Partner Abuse / Domestic Violence:
Domestic violence is defined as a pattern of coercive and controlling behaviors and tactics used by one person over another to gain power and control. This may include verbal abuse, financial abuse, emotional, sexual, and physical abuse. Domestic violence crosses all ethnic, racial and socio-economic lines. Partners may be married or not married; heterosexual, gay, or lesbian; living together, separated or dating. Emotional / psychological abuse can be extremely damaging, and some report that it’s worse than physical abuse.
While some of the obstacles are unique for teens, the elderly, minorities, and members of the LGBTQ community, the definition is the same. Each group faces an added number of unique obstacles and challenges, and the links below will help you learn more.
I also want to make specific mention of animal abuse in the context of domestic violence. Animal abuse is horrific on its own and should always be charged accordingly, but when it comes to domestic violence, there’s the additional potential to keep a person trapped for fear of what will come of the pets. The links below are offer valuable information about this additional dilemma, and what you can do about it.
Physical abuse can include but is not limited to: Slapping, kicking, punching, hair pulling, throwing objects (even if they don’t hit you), blocking doorways or keeping you from leaving, spitting, threatening use and use of weapons.
Physical abuse is not necessarily present on an ongoing basis. For some, just a look or stare from an abuser is enough to control the victim’s behavior. That look or stare will invoke fear of potential abuse for disobeying, or behaving in a way the abuser disapproves of. The severity and frequency of physical abuse varies for each batterer, as does the severity and frequency of emotional and psychological abuse. Below are more examples of other forms of abuse.
List of Tactics – Do you Recognize Any of These?
Below is a list of tactics taken from Biderman’s Chart of Coercion. You may find any combination of these tactics used by a batterer, and they become increasingly severe. Over time, these tactics can reduce a person’s sense of self worth, and increases isolation and dependence on the batterer. This doesn’t happen overnight but slowly, interjected with happy times and promises of change. In addition to these tactics, an abuser may also use finances, children and pets to keep someone from gaining independence.
**If a batterer threatens suicide, this can be a particularly dangerous time. Suicide threats are a sign of significant escalation, and instead of suicide, it’s more likely the victim will be the target of this heightened danger.
Verbal Assaults: Berating, belittling, criticizing, name calling, screaming, threatening, excessive blaming, and using sarcasm and humiliation. Blowing flaws out of proportion and making fun of you in front of others. Constantly accuses you of flirting or cheating.
Domination: The abuser wants to control your every action. They have to have their own way, and will resort to threats to get it.
Emotional Blackmail: The abuser plays on your fear, guilt, compassion, values, or other “hot buttons” to get what they want. This could include threats to end the relationship, the “cold shoulder,” or use other controlling fear tactics.
Gaslighting: The other person may deny that certain events occurred or that certain things were said. You know differently. The other person may deny your perceptions, memory and very sanity. It is this act of abuse which makes you begin to think you are crazy or losing your mind.
Unpredictable Responses: Drastic mood changes or sudden emotional outbursts. Whenever someone in your life reacts very differently at different times to the same behavior from you, tells you one thing one day and the opposite the next, or likes something you do one day and hates it the next, you are being abused with unpredictable responses.
- This behavior is damaging because it puts you always on edge. You’re always waiting for the other shoe to drop, and you can never know what’s expected of you. You must remain hypervigilant, waiting for the other person’s next outburst or change of mood.
- An alcoholic or drug abuser is likely to act this way. Living with someone like this is tremendously demanding and anxiety provoking, causing the abused person to feel constantly frightened, unsettled and off balance.
Abusive Expectations: The other person places unreasonable demands on you and wants you to put everything else aside to tend to their needs. It could be a demand for constant attention, frequent sex, or a requirement that you spend all your free time with the person. But no matter how much you give, it’s never enough. You are subjected to constant criticism, and you are constantly berated because you don’t fulfill all this person’s needs.
Constant Chaos: The other person may deliberately start arguments and be in constant conflict with others. The person may be “addicted to drama” since it creates excitement.
Drugs and Alcohol:
It’s important to understand that alcohol and drugs do not cause abusive behavior. Alcohol and drugs can magnify behavior but they do not create a different identity and persona. It’s dangerous to believe that if an abuser were to simply stop using drugs or alcohol that the abusive pattern would disappear.
Anger Management, ‘Loss of Control,’ Couples Counseling:
Domestic violence is not an instance of one losing their temper. Domestic violence is an ongoing pattern of abusive behaviors that should only be addressed with batterers’ intervention, not anger management courses. Domestic violence is also not a ‘loss of control,’ instead it is the taking of control, and it is a very deliberate choice despite how ‘out of control’ or ‘crazy’ it may appear. Many batterers are quite charming and likeable, which allows them to continue manipulating and abusing.
Just as anger management is inappropriate in addressing batterers’ behavior, couples counseling is inappropriate to handle domestic violence for couples. Couples counseling assumes that each member of the couple enter counseling as equal partners, yet a victim of domestic violence is not equal in the relationship, and cannot only not benefit from couples counseling, might instead be put at greater risk of harm if something said during counseling angers the batterer. Because the abuser is the one who maintains control in the relationship, that control will extend to counseling, and could ultimately be dangerous.
Jump to Here:
Economic Abuse Recovery Center
kNOwMORE – Violence & Reproductive Health
List of State Coalitions
US Department of Justice: Map of Local Resources
Battered Women’s Justice Project
Survivors in Action
National Coalition Against Domestic Violence
Women of Color Network
Domestic Violence Awareness Project
National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence
Commission on Domestic Violence: Pro Bono Legal Guide and Interactive Map
Family Law Project for Battered Women
Violence Unsilenced -A place to share and read personal stories.
Love Shouldn’t Hurt: He shot me between my eyes! (blog)
Learn More About: Confidential Address Programs
Futures Without Violence – Formerly the Family Violence Prevention Fund
Legal Momentum: Employment Rights for Victims of Domestic Violence
OUTSIDE THE US
UK: call Women’s Aid at 0808 2000 247.
Canada: National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-363-9010
Australia: National Domestic Violence Hotline 1800 200 526
Or visit International Directory of Domestic Violence Agencies for a worldwide list of helplines, shelters, and crisis centers.
POLICE WHO ABUSE:
Abuse of Power Info: Diane Wetendorf.inc: The Impact of Police-Perpetrated Domestic Violence
National Center for Woman & Policing
Crisis Connection: When your abuser is a police officer
TEEN DATING VIOLENCE:
Love is Respect
Love Is Not Abuse
Break the Cycle
ACADV: Dating Violence
The National Resource Center for Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month
NCJRC: Teen Dating Violence – Related Resources
Gay Men’s Domestic Violence Project
National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence: Lesbian / Gay / Bisexual / Transgender / Intersex (publications)
A Beautiful Mess: Confessions from the Second Closet
The Network/ La Red
Older victims of abuse may contact their county’s Adult Protective Services office. *most sites discuss abuse of the elderly in general – if you know of a resource, please contact me and I’ll include it.
The Langarhall: Domestic Violence In Elderly Couples
NCJRS: Elder Abuse – Domestic Violence
PETS AND DOMESTIC VIOLENCE:
While this is not currently common practice, it is my hope that charges of animal cruelty will prompt further investigation and evaluation, by police, prosecutors and probation departments, of the family members in those homes where animal cruelty has been identified. Pet safety has long been associated with preventing someone from leaving an abuser once the abuse has been recognized, but when animal cruelty becomes known to authorities, it should be used as a means of identifying families at risk for other forms of abuse. The book below, “Child Abuse, Domestic Violence and Animal Abuse” is a great resource for understanding this connection.