One of the first steps in increasing domestic violence awareness is by learning to identify and understand it. This includes being able to identify the different types of domestic violence and the cycle which is often present in a domestically abusive relationship.
What is domestic violence?
According to the United States Department of Justice, “domestic violence (DV) is a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner.”
An abuser may use a number of tactics to manipulate and gain control over their victim, including physical, emotional, economic, sexual, technological and psychological abuse. The behaviors of an abuser are often methods to “intimidate, manipulate, humiliate, isolate, frighten, terrorize, coerce, threaten, blame, hurt, injure, or wound” their partner.
Types of domestic violence
Being aware of the types of domestic abuse can help you better identify an abusive situation and find the help you or a loved one may need.
Signs of physical abuse may be the most easily recognized; a victim of physical abuse may suffer any of the following:
- Hitting, punching, choking, biting or smothering
- Being denied necessary medical attention, being kept from taking prescribed or needed medication or being prevented from contacting medical assistance
- Injury to one’s children or pets
- Forced consumption or use of drugs or alcohol
- Having weapons used against them
- Being trapped inside the house without the ability to leave or contact help
Physical abuse is often life-threatening and requires intervention from law enforcement as soon as possible.
Emotional abuse also includes verbal abuse, and may subject the victim to the following:
- Insults, criticisms and name-calling geared at belittling and tearing down self-esteem
- Gaslighting – whereby the abuser slowly makes the victim question their own reasoning/sanity and breaks down the victim’s ability to trust themselves/their perceptions
- Control over where they go, who they see and what they do
- Threatening the victim, their children, their family or pets
- Publicly humiliating
- Blaming the victim for their actions or failure to take responsibility for what they’ve done
- Damaging items within the home, including the victim’s belongings
An emotionally abusive relationship seeks to undermine the self-worth and self-esteem of the victim in order to gain control over them and keep them locked into the relationship.
Forcing their victim or using coercion to engage in sexual behavior indicates an abusive situation, in addition to:
- Using sexual insults or explicit name-calling
- Inflicting pain during sex
- Forcing the victim to have sex with others or allowing others to take part in sexual activity without consent
- Ignoring the victim’s feelings or reservations in regard to sex
Sexual abuse has little to nothing to do with sex and instead is used to gain control over the victim.
Any behavior which harms or controls the finances of a partner constitutes economic abuse, including:
- Giving an allowance with strict guidelines, like where and how to spend it
- Sabotaging credit scores
- Stealing money from the victim, their family or friends
- Denying them access to financial accounts
- Preventing them from working, only allowing them to work at certain jobs or getting them fired
An economically abusive relationship can feel especially debilitating for the victim and particularly powerful for the abuser.
Technological abuse is more often relevant in the lives of those who frequently use social media. Signs of this type include:
- Looking through the victim’s phone history, pictures and accounts
- Limiting who they can talk or text online
- Making them feel the need to have their phone on hand to respond to their partner’s constant texts
- Using technology to monitor where they go/what you do
- Humiliating the victim online through belittling comments or insensitive posts
This form of abuse is most often emotional or verbal abuse.
Understanding the cycle of domestic violence
The cycle of domestic violence usually rotates through three phases, but once the cycle of abuse begins, it’s never likely to stop on its own. As the cycle continues, the violence grows in severity and frequency.
Most abusive relationships do not immediately begin aggressively, rather, the abuser uses tactics of romance to gain influence and control over their partner.
Once a connection is established, the tension-building phase begins, where the abuser lays a set of ground rules the victim must follow. These rules are often difficult to meet, as they restrict the victim’s actions or force upon them undesirable requests. Failure to follow these rules, however, results in consequences that inflict harm on the victim that inevitably grow more severe.
The acute battering phase follows, where the abuser uses severe, potentially life-threatening, acts of violence to either teach a lesson or further subdue their victim. This often leaves the victim in a state of shock and distress, for which the abuser takes little-to-no responsibility.
The final stage in the cycle is the remorseful phase where the aggressor will act in such a loving way as to gain the victim’s forgiveness; they promise it will not happen again, but still blame the victim for what occurred – i.e. “If you had done what I asked, I wouldn’t have had to do this to you.”
This final stage makes it confusing for victims to sort out what happened and are often manipulated into staying with their partner even after they’ve inflicted damage. The more this pattern of behavior occurs, the more dangerous it becomes.
Seek help for domestic violence
If you or someone you know has experienced domestic violence, consider the help offered through mental health treatment. To get in touch with a therapist today, contact The Light Program by calling 610-644-6464 to learn more.