes multiple forms of abuse, including: physical, emotional, sexual, and economic. Look at this power and control wheel to understand how someone gains and maintains power and control in a relationship by clicking here.

It is not marital conflict, a lover’s quarrel, or just a private family matter. It is a serious social problem. The abuser 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 gaslighting, 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 examples of 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 reluctant to let you have a relationship 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 their 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 respect each others beliefs and values. Partners disagree about their different or conflicting values and beliefs often.  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 deciding 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 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 themself?
  • Prevent you from seeing family or friends?
  • Get suddenly angry or lose their 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 identify as LGBTQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer)?
  • Humiliate or embarrass you in front of other people?
  • Speak disrespectfully about their 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 their 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.