What is Domestic Abuse?
Domestic Abuse (also called domestic violence, spousal abuse, battering, family violence, dating abuse, and intimate partner violence) is a pattern of behaviors used to gain or maintain power and control in an intimate relationship. Domestic abuse can be actions or threats of actions. It is used to intimidate, humiliate, isolate, frighten, coerce, blame, or injure. (source: Idaho Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence)
Types of abuse:
Physical: Use of physical force such as slapping, punching, choking/strangulation, shoving, burning, grabbing, shaking, using weapons or restraints.
Sexual: Forcing or coercing unwanted sexual contact of any kind, controlling reproduction (sabotaging birth control, forcing partner to become/stay pregnant, or to terminate pregnancy). You can be raped or sexually assaulted even if you’re in a relationship. Marriage, a relationship, and/or previous consent does not mean that you must consent to any or all sexual contact. More information on sexual assault here.
Emotional/Verbal: Non-physical intimidation such as screaming, belittling, punching or throwing objects (walls, dishes, etc), public embarrassment or harassment, isolation from family and friends, threatening suicide or self-injury if partner leaves, threatening children or pets, controlling partner’s dress, stalking. May also include threatening to “out” partner’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or immigration status.
Economic: Controlling partner’s spending, income, or purchases. May include denying access to paycheck or shared bank accounts, giving partner an “allowance,” closely monitoring spending, preventing partner from working, stealing partner’s identity.
Digital: Using texting and/or social networking to intimidate, harass, or control a partner. May include controlling social media accounts, using accounts to keep tabs on partner’s activities or whereabouts, pressuring partner for explicit pictures or messages, excessive texting.
According to the US Center for Disease Control (2010), 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men report being the victims of some form of domestic abuse at some point in their lives.
Am I being abused?
Domestic abuse can occur anywhere, in couples or families of any race, socioeconomic status, age, religion, education level, or sexual orientation. While most reported domestic abusers are men and abuse victims are women, men can also be victims of abuse and women can be abusers.
Certain behaviors or characteristics may indicate a potential abuser:
- Emotionally dependent or unavailable.
- Known to display violence or aggression towards other people (no sense of violating another’s boundaries).
- Has guns and uses them to protect himself/herself against other people.
- Loses temper frequently and more easily than seems necessary.
- Commits act of violence against objects and things rather than people.
- Uses drug or alcohol abuse as an excuse for physically or verbally aggressive behavior.
- Displays an unusual amount of jealousy.
- Becomes enraged when partner does not listen to his/her advice.
- Has sense of overkill in cruelty or in kindness.
- Has a limited capacity for delayed gratification.
You may be in an abusive relationship if your spouse, partner or a family member:
- Intimidates or threatens to hurt you, your family, or pets.
- Touches you in ways that hurt or scare you.
- Insults you in public.
- Limits where you go, who you see, and what you do.
- Tries to control your money.
- Destroys your things.
- Monitors your phone or online activity.
- Makes you have sex in ways or at times that are uncomfortable to you.
- Blames you for the abuse.
- Makes you fearful when he/she is angry.
- Tells you jealousy is a sign of love.
If you think you are being abused, call our Hotline at 208.343.7025
Is my loved one being abused?
Your friend or family member may be in an abusive relationship if she/he:
- Apologizes or makes excuses for the abusive partner’s behavior
- Seems increasingly isolated from friends and family
- Is nervous about talking when the abusive partner is present
- Tries to cover up bruises
- Is in denial about what is happening
- Blames herself/himself for partner’s abusive behavior
- Acts cautious, appeasing, “walks on eggshells” around partner
- Seems sad, lonely, withdrawn and/or afraid
- Seems sick more often and misses work
- Seems defensive and angry
- Copes by using drugs or alcohol
If you think your loved one is in an abusive relationship:
- Speak up. Tell them you’re concerned for their safety and want to help.
- Be supportive and listen patiently. Acknowledge their feelings and be respectful of their decisions, even if that means staying with their abuser.
- Reassure your loved one that the abuse is not “normal” and is NOT their fault.
- Focus on your friend or family member, not the abusive partner. Even if your loved one stays with their partner, it’s important they still feel comfortable talking to you about it.
- Help them develop a safety plan. Call 208.577.4498 for more information.
- If they break up with the abusive partner, continue to be supportive after the relationship is over. The effects of abuse do not end when the relationship does.
- Don’t contact their abuser or publicly post negative things about them online. It will only worsen the situation for your loved one.
- Assure your loved one that you are there for them. The recovery from abuse is difficult. If they decide to stay with their abuser now, they may want to leave in the future. Knowing they can reach out to you can make the difference between staying and getting out.
If you need assistance or want to refer your loved one, contact WCA:
Signs that a child is being abused:
- Bodily injuries
- Fretful sleep pattern, excessive crying, lethargy (especially in infants)
- Frequent illness or psychosomatic complaints
- Withdrawn behavior
- Low self-esteem
- Reluctance to be touched
- Hitting, stealing, lying
- Trouble in school
- Eating disorders
- Need to be perfect or “caretaker” behavior toward younger siblings (especially in school-age children and teens)
- Sophisticated or age-inappropriate knowledge of sex, sexual acting-out
- Depression, self-harm, contemplation of suicide (especially in teens)
- Anger at abused parent and/or identification with the abuser (teens)
- Delinquent behavior, drug/alcohol abuse (teens)
Why it’s important to intervene for children:
- Boys who witness domestic violence when they’re young are more likely to later become abusive towards their partners and/or children
- Girls who witness domestic violence when they’re young are more likely to be in abusive relationships later on.
- Therapy or case work with parents and children from abusive households can break the cycle of violence by treating trauma and teaching healthy relationship dynamics.
If you suspect a child is being abused, call our hotline. If you think a child is in immediate danger, CALL 9-1-1! For more help and information about warning signs and how to talk to children about sexual abuse, see our Resources section.
Isn’t it partly my fault? / Why doesn’t she just leave?
Abuse is never the victim’s fault. Most abuse victims spend inordinate amounts of energy trying to placate and please their partners, only to have the abuse continue or resurface later. Many people assume that abuse is at least partially the victim’s fault or wonder “Why don’t they just leave?” In reality, abusive relationships are complicated, and victims’ reasons for staying reflect that.
Ultimately, no one but the abuser is responsible for abusive behavior.
Here are just a few reasons why people stay in abusive relationships:
Fear – The most understandable explanation, and one we often forget to mention. Victims of domestic violence often fear what their abuser might do if they leave more than what will happen if they stay, based on the abuser’s previous threats and actions.
Hope – Many people cling to the belief that their abuser will change. They often do not want the relationship to end; they just want the abuse to stop. However, research suggests that abusive individuals do not change unless they receive professional treatment. Research also suggests that a majority of batterers will never change their behavior.
Responsibility – Society has traditionally placed the responsibility of marriage and family issues on women. Women are socialized to be nurturing and to believe that the family needs to stay together at all costs. Furthermore, some religions preach that women are to submit to their husbands.
Stigma – This applies to female and male victims, although sometimes in different ways. Society often continues to hold female abuse victims responsible for their partners’ behavior, asking what she did to provoke him rather than asking why he decided to hurt her. Abuse of men is rarely discussed in our society, despite research that indicates males experience emotional and physical abuse at rates approaching those of females. Men are expected to be invulnerable and in control, which adds another barrier to seeking or receiving help. Additional social stigma also makes it difficult for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender victims to seek or receive inclusive support.
Economics – Many women do not have the economic means to care for themselves. This issue becomes more problematic when children are involved. Most abusers keep total control over financial matters, and sometimes go so far as to sabotage their victim’s job or preventing them from seeking employment. Victims do not always have the job skills to gain employment. A woman can face up to a 73% drop in her income after a divorce.
For more, see “50 Reasons Women Don’t Leave Abusive Partners” (many of these factors also apply to male and LGBTQ victims)