During the early stages of a relationship, your partner may seem like the perfect person, opening and closing the door for you, reassuring you of his or her love for you, stating positive words of affirmation, and being open to hanging out with your family and/or friends.Over time, as the relationship deepens, vulnerability becomes more pronounced. Unknowingly you begin to trust your partner, believing his or her every word and action. Until one day, he or she hits you. You begin to question your own actions and or words, wondering what you did or said that upset that person.
Over time that isolated incident turns into a daily occurrence. You begin to see yourself as nothing more than a prisoner in your own body. You are now a victim of domestic violence. In this article, I will discuss the meaning of domestic violence, the early warning signs and what to do if you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence.
What is Domestic Violence?
According to The National Domestic Violence Hotline, “Domestic violence (also called Domestic Abuse, Relationship Abuse or Intimate Partner Violence), is a pattern of behaviors used by one person to maintain a systematic pattern of “power and control” over another person in an intimate or close relationship.”
In the United States, on average, more than 12 million women and men are victims of domestic violence. 3 in 10 women and 1 in 10 men who experience some form of domestic violence have reported an impact on their functioning.
1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men ages 18 and older have been victims of severe physical violence by their intimate partner. Almost 50% of women and men in the United States have experienced psychological abuse by their intimate partner. Females ages 18 to 34, on average, have the highest rates of being victims of domestic violence.
Domestic violence can happen to anyone who is married, cohabitating with one another, dating or family relations. It can affect people of any race, culture, age, religion, gender, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status in any type of situation.
Domestic violence can manifest signs of physical, verbal, emotional, sexual, spiritual and/or financial harm to the victim. Domestic violence instills fear through willful threats and intimidation, preventing the victim from taking control over their own life and stripping them of their identity.
It breaks down the victim’s ability to trust their own thoughts and perception on things allowing the abuser to gain power and control over them. The frequency and severity of domestic violence can vary. Victims should seek help immediately!
Power and Control Wheel
The “Power and Control Wheel” is a great tool to better understand the abuser’s overall patterns of abusive and violent behaviors to establish and maintain control and power over the victim.
Types of Domestic Abuse
- Physical Abuse: Is an attempt to gain control of a person through physical harm, such as, slapping, shoving, hitting, kicking, grabbing, and pushing.
- Emotional Abuse/Verbal Abuse: Is an attempt to gain control through criticism, threats, humiliation, intimidation, and isolation that diminishes a person’s self-worth, self-confidence, and identity.
- Sexual Abuse/Coercion: Is an attempt to gain control through Sexual coercion and can vary from being persuaded to being forced to have sex with the abuser to statements that make the victim feel pressured, guilty, shamed or obligated.
- Spiritual Abuse: Is not limited to certain religions or denominations. Like any domestic abuse, spiritual abuse is no less harmful or difficult to endure. The most common examples are church elders or faith leaders who create a toxic culture by shaming or controlling the congregation members using the power of their positions.
- Financial/Economic Abuse: Is a form of domestic violence. When the abuser has control over the finances it makes it harder for the victim to leave the relationship. The abuser controls whether or not the victim is allowed to work, have control over his or her own income, and what he or she is allowed to buy.
Warning Signs of Domestic Violence
According to The National Domestic Violence Hotline, some signs of domestic violence include (but are not limited to) a person who:
- Tells you that you can never do anything right
- Shows extreme jealousy of your friends and time spent away
- Keeps you or discourages you from seeing friends or family members
- Insults, demeans, or shames you with put-downs
- Controls your thoughts, behaviors, dress, speech, and spending
- Takes your money or refuses to give you money for necessary expenses
- Looks at you or acts in ways that scare you
- Controls who you see, where you go, or what you do
- Prevents you from making your own decisions
- Tells you that you are a bad parent or threatens to harm or take away your children
- Prevents you from working or attending school
- Destroys your property or threatens to hurt or kill your pets
- Intimidates you with guns, knives or other weapons
- Pressures you to have sex when you don’t want to or to do things sexually you’re not comfortable with
- Pressures you to use drugs or alcohol
Signs of Physical Abuse:
- Pulling your hair, punching, slapping, kicking, biting or choking you
- Forbidding you to eat or sleep
- Hurting you with weapons
- Preventing you from calling the police or seeking medical attention
- Harming your children
- Abandoning you in unfamiliar places
- Driving recklessly or dangerously when you are in the car with them
- Forcing you to use drugs or alcohol (especially if you’ve had a substance abuse problem in the past)
Signs of Emotional Abuse/Verbal Abuse:
- Calling you names, insulting you or continually criticizing you
- Refusing to trust you and acting jealous or possessive
- Trying to isolate you from family or friends
- Monitoring where you go, who you call and who you spend time with
- Demanding to know where you are every minute
- Trapping you in your home or preventing you from leaving
- Using weapons to threaten to hurt you
- Punishing you by withholding affection
- Threatening to hurt you, the children, your family or your pets
- Damaging your property when they’re angry (throwing objects, punching walls, kicking doors, etc.)
- Humiliating you in any way
- Blaming you for the abuse
- Gaslighting (when a victim questions their own feelings, instincts, and sanity)
- You constantly second-guess yourself.
- You ask yourself, “Am I too sensitive?” multiple times a day.
- You often feel confused and even crazy.
- You’re always apologizing to your partner.
- You can’t understand why, with so many apparently good things in your life, you aren’t happier.
- You frequently make excuses for your partner’s behavior to friends and family.
- You find yourself withholding information from friends and family so you don’t have to explain or make excuses.
- You know something is terribly wrong, but you can never quite express what it is, even to yourself.
- You start lying to avoid the put downs and reality twists.
- You have trouble making simple decisions.
- You have the sense that you used to be a very different person – more confident, more fun-loving, more relaxed.
- You feel hopeless and joyless.
- You feel as though you can’t do anything right.
- You wonder if you are a “good enough” partner.
- Accusing you of cheating and being jealous of your outside relationships
- Serially cheating on you and then blaming you for his or her behavior
- Cheating on you intentionally to hurt you and then threatening to cheat again
- Cheating to prove that they are more desired, worthy, etc. than you are
- Attempting to control your appearance: what you wear, how much/little makeup you wear, etc.
- Telling you that you will never find anyone better, or that you are lucky to be with a person like them
Signs of Sexual Abuse/Sexual Coercion:
- Forcing you to dress in a sexual way
- Insulting you in sexual ways or calling you sexual names
- Forcing or manipulating you into to having sex or performing sexual acts
- Holding you down during sex
- Demanding sex when you’re sick, tired or after hurting you
- Hurting you with weapons or objects during sex
- Involving other people in sexual activities with you against your will
- Ignoring your feelings regarding sex
- Forcing you to watch pornography
- Purposefully trying to pass on a sexually transmitted disease to you
- Making you feel like you owe them (e.g. – because you’re in a relationship, because you’ve had sex before, because they spent money on you or bought you a gift)
- Giving you drugs and alcohol to “loosen up” your inhibitions
- Playing on the fact that you’re in a relationship, saying things such as: “Sex is the way to prove your love for me,” “If I don’t get sex from you I’ll get it somewhere else”
- Reacting negatively with sadness, anger or resentment if you say no or don’t immediately agree to something
- Continuing to pressure you after you say no
- Making you feel threatened or afraid of what might happen if you say no
- Trying to normalize their sexual expectations: ex. “I need it, I’m a man”
Signs of Spiritual Abuse:
- Ridicules or insults the other person’s religious or spiritual beliefs
- Prevents the other person from practicing their religious or spiritual beliefs
- Uses the person’s religious or spiritual beliefs to manipulate or shame them
- Forces the children to be raised in a faith that the other parent or partner has not agreed to
- Uses religious texts or beliefs to minimize or rationalize abusive behaviors (such as physical, financial, emotional or sexual abuse/marital rape)
- Uses religious text or beliefs to define each family members’ role in contrast to their own role using power and control
Signs of Financial Abuse:
- Giving an allowance and closely watching how you spend it or demanding receipts for purchases
- Placing your paycheck in their bank account and denying you access to it
- Preventing you from viewing or having access to bank accounts
- Forbidding you to work or limiting the hours that you can work
- Maxing out credit cards in your name without permission or not paying the bills on credit cards, which could ruin your credit score
- Stealing money from you or your family and friends
- Using funds from children’s savings accounts without your permission
- Living in your home but refusing to work or contribute to the household
- Making you give them your tax returns or confiscating joint tax returns
- Refusing to give you money to pay for necessities/shared expenses like food, clothing, transportation, or medical care and medicine
What to do if you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship
If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, please reach out to your local services as soon as possible. If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, contact your local law enforcement.
Listed below are some local resources in Spokane, WA.
- National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799- SAFE (7233)
- 24-Hour Domestic Violence Helpline- Spokane, WA: 509-326-CALL (2255)
- YWCA Spokane, WA- Program for women and children who are victims of domestic violence: 509-789-9297
- Abuse Recovery Ministry & Services (ARMS)- Faith-based services: 503-262-9284 or 866-262-9284
Create a Safety Plan as soon as possible. A safety plan is a personalized plan that includes ways to keep you or someone you know safe while in the abusive relationship, in the process of leaving, or after he or she leaves.
The safety plan includes coping skills to help cope with his or her emotions, support systems they can turn to in time of need, such as family members or friends, and any legal actions that could help keep you or the person you know safe.
Counseling services can help a person process through the trauma they experienced while in the abusive relationship. Through counseling, the victim will learn to rebuild their independence through self-esteem, self-worth, and self-confidence.
It is never easy to seek help when you are in a domestic violence situation. Years of intense fear can prevent you from reaching out to those close to you or your local resources.
It is important to understand and recognize the early warning signs of domestic violence. By knowing the signs, it can help you or someone you know get out of a toxic relationship before it gets harder to leave.
“Abuse Defined.” The National Domestic Violence Hotline, www.thehotline.org/.Photos
“Love Shouldn’t Hurt,” Courtesy of Sydney Sims, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Girl,” Courtesy of Lotte Meijer, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Fear,” Courtesy of Alexander Krivitskiy, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Steps,” Courtesy of Elisabetta Foco, Unsplash.com, CC0 License