Domestic violence is when someone close to you tries to control you through fear and threats. This could be a spouse, partner, date, or family member. Abuse may be emotional, sexual, or physical. It may also include threats and isolation.
Domestic violence affects people of all backgrounds. It can happen to anyone of any race, age, sexual orientation, religion, or gender. Violence can happen in couples who are married, living together, or dating.
Domestic violence can show itself in these ways:
Physical abuse. The attacks can range from bruising to punching to life-threatening choking or use of weapons. A problem often starts with threats, name-calling, or harm to objects or pets. It can grow into more serious attacks.
Sexual abuse. A person is forced to have sex with the abuser or take part in unwanted sexual activity.
Psychological abuse. Psychological violence can include verbal abuse, harassment, excessive possessiveness. The abuser may cut off the victim from friends and family. He or she may withhold money, destroy personal property, hurt or kill pets, and stalk the victim.
These signs often appear before abuse happens. They can be a clue to a possible problem:
Violent family life. People who were abused as children or saw abuse learn that violence is acceptable behavior.
Use of force or violence to solve problems. A person who has a criminal record for violence, gets into fights, or acts tough is likely to act the same way with their partner and children. Warning signs include having a quick temper and overreacting to little problems. He or she may be cruel to animals, destroy objects you value, or punch walls or throw things when upset.
Alcohol or drug abuse. Watch for drinking or drug problems. Especially if the person refuses to admit a problem and get help.
Jealousy. The person keeps tabs on you and wants to know where you are at all times. He or she wants you to spend most of your time with them. The person makes it hard for you to find or keep a job or go to school.
Access to guns or other weapons. The person may threaten to use a weapon against you.
Expecting you to follow his or her orders or advice. The person gets angry if you don't fulfill his or her wishes or anticipate his or her wants. The person controls all the money.
Very emotional highs and lows. The person can be very kind one day and cruel the next.
You fear his or her anger. You change your behavior because you are afraid of his or her reaction.
Rough treatment. The person has used physical force trying to get you to do something you don't want to do, or threatens you or your children.
Blocking aid. The person may prevent you from calling for help or getting medical care.
If someone you are with has these behaviors, talk with a domestic abuse counselor or another therapist. Call 800-799-SAFE (7233) to speak to a representative 24/7 from the National Domestic Abuse Hotline. If you're in immediate danger, call 911.
Experts say that abusers don't fit a certain character type. They may seem charming or they may seem to be angry. What is common among abusers are the signs listed above.