What is Domestic Violence?
Physical abuse is probably what most people think of when they think about domestic violence, but it is just one of the many ways that your partner might try to gain power and control in your relationship. You may be a domestic violence victim if your current or former intimate partner does a variety of things to control you. This may happen very slowly, over a period of time. Or, it can happen very quickly after some sort of change in the relationship, such as marriage, divorce, pregnancy, moving in together or breaking up. Like many people, you may wonder if what is happening to you is domestic violence because your partner has never hit you.
Ways your partner may try to gain power and control over you include:
- Isolation – preventing or making it hard for you to see family and friends; telling you that family and friends cause problems in the relationship or are trying to “come between you.”
- Economic abuse – having complete control over the money; making you account for every penny you spend; taking your money from you; not letting you have a job or go to school.
- Verbal, emotional, psychological abuse – calling you names; putting you down or embarrassing you in front of other people; criticizing your abilities as a partner or parent.
- Intimidation – making you afraid with a look, action, or gesture; getting you to do something by reminding you about “what happened last time.”
- Coercion and threats – showing you a weapon and threatening to use it on you; threatening to “out” your sexual orientation to family, friends, or employers if you are gay or lesbian; threatening to harm your family, friends, or anyone you might go to for help; threatening to commit suicide and telling you it would be your fault.
- Physical abuse – pushing, grabbing, hitting, slapping, punching, kicking, strangling (choking)6, stabbing, burning, or shooting you.
- Sexual abuse – forcing you to have sex when you don’t want to; making you engage in sexual acts that make you uncomfortable; forcing you to engage in prostitution.
- Using children – undermining your authority with your children; threatening to take the children away from you by kidnapping or getting custody of them; “pumping” your children for information about you; trying to turn your children against you; threatening to harm the children if you try to leave or seek help.
- Minimizing, denying, blaming – making you think the abuse is your fault; saying the abuse was caused by stress, alcohol, or problems at work; denying that the abuse happened at all.
These are some of the most common ways that abusers try to control their partners, but certainly not the only ones. If your partner does things that restrict your personal freedom or that make you afraid, you may be a victim of domestic violence.
You may also be victimized by a former partner, since they may know about and have access to your finances, your daily routines, your children, your online activity and passwords. This knowledge may allow them to threaten, control or stalk you even after the relationship has ended.
You are not alone. Millions of people are abused by their partners every year. But it is important to know that more resources are available now than ever before to help victims and their children.
6The term “choking” is often mistakenly used to describe strangulation. Choking is the accidental obstruction of the flow of air into the lungs, usually by something lodged in a person’s throat or “windpipe” (e.g., food). In NYS, the crime of “strangulation” is the intentional act of obstructing anoth- er person’s breathing or blood circulation by blocking their nose or mouth or by applying pressure on their neck or throat (using hands, scarf, belts, or any other objects, on the outside of the neck).