Domestic violence is a complex issue that can occur in different types of relationships. The National Domestic Violence Hotline defines domestic violence, also referred to as intimate partner violence (IPV), dating abuse, or relationship abuse, as being a pattern of behaviors used by one partner to maintain power and control over their partner in an intimate relationship. Some common types of abuse include physical abuse, emotional and verbal abuse, sexual abuse, sexual coercion, reproductive coercion, financial abuse, digital abuse, and stalking. At the beginning of relationships, most people are blinded by their feelings for the other person so it may be hard to notice some characteristics that would be indicative of an abusive relationship.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline’s list of some common signs of abusive partner includes:
Telling you that you never do anything right;
Showing extreme jealousy of your friends or time spent away from them;
Preventing or discouraging you from spending time with friends, family members, or peers. Telling you that you never do anything right;
Insulting, demeaning, or shaming you, especially in front of other people;
Preventing you from making your own decisions, including about working or attending school;
Controlling finances in the household without discussion, including taking your money or refusing to provide money for necessary expenses;
Pressuring you to have sex or preform sexual acts you’re not comfortable with;
Pressuring you to use drugs or alcohol;
Intimidating you through threatening looks or actions;
Insulting your parenting or threatening to harm or take away your children pets;
Intimidating you with weapons like guns, knives, bats, or mace;
Destroying your belongings or your home.
It is also important to point out that possessive and controlling behaviors don’t develop overnight, they are learned behaviors that the abuser may have been exposed to or experienced at some point in their life. Power and control can be established over time with subtle behaviors. Some of these include, but are not limited to: using emotional abuse to put you down so you feel bad about yourself; using isolation by controlling who you see, where you go, and what you read; minimizing and denying your concerns to make them seem like they’re not important; using your children to make you feel guilty about the relationship or threatening to take them away from you, etc.
The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence lists different traits abusers may have in common, such as:
Denying the existence or minimizing the seriousness of the violence and the effect it is having on the victim and other family members;
Objectifying the victim and seeing them as property or sexual objects;
Externalizing the causes of their behaviors and blaming their violence on certain things such as stress, their partner’s behaviors, a “bad day,” alcohol, drugs, or other factors;
Being pleasant and charming between periods of violence and is often considered a “nice person” to others outside of the relationship.
How to Get Help
It is extremely important to acknowledge and understand that leaving an abusive situation/ relationship can be difficult. An abuser sees their partner leaving the relationship as a threat to the power and control that they have worked to establish for themselves; therefore, leaving may be the most difficult part. People stay in these types of relationships for different reasons, such as the following: Fear; because a person is usually afraid of the consequences that may occur if they leave a relationship. Normalized abuse; if someone grew up in an environment where abuse was common, they may not know what a healthy relationship looks like. Shame; sometimes it is difficult for someone to admit that they are or have been abused because they may feel they are at fault for it. Intimidation; a survivor may feel too intimidated to leave a situation because of the threats. Low self esteem; after constantly hearing degrading things from their abuser, survivors may start to believe it and think they are the reason for the abuse. Lack of resources; some survivors are financially dependent on their abuser and have not had the opportunity to work. Disability; if someone depends on the other person for physical support then they may feel like their well being is directly tied to their relationship. Immigration status; those who are undocumented may fear that reporting abuse will affect their immigration status. Cultural context; some customs or beliefs may influence a person to stay in an abusive situation. Children; many survivors feel guilty or responsible for breaking up the family unit. Love; survivors often still have strong feelings for their abusive partner and it affects their decision to leave.
Taking the step to leave an abusive situation takes a great deal of courage and may seem unattainable for some, but with the proper help and knowledge of resources available it is something that can be done. A good first step for many may be to look for your local domestic violence shelter/ program and speak to an advocate for the next steps you can take. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence states some tips when starting the process of looking at different resources available, such as not feeling discouraged if you get rejected on your first try, if you are uncomfortable with the advocate you’re speaking to then to ask for a different one, get a list of possible resources from different places if you can, make your phone calls from a place that you feel comfortable and will not be interrupted, make sure you take all of your important documents (ID, birth certificate, passport, and utility bills) to appointments, etc. If you are able to get internet access, most domestic violence resources online have a special feature built into their website so that the moment you access the website a notification will tell you how to quickly exit their site and immediately take you to a blank browser in case your search is interrupted by someone.
Many organizations such as The National Domestic Violence Hotline offers services such as a 24/7 call, chat, or text features to speak to someone. They also have links to find local help in the area you are in and the contact information to get in touch with that organization. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence also offers links to different organizations available to help. Both also offer information on how to get legal and financial help. Many of these websites also have the option to translate everything to spanish so language does not have to be a barrier.