Courtesy of Hema Bedasie!/hema.bedasie

Forms of domestic abuse

Domestic abuse, also known as spousal abuse, occurs when one person in an intimate relationship or marriage tries to dominate and control the other person. Domestic abuse that includes physical violence is called domestic violence.

Domestic violence and abuse are used for one purpose and one purpose only: to gain and maintain total control over you. An abuser doesn’t “play fair.” Abusers use fear, guilt, shame, and intimidation to wear you down and keep you under their thumb. Your abuser may also threaten you, hurt you, or hurt those around you.

Domestic violence and abuse do not discriminate. While women are more commonly victimized, men are also abused—especially verbally and emotionally.

Domestic abuse takes many forms, including psychological, emotional, and sexual abuse. These types of abuse are less obvious than physical abuse, but that doesn’t mean they’re not damaging. In fact, these types of domestic abuse can be even more harmful because they are so often overlooked—even by the person being abused.

~ Emotional or psychological abuse ~

The aim of emotional or psychological abuse is to chip away at your feelings of self-worth and independence. If you’re the victim of emotional abuse, you may feel that there is no way out of the relationship, or that without your abusive partner you have nothing.

Emotional abuse includes verbal abuse such as yelling, name-calling, blaming, and shaming. Isolation, intimidation, and controlling behavior also fall under emotional abuse. Additionally, abusers who use emotional or psychological abuse often throw in threats of physical violence.

You may think that physical abuse is far worse than emotional abuse, since physical violence can send you to the hospital and leave you with scars. But, the scars of emotional abuse are very real, and they run deep. In fact, emotional abuse can be just as damaging as physical abuse—sometimes even more so. Furthermore, emotional abuse usually worsens over time, often escalating to physical battery.

~ Sexual abuse ~

Sexual abuse is common in abusive relationships. According to the U.S. National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, between one-third and one-half of all battered women are raped by their partners at least once during their relationship. Any situation in which you are forced to participate in unwanted, unsafe, or degrading sexual activity is sexual abuse.

Forced sex, even by a spouse or intimate partner with whom you also have consensual sex, is an act of aggression and violence. Furthermore, women whose partners abuse them physically and sexually are at a higher risk of being seriously injured or killed.

~ Economic or financial abuse ~

Remember, an abuser’s goal is to control you, and he will frequently use money to do so. Economic or financial abuse includes:

- Rigidly controlling your finances.
- Withholding money or credit cards.
- Making you account for every penny you spend.
- Withholding basic necessities (food, clothes, medications, shelter).
- Restricting you to an allowance.
- Preventing you from working or choosing your own career.
- Sabotaging your job (making you miss work, calling constantly)
- Stealing from you or taking your money.


There are many signs of an abusive relationship. To determine whether your relationship is abusive, answer the questions below. The more “yes” answers, the more likely it is that you’re in an abusive relationship.

Your Inner Thoughts and Feelings -
Do you:

• feel afraid of your partner much of the time?
• avoid certain topics out of fear of angering your partner?
• feel that you can’t do anything right for your partner?
• believe that you deserve to be hurt or mistreated?
• wonder if you’re the one who is crazy?
• feel emotionally numb or helpless?

Your Partner’s Belittling Behavior -
Does your partner:

• humiliate or yell at you?
• criticize you and put you down?
• treat you so badly that you’re embarrassed for your friends or family to see?
• ignore or put down your opinions or accomplishments?
• blame you for his own abusive behavior?
• see you as property or a sex object, rather than as a person?

Your Partner’s Violent Behavior or Threats - Does your partner:

• have a bad and unpredictable temper?
• hurt you, or threaten to hurt or kill you?
• threaten to take your children away or harm them?
• threaten to commit suicide if you leave?
• force you to have sex?
• destroy your belongings?

Your Partner’s Controlling Behavior -
Does your partner:

• act excessively jealous and possessive?
• control where you go or what you do?
• keep you from seeing your friends or family?
• limit your access to money, the phone, or the car?
• constantly check up on you?


- The incidents of physical abuse seem minor when compared to those you have read about, seen on television or heard other women talk about. There isn’t a “better” or “worse” form of physical abuse; you can be severely injured as a result of being pushed, for example.
- The incidents of physical abuse have only occurred one or two times in the relationship. Studies indicate that if your spouse/partner has injured you once, it is likely he will continue to physically assault you.
- The physical assaults stopped when you became passive and gave up your right to express yourself as you desire, to move about freely and see others, and to make decisions. It is not a victory if you have to give up your rights as a person and a partner in exchange for not being assaulted!
- There has not been any physical violence. Many people are emotionally and verbally assaulted. This can be as equally frightening and is often more confusing to try to understand.

~ The Full Cycle of Domestic Violence ~

A man abuses his partner. After he hits her, he experiences self-directed guilt. He says, "I'm sorry for hurting you." What he does not say is, "Because I might get caught." He then rationalizes his behavior by saying that his partner is having an affair with someone. He tells her "If you weren't such a worthless whore I wouldn't have to hit you." He then acts contrite, reassuring her that he will not hurt her again. He then fantasizes and reflects on past abuse and how he will hurt her again. He plans on telling her to go to the store to get some groceries. What he withholds from her is that she has a certain amount of time to do the shopping. When she is held up in traffic and is a few minutes late, he feels completely justified in assaulting her because "you're having an affair with the store clerk." He has just set her up.


It's impossible to know with certainty what goes on behind closed doors, but there are some telltale signs and symptoms of domestic violence and abuse. If you witness any warning signs of abuse in a friend, family member, or co-worker, take them very seriously.

~ General warning signs of domestic abuse ~

People who are being abused may:

• Seem afraid or anxious to please their partner.
• Go along with everything their partner says and does.
• Check in often with their partner to report where they are and what they’re doing.
• Receive frequent, harassing phone calls from their partner.
• Talk about their partner’s temper, jealousy, or possessiveness.

~ Warning signs of physical violence ~

People who are being physically abused may:

• Have frequent injuries, with the excuse of “accidents.”
• Frequently miss work, school, or social occasions, without explanation.
• Dress in clothing designed to hide bruises or scars (e.g. wearing long sleeves in the summer or sunglasses indoors).

~ Warning signs of isolation ~

People who are being isolated by their abuser may:

• Be restricted from seeing family and friends.
• Rarely go out in public without their partner.
• Have limited access to money, credit cards, or the car.

~ Psychological warning signs of abuse ~

People who are being abused may:

• Have very low self-esteem, even if they used to be confident.
• Show major personality changes (e.g. an outgoing woman becomes withdrawn).
• Be depressed, anxious, or suicidal.


If you suspect that someone you know is being abused, speak up! If you’re hesitating—telling yourself that it’s none of your business, you might be wrong, or the woman might not want to talk about it—keep in mind that expressing your concern will let the person know that you care and may even save her life.

Talk to the person in private and let her know that you’re concerned about her safety. Point out the things you’ve noticed that make you worried. Tell her that when and if she wants to talk about it, you’re there for her. Reassure her that you’ll keep whatever she tells you between the two of you, and let her know that you’ll help in any way you can.

Remember, abusers are very good at controlling and manipulating their victims. Abused and battered women are depressed, drained, scared, ashamed, and confused. They need help to get out, yet they have often been isolated from their family and friends. By picking up on the warning signs and offering support, you can help them escape an abusive situation and begin healing.


- Wait for her to come to you.
- Judge or blame.
- Pressure her.
- Place conditions on your support.


- Ask.
- Express concern.
- Listen and validate.
- Offer help.
- Support her decisions.

No one has to live in fear. Call your local emergency number (911 etc.) or your national domestic violence hotline, domestic violence shelters etc.


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