Know About It

It’s time to understand domestic violence is not mutual violence.

It’s time to know more about domestic violence

Domestic violence is known by many other names, including intimate partner violence, dating violence, power-based personal violence, gender-based violence, battering, and more.

Domestic violence is a pattern of assaultive and coercive behaviors deliberately used by one partner to gain and maintain power and control over the other partner.

Domestic violence is more than just physical violence

There are a range of behaviors people use to gain and maintain control, many of which are subtle and continue over time. These behaviors include intimidation, manipulation, isolation, threats, emotional abuse, financial control, and more.

These behaviors, especially when used in combination, cause harm to survivors.

To learn more about the various tactics people use to control their partners, see the power and control wheel.

Someone may use this type of violence to control their partner in many different kinds of relationships, including marriages, dating relationships, having a child-in-common, and past relationships.

Every survivor experiences abuse differently and signs that someone is being abused are not always obvious. However, if you notice any of the following, there may be cause for concern.

A person being abused may:

  • Seem afraid of or anxious to please their partner
  • Mention their partner’s “bad temper” or “jealousy”
  • Make excuses for their partner’s behavior
  • Give excuses for physical injuries that seem unlikely
  • Spend less time with friends and family members
  • Talk about how their partner makes the big decisions, such as how to spend money or discipline children
  • Mention their partner tries to control who they speak with or how they spend their time
  • Talk about how their partner is constantly checking up on them, calling, texting, reading their email, etc.
  • Express concerns about how their partner disciplines their children or that they are afraid to leave their children alone with their partner

Keep in mind that domestic violence is not just about what is done to the survivor, but also the limitations on the survivor’s actions.

A person using violence may:

  • Blame their partner for things that go wrong
  • Make fun of their partner or say terrible things about their partner in front of others
  • Control who their partner talks to, how their partner acts, or what their partner wears
  • Accuse their partner of doing things to harm them or the children (such as having an affair or doing drugs) without any proof
  • Put their own needs before the needs of their partner and their children
  • Blame other people or things (such as stress or alcohol) for their behavior

Intimate partner violence can look different from relationship to relationship and across time within the same relationship. Not every person uses the same abusive behaviors or tries to control the same aspects of a survivor’s life. One abuser may control a survivor’s money while someone else may not care about money but instead control how that survivor spends their time. The point is, it is the abuser who decides what they will control, not the survivor.

It can sometimes be difficult to see abuse from within your own relationship. If you partner does any of the following, you may want to speak to someone:

  • Tells you that you never do anything right
  • Prevents or discourages you from spending time with your friends and family
  • Insults, demeans, or shames you
  • Pressures you to have sex or perform sexual acts you are not comfortable with
  • Intimidates you into acting (or not acting) in a way they want
  • Insults your parenting or threatens to harm or take away your children or pets
  • Uses weapons to intimidate you

This is a partial list of behaviors that may be abusive. If you think you or someone you love may be in a relationship with an abusive person, reach out to someone listed on the resource page.

Who experiences domestic violence

We all know someone who has experienced domestic violence.

Anyone can be a survivor of intimate partner violence, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, ability, or socioeconomic status.

Survivors may be successful, well-educated, and come from a “good family.” They may be outgoing, confident, energetic, and funny.
No personality trait automatically protects someone from being targeted for abuse.

Adult survivors aren’t the only people harmed by intimate partner violence. Children, relatives, coworkers, pets, and others are also affected.

Who uses domestic violence

We all know someone who has caused harm through domestic violence.

Anyone can be a person who uses violence, including, perhaps, the people you least expect. People who perpetrate violence take extraordinary measures to make sure others don’t see the harm they are causing. In public, they may seem like loving, caring partners; they may only let the survivor see their cruelty. To you or anyone else, they may not seem like the type of person who is abusive.

That’s because there isn’t a “type” of person who chooses to use violence. They may be active community members, religious leaders, friendly coworkers, good neighbors, long-time friends, or family members. They may be funny, smart, charming, and exhibit kindness. They may use their standing in the community to help hide or excuse the fact they are using violence. They may have even previously spoken out against intimate partner and sexual violence.

In other words, they may not fit anyone’s idea of a cruel or intimidating person.

Domestic Violence is not about mutual abuse

Intimate partner violence is one-sided abuse. While both partners may have used violence (many survivors do when trying to defend themselves), intimate partner violence should be understood as one person using abusive behaviors to create fear and control the other partner. Using violence in self-defense is not the same thing as using it to control someone. Survivors may use abusive behaviors to respond to the person using violence, but that doesn’t mean both partners are responsible for intimate partner violence.
To understand this and avoid the false idea that intimate partner violence is about “he said / she said,” you need to look at the history of behavior from each person and consider what purpose the behaviors serve. To do this, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Who is more afraid?
  • Who is harmed? How badly are they harmed?
  • Who is harmed more often?
  • Who is changing their behavior to meet the needs and mood of the other?
  • Who gains what with this behavior?
Abuse is ongoing

Abuse is not something that happens in a moment and then ends. It extends to all parts of a survivor’s life, affecting work or school, finances and economic well-being, friendships, parenting, hobbies, and more. The effects of abuse continue and build on each other, creating even greater harm. Small abusive acts become a pattern of abuse.

Ending the relationship is not the same as ending the abuse.

It’s time to know more about domestic violence

Because of the nature of abuse, the person using violence doesn’t stop their behavior when the survivor asks them to. Abusive behavior only stops when the person using violence chooses to stop. Leaving the relationship rarely convinces the person using violence to stop the abuse. In fact, they may see this as a reason to escalate their behavior to regain control of the survivor. This is why preparing to leave or after the survivor has left can be the time of greatest danger. After the survivor has left the relationship, the person using violence often just changes their behavior to suit the new circumstances. This may include recruiting others to help intimidate the survivor, manipulating the court system to maintain contact with the survivor, stalking the survivor, blackmailing the survivor, and many other abusive acts. This means not all survivors see leaving as an option, and it shouldn’t be seen as the only solution to ending abuse.

Domestic violence is not caused by anger, stress, substance misuse, mental health, family history, or the survivor’s behavior.

While some outside factors can escalate abuse, these issues don’t cause domestic violence.

Survivors are never responsible for an abusive person’s behavior.

Domestic violence is a choice. Abuse is caused by oppressive factors in society and an abuser’s sense of entitlement. People who abuse believe they have a right to feel powerful by controlling and restricting their partners’ lives. They believe their own feelings and needs should be the priority in the relationship.