Domestic violence is a crime. It causes fear, physical and psychological damage and is a violation of human rights.
According to the US Dept. of Justices Office on Violence Against Women, the definition of domestic violence is: a pattern of abusive behavior used by one partner to gain or maintain control over another intimate partner. This is not, however, limited to physical abuse alone. There are many forms of abuse that fit this definition.
Physical abuse is difficult to define as it encompasses a wide variety of physically abusive behaviors. It can include hitting, biting, slapping, battering, shoving, punching, pulling hair, cutting, pinching, and so on – basically any type of violent behavior inflicted on a victim. It can also include denying medical care or forcing the use of drugs and/or alcohol and other dangerous behaviors.
Emotional abuse invalidates and deflates victim’s sense of self-worth and self esteem. Like physical abuse, emotional abuse can take many forms, such as belitting, name-calling, gaslighting, constant criticism and insults, undermining relationships with others in the victim’s support group, and causing the victim to constantly doubt his/her abilities.
When an abusive partner makes their partner financially dependent on them, they are committing economic abuse. Controlling financial resources, withholding their partner’s access to funds or prohibiting their partner from attending school and/or work are all methods of abusing and controlling another, economically. This can seriously impact a victim’s ability to break free.
Sexual abuse occurs when the abuser coerces, attempts to coerce, or forces his partner into having sexual contact without consent. This can be marital rape, physical violence followed by unwanted sex, refusal to use contraception, deliberately transmitting sexual diseases or infections and other sexually demeaning and degrading behaviors.
This type of abuse is when the abuser uses intimidation and threats to hurt or control their partner. These threats might include physical injury to the victim, but they might also include threats to the victim’s children, family, friends, pets, and co-workers. It can include threats of destruction of property, isolation from loved ones, and prohibiting the victim from leaving the house.
Stalking is abuse and can include following the victim, spying, recording or photographing the victim without their knowledge or permission, showing up at the victim’s home, school or work, and collecting information about the victim. It can also include cyber stalking, texting, excessive calls, written messages, email, cloning phones, GPS locators, etc.
Isolation is a controlling form of abuse and it is often the first, most sublte step in an escalation of negative behaviors. By cutting off access to the support network of friends and family, the abuser has a greater amount of control over the victim. Isolation is particularly difficult because victims feel completely alone, with no one to safely confide in and/or lean on for support.
Coercive control is defined as various controlling & abusive behaviors aimed at gaining or maintaining control. It might include any mixture of isolation, stalking, physical, sexual, economic, psychological & emotional abuse. Not all of these behaviors need be present to fit the definition of coercive control, however. For instance, an abusive partner might not physically abuse, but seeks control through isolation and emotional abuse, instead.
Victims of domestic violence include men, women, LGBT individuals, spouses, dating/intimate partners, family members, and children.
The definition of DV also clarifies that victims can include anyone – regardless of socioeconomic status, education level, gender, race, age, sexual orientation, or religion.