Domestic violence is not physical violence alone. Domestic violence is any behavior the purpose of which is to gain power and control over a spouse, partner, girl/boyfriend or intimate family member. Abuse is a learned behavior; it is not caused by anger, mental problems, drugs or alcohol, or other common excuses.
When the general public thinks about domestic violence, they usually think in terms of physical assault that results in visible injuries to the victim. This is only one type of abuse. There are several categories of abusive behavior, each of which has its own devastating consequences. Lethality involved with physical abuse may place the victim at higher risk, but the long term destruction of personhood that accompanies the other forms of abuse is significant and cannot be minimized.
Please explore the following sections to learn more about how to identify domestic violence.
Types of Abuse:
- Physical Abuse
- Sexual Abuse
- Emotional Abuse & Intimidation
- Verbal Abuse: Coercion, Threats, & Blame
- Using Male Privilege
- Economic Abuse
Control Controlling behavior is a way for the batterer to maintain his dominance over the victim. Controlling behavior, the belief that he is justified in the controlling behavior, and the resultant abuse is the core issue in abuse of women. It is often subtle, almost always insidious, and pervasive. This may include but is not limited to:
- Checking the mileage on the odometer following her use of the car.
- Monitoring phone calls, using caller ID or other number monitoring devises, not allowing her to make or receive phone calls.
- Not allowing her freedom of choice in terms of clothing styles, makeup or hairstyle. This may include forcing her to dress more seductively or more conservatively than she is comfortable.
- Calling or coming home unexpectedly to check up on her. This may initially start as what appears to be a loving gesture, but becomes a sign of jealousy or possessiveness.
- Invading her privacy by not allowing her time and space of her own.
- Forcing or encouraging her dependency by making her believe that she is incapable of surviving or performing simple tasks without the batterer or on her own.
- Using the children to control the mother by using the children as spies, threatening to kill, hurt or kidnap the children, physical and/or sexual abuse of the children, and threats to call Child Protective Services if the mother leaves the relationship.
Physical Abuse: According to the AMEND Workbook for Ending Violent Behavior, physical abuse is any physically aggressive behavior, withholding of physical needs, indirect physically harmful behavior, or threat of physical abuse. This may include but is not limited to:
- Hitting, kicking, biting, slapping, shaking, pushing, pulling, punching, choking, beating, scratching, pinching, pulling hair, stabbing, shooting, drowning, burning, hitting with an object, threatening with a weapon, or threatening to physically assault.
- Withholding of physical needs including interruption of sleep or meals, denying money, food, transportation, or help if sick or injured, locking victim into or out of the house, refusing to give or rationing necessities.
- Abusing, injuring, or threatening to injure others like children, pets, or special property.
- Forcible physical restraint against her will, being trapped in a room or having her exit blocked, being held down.
- The batterer hitting or kicking walls, doors, or other inanimate objects during an argument, throwing things in anger,destruction of property.
- Holding the victim hostage.
Sexual Abuse: Sexual abuse is using sex in an exploitative fashion or forcing sex on another person. Having consented to sexual activity in the past does not indicate current consent. Sexual abuse may involve both verbal and physical behavior. This may include, but is not limited to:
- Using force, coercion, guilt, or manipulation or not considering the victim’s desire to have sex. This may include making her have sex with others, have unwanted sexual experiences, or be involuntarily involved in prostitution.
- Exploiting a victim who is unable to make an informed decision about involvement in sexual activity because of being asleep, intoxicated, drugged, disabled, too young, too old, or dependent upon or afraid of the perpetrator.
- Laughing or making fun of another’s sexuality or body, making offensive statements, insulting, or name-calling in relation to the victim’s sexual preferences/behavior.
- Making contact with the victim in any nonconsensual way, including unwanted penetration (oral, anal or vaginal) or touching (stroking, kissing, licking, sucking or using objects) on any part of the victim’s body.
- Exhibiting excessive jealousy resulting in false accusations of infidelity and controlling behaviors to limit the victim’s contact with the outside world.
- Having affairs with other people and using that information to taunt the victim.
- Withholding sex from the victim as a control mechanism.
Emotional Abuse & Intimidation: According to the AMEND Workbook for Ending Violent Behavior, emotional abuse is any behavior that exploits anther’s vulnerability, insecurity, or character. Such behaviors include continuous degradation, intimidation, manipulation, brainwashing, or control of another to the detriment of the individual(AMEND 3). This may include but is not limited to:
- Insulting or criticizing to undermine the victim’s self-confidence. This includes public humiliation, as well as actual or threatened rejection.
- Threatening or accusing, either directly or indirectly, with intention to cause emotional or physical harm or loss. For instance, threatening to kill the victim or himself, or both.
- Using reality distorting statements or behaviors that create confusion and insecurity in the victim like saying one thing and doing another, stating untrue facts as truth, and neglecting to follow through on stated intentions. This can include denying the abuse occurred and/or telling the victim she is making up the abuse. It might also include crazy making behaviors like hiding the victim’s keys and berating her for losing them.
- Consistently disregarding, ignoring, or neglecting the victim’s requests and needs.
- Using actions, statements or gestures that attack the victim’s self-esteem and self-worth with the intention to humiliate.
- Telling the victim that she is mentally unstable or incompetent.
- Forcing the victim to take drugs or alcohol.
- Not allowing the victim to practice her religious beliefs, isolating her from the religious community, or using religion as an excuse for abuse.
- Using any form of coercion or manipulation which is disempowering to the victim.
Isolation: Isolation is a form of abuse often closely connected to controlling behaviors. It is not an isolated behavior, but the outcome of many kinds of abusive behaviors. By keeping her from seeing who she wants to see, doing what she wants to do, setting and meeting goals, and controlling how she thinks and feels, he is isolating her from the resources (personal and public) which may help her to leave the relationship. By keeping the victim socially isolated the batterer is keeping her from contact with the world which might not reinforce his perceptions and beliefs. Isolation often begins as an expression of his love for her with statements like if you really loved me you would want to spend time with me, not your family. As it progresses, the isolation expands, limiting or excluding her contact with anyone but the batterer. Eventually, she is left totally alone and without the internal and external resources to change her life.
Some victims isolate themselves from existing resources and support systems because of the shame of bruises or other injuries, his behavior in public, or his treatment of friends or family. Self-isolation may also develop from fear of public humiliation or from fear of harm to herself or others. The victim may also feel guilty for the abuser’s behavior, the condition of the relationship, or a myriad of other reasons, depending on the messages received from the abuser.
Verbal Abuse: Coercion, Threats, & Blame: Verbal abuse is any abusive language used to denigrate, embarrass or threaten the victim. This may include but is not limited to:
- Threatening to hurt or kill the victim or her children, family, pets, property or reputation.
- Name calling (‘ugly’, ‘bitch’, ‘whore’, or ‘stupid’)
- Telling victim she is unattractive or undesirable.
- Yelling, screaming, rampaging, terrorizing or refusing to talk
Using Male Privilege: As long as we as a culture accept the principle and privilege of male dominance, men will continue to be abusive. As long as we as a culture accept and tolerate violence against women, men will continue to be abusive.
According to Barbara Hart in Safety for Women: Monitoring Batterers’ Programs:
All men benefit from the violence of batterers. There is no man who has not enjoyed the male privilege resulting from male domination reinforced by the use of physical violence . . . All women suffer as a consequence of men’s violence. Battering by individual men keeps all women in line. While not every woman has experienced violence, there is no woman in this society who has not feared it, restricting her activities and her freedom to avoid it. Women are always watchful knowing that they may be the arbitrary victims of male violence. Only the elimination of sexism, the end of cultural supports for violence, and the adoption of a system of beliefs and values embracing equality and mutuality in intimate relationships will end men’s violence against women.
Domestic violence is about power and control. A feminist analysis of woman battering rejects theories that attribute the causes of violence to family dysfunction, inadequate communications skills, women’s provocation, stress, chemical dependency, lack of spiritual relationship to a deity, economic hardship, class practices, racial/ethnic tolerance, or other factors. These issues may be associated with battering of women, but they do not cause it. Removing these factors will not end men’s violence against women.
Batterers behave abusively to control their partner’s behavior, thereby achieving and maintaining power over their partners and getting their own needs and desires met quickly and completely. There are also many secondary benefits of violence to the batterer. A batterer may choose to be violent because he finds it fun to terrorize his partner, because there is a release of tension in the act of assault, because it demonstrates manhood, or because violence is erotic for him. Violence is a learned behavior and batterers choose to use violence. The victim is not part of the problem. The victim may accept responsibility for causing the batterer to lose their temper,î but the truth is, the abuser must be held accountable for his behavior.
Four widespread cultural conditions allow and encourage men to abuse women. These are:
- Objectification of women and the belief that women exist for the ‘satisfaction of men’s personal, sexual, emotional and physical needs’.
- An entitlement to male authority with a right and obligation to control, coerce, and/or punish her independence.
- That the use of physical force is acceptable, appropriate, and effective.
- Societal support for his dominance, controlling and assaultive behavior. By failing to intervene aggressively against the abuse, the culture condones the violence.
Economic Abuse: Financial abuse is a way to control the victim through manipulation of economic resources.
This may include, but is not limited to:
- Controlling the family income and either not allowing the victim access to money or rigidly limiting her access to family funds. This may also include keeping financial secrets or hidden accounts, putting the victim on an allowance or allowing her no say in how money is spent, or making her turn her paycheck over to him. Causing the victim to lose a job or preventing her from taking a job. He can make her lose her job by making her late for work, refusing to provide transportation to work, or by calling/harassing/calling her at work.
- Spending money for necessities (food, rent, utilities) on nonessential items (drugs, alcohol, stereo equipment, hobbies.)
Material from Women’s Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh Volunteer Training Manual, AMEND, and the ACESDV safety plan manual were used to develop this section.