Everyone deserves to live a life free of violence and abuse in our intimate relationships and to enjoy healthy relationships built on trust, dignity, and equity.
Domestic violence includes a wide range of behaviors where one person is exerting power and control over a spouse, dating partner and/or adult family member regarding their choices, beliefs, and actions. Also referred to as domestic abuse, partner abuse, or intimate partner violence, domestic violence is a pattern of behavior, not a single act, and it can be physical, verbal, sexual, emotional, and/or financial.
The power and control wheel graphic represents the different tactics and behaviors which are commonly used by those who are abusive. Size, age, gender, mental health, or other personal attributes do not determine whether someone can be abused or who abuses others.
Disputes and disagreements are a normal part of healthy relationships when they are based on respect and equality. Violence and abuse including threats of harm in a relationship is something else entirely, impacting every aspect of a victim’s life, and creating a significant imbalance of power in the relationship.
While anyone can be a victim of domestic violence, there is an unequal impact on women and girls. Abuse occurs in LGBQ/T communities at the same or higher rates as in heterosexual and cis-gender relationships. The impact on people who experience abuse can be exacerbated by other oppressions they experience because of their age, race, ethnic background, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, native language, citizenship status, and income level. This creates additional levels of trauma for survivors as well as barriers to services, support, and justice.
Warning signs and red flags
This check list of warning signs may help answer the question: Am I Safe? These behaviors may indicate that you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship. We have italicized a few items that are known to be indicators of potentially lethal violence. Regardless, we urge you to reach out to talk to a trained domestic violence advocate to talk about your situation and options.
Are you with someone who…
- is extremely jealous and possessive toward you, won’t let you have friends or family contact, checks up on you constantly, tracks your activity through technology, won´t accept breaking up?
- tries to control you by giving orders, making all the decisions, without taking your opinion seriously?
- is critical of whatever you do, and undermines everything you say?
- is scary to the extent that you worry about how they will react to things you say or do?
- threatens you with, uses or owns weapons?
- is violent and has a history of fighting, loses temper quickly, and brags about mistreating others?
- pressures you for sex, is forceful or scary with regard to sex?
- attempts to manipulate or guilt-trip you by saying “If you really loved me you would…”
- if you are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, has threatened to ‘out’ you to family, friends, or workplace if you don’t comply with certain demands?
- if you are an immigrant, has threatened or tried to turn you in to authorities and get you deported? or has told you that you are endangering the community?
- gets too serious about the relationship too fast?
- abuses drugs or alcohol and pressures you to take them?
- blames you for their violent or abusive behavior by saying you provoked them, pressed their buttons, made them do it, led them on?
- has a history of bad relationships and blames the other person for all the problems?
- believes in gender roles that determine who is in control and powerful and who should be passive and submissive in a relationship?
- has hit, pushed, restrained, kicked, or physically abused you?
- has strangled or attempted to strangle you?
- your family and friends have warned you about and told you they were worried for you safety?
- if you are older, has threatened to put you in a nursing home or interfered with your ability to get out of the house when you want?
- limits your choices regarding birth control, abortion, or other reproductive health issues?
- if you have health problems, has prevented you from getting treatment, interfered with medication or made it difficult for you to get to medical appointments?
If you answered “YES” to any of these questions about yourself or someone you know, help is available you may be at risk of abuse. You can call an advocate at a local program or contact any of the following people if you feel safe doing so.
Help is available.
You are the expert about your own life. Trust your gut. Don’t let anyone talk you into doing something that’s not right for you.
If you or someone you know needs help regarding domestic violence, contact your local program to speak to a trained advocate. Domestic Violence programs provide free and confidential support and advocacy. Here are several of the services they may offer to you:
- Listen and offer useful information and resources
- Assist you with filing for a restraining order, if you choose to do so
- Talk with you about safety options for you (and your children)
- Connect you with counseling or legal advocacy.
Your local program is there to provide you important information and resources. It is a place for you to talk about how you feel and what you need to begin to heal. You do not need to leave or even want to leave your relationship in order to get support.
No one deserves to be abused or assaulted. No matter what you have been told, what happened to you isn’t your fault. Whether this experience happened recently or in the past, you can call a rape crisis center or a domestic violence program to get the support that you need. Trained advocates provide free and confidential support, connect you with resources, and respect your decisions.