Domestic Violence

Characteristics of Domestic Violence

  • Domestic violence is a pattern of behaviors used to gain power and control in a relationship. The behaviors may be subtle and many people do not recognize them at first.
  • Physical violence is only one type of abuse. Other types include emotional, economic, sexual, and social.
  • Victims often are – or think they are – dependent on their abusers. If they leave, they may lose access to money, become homeless, or fear they will lose their children. Abusers use these feelings of fear and dependency to assert power and control.
  • Victims also fear the danger of leaving. They know intimately that leaving is the most dangerous time in an abusive relationship.
  • Abusers come from all demographics and may seem charming at first. They may continue to act charming in public and in front of their victim’s friends and family. The ability to act differently in public reinforces that abusers can manage their behavior.
  • Abusive behavior is learned behavior, and it can be changed.

Patterns of Power and ControlGirl with a hand signaling to stop in black and white

  • The main abusive behaviors include aggression, anger, domination, humiliation, intimidation, manipulation, punishment, and control. These behaviors reinforce the abuser’s authority.
  • Abuse is not a loss of control; it is the opposite. Abuse is an attempt to control the other person and abusers make distinct choices. Abuse is not an accident.
  • Abuse may occur unpredictably or regularly over short or long periods of time. However, it typically gets worse over time.
  • All abuse ultimately reinforces one underlying theme – that one person maintains control over the other.
  • Abuse breaks down a person’s sense of self-worth and can enforce learned helplessness (an acquired feeling that you cannot do anything right, survivor on your own, or escape the abuse).
  • Abusers benefit from placating victims. They do not have to worry about daily negotiations over the children or housecleaning and can manage their time however they please.