Learn More About Domestic Violence

Behaviors & Tactics

Domestic violence is a pattern of behavior used by an individual to establish and maintain power and control over their intimate partner. The behavior includes abusive tactics, threats and actions that may or may not rise to the level of criminal behavior. The tactics may include physical, emotional, financial and sexual abuse.  Every situation is different, but it may include some the following tactics and behaviors:

Cultural Abuse: Using victim’s cultural beliefs to coerce them into marriage or pregnancy; Inhibiting connection to country of origin; Threatening deportation or immigration status.

Emotional and Psychological Abuse: Blame, denial and minimization; Name-calling and put-downs; Playing “mind games” (“Gaslighting”); Humiliation.

Exerting Dominance and Privilege: Using partners’ gender identity, sexual orientation, economic status, age, ability, race, cultural identity and any other personal characteristics or protected class status to control them.

Financial Abuse: Preventing partner from working; Taking partner’s income of giving “allowance”; Restricting access to family finances; Ruining partner’s credit; Controlling resources (gasoline, phone, food, medication).

Isolation: Controlling access to people and places; Monitoring conversations; Convincing partner that they have no one to turn to.

Physical Abuse: Hitting; Kicking; Punching; Pushing; Biting; Strangling (“choking”).

Sexual Abuse: Behaving or speaking to partner in a sexual manner without consent; Making/sharing sexual images without consent; Forced sex labor.

Spiritual Abuse: Misusing spiritual works to justify abuse; Coercing partner to submit to abuse as a form of obedience.

Stalking: Physically tracking/following victim with intent to cause fear and/or harm; Contacting victim through unwanted phone calls, electronic messages, and third parties.

Technology Abuse: Controlling and sabotaging a partner’s social media access; Using tracking devices to monitor partner; Sharing partner’s information without consent.

Threats, Coercion, Intimidation: Using looks, actions or gestures to cause fear; Reproductive Coercion (forced pregnancy or termination of pregnancy, interference with birth control/STD protection; Threatening suicide or homicide.

Using Children and Pets: Threatening to harm, kill or seek custody of children or pets; Using legal system to harass and stalk; Using attendance at school and community events to remain connected to the victim.


Reminder: abuse looks different for everyone. Not every abusive partner uses all of these tactics or uses them in the same way. Abuse may happen slowly and get worse over time. If one partner uses a pattern of behaviors to maintain power and control, that is abuse, even if it is not on this list. Specific populations have different experiences and things used against them and different barriers to leave.

Unique Experiences for Specific Populations

When an individual is a part of more than one oppressed group, that puts them at risk for additional abuses and unique experiences.

BIack, Indigenous and People of Color

  • Their abuser may berate them by using racial slurs.
  • Their abuser may threaten to call the police knowing that they don’t feel safe in police presence.
  • Their abuser might berate their cultural or spiritual practice.

Immigrant Victims

  • Their abuser might threaten to have them deported, or deport them but keep their kids.
  • Their abuser might stop them from learning English, and lie to them about what authority figures are saying in English.
  • Their abuser might hide or destroy important documents like passports or visas.

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Queer (LGBQ) Community

  • Their abuser may threaten to “out” them to family or employers.
  • They fear not being believed because society doesn’t think abuse can happen in LGBTQ relationships.
  • They may fear of being exiled from their community because it is often so small.

Transgender, Gender Non-Conforming, Non-Binary Victims

  • Their abuser may use pronouns not preferred by you or calling you “it."
  • Their abuser may eroticize/fetishize their partner's body against their will.
  • Their abuser may deny access to medical treatment/hormones/coercing them not to pursue medical treatment.

Teen Victims

  • It may be their first relationship and they think that abuse is normal.
  • They may not have a trusted adult in their life or way to get help and resources.
  • They may be pressured by peers in school.

Older Victims of Domestic Violence

  • Their abuser might claim that they are cognitively impaired to gain power of attorney or control of their finances.
  • Their abuser might withhold medical care or medication.
  • Their abuser might steal their social security checks.

Victims with Disabilities

  • Their abuser may control their medical care or medications.
  • Their abuser may financially exploit and/or misuse victims/survivors’ money.
  • Their abuser may deprive victims/survivors of necessary physical accommodations.

HIV Impacted Victims

  • Their abuser may withhold/restrict access to medical care.
  • Their abuser may threaten to "out" survivor/victim’s HIV positive status.
  • Their abuser may impose shame and stigma with respect to HIV status.

Male Victims

  • The abuse of men is often treated as less serious, or a “joke.”
  • There is a false belief that there are no resources or supports available for male victims.
  • There are pervading beliefs or stereotypes about men being abusers.


    • Physical: scars, chronic pain, traumatic brain injury, sexual dysfunction
    • Mental: Post-Traumatic Stress, anxiety, depression, eating disorders, suicidal thoughts or attempts, alcohol and substance use
    • Emotional: inability to trust themselves, low self-esteem
    • Spiritual: losing or doubting faith
    • Financial: loss of job and/or earning potential, damaged credit, inability to take out loans, homelessness
    • Relationships: loss of friendships because of isolation, unable to trust future partners, damaged relationships with children.