Domestic violence and abuse can happen to anyone, yet the problem is often overlooked, excused, or denied. This is especially true when the abuse is psychological, rather than physical. Noticing and acknowledging the signs of an abusive relationship is the first step to ending it.
No one should live in fear of the person they love. If you recognize yourself or someone you know in the following warning signs and descriptions of abuse, reach out. There is help available.
Domestic abuse, also known as spousal abuse,occurs when one person in an intimate relationship or marriage tries to dominate and control the other person. Domestic abuse that includes physical violence is called domestic violence.
Domestic violence and abuse are used for one purpose and one purpose only: to gain and maintain total control over you. An abuser doesn’t “play fair.” Abusers use fear, guilt, shame, and intimidation to wear you down and keep you under his or her thumb. Your abuser may also threaten you, hurt you, or hurt those around you.
Domestic violence and abuse does not discriminate. It happens among heterosexual couples and in same-sex partnerships. It occurs within all age ranges, ethnic backgrounds, and economic levels. And while women are more commonly victimized, men are also abused— especially verbally and emotionally, although sometimes even physically as well.
The bottom line is that abusive behavior is never acceptable, whether it’s coming from a man, a woman, a teenager, or an older adult. You deserve to feel valued, respected, and safe.
Recognizing abuse is the first step to getting help
Domestic abuse often escalates from threats and verbal abuse to violence. And while physical injury may be the most obvious danger, the emotional and psychological consequences of domestic abuse are also severe.
Emotionally abusive relationships can destroy your selfworth, lead to anxiety and depression, and make you feel helpless and alone. No one should have to endure this kind of pain—and your first step to breaking free is recognizing that your situation is abusive. Once you acknowledge the reality of the abusive situation, then you can get the help you need.
Signs of an abusive relationship
There are many signs of an abusive relationship. The most telling sign is fear of your partner. If you feel like you have to walk on eggshells around your partner—constantly watching what you say and do in order to avoid a blow-up—chances are your relationship is unhealthy and abusive.
Other signs that you may be in an abusive relationship include a partner who belittles you or tries to control you, and feelings of self-loathing, helplessness, and desperation.
To determine whether your relationship is abusive, answer the questions below. The more “yes” answers, the more likely it is that you’re in an abusive relationship.
Domestic violence, also known as domestic abuse, spousal abuse, battering, family violence, dating abuse, and intimate partner violence (IPV), is a pattern of behavior which involves the abuse by one partner against another in an intimate relationship such as marriage,cohabitation, dating or within the family.
Domestic violence can take many forms, including physical aggression or assault (hitting, kicking, biting, shoving, restraining, slapping, throwing objects, battery), or threats thereof; sexual abuse; emotional abuse; controlling or domineering; intimidation;stalking; passive/covert abuse (e.g., neglect); and economic deprivation.
Alcohol consumption and mental illness] can be co-morbid with abuse, and present additional challenges in eliminating domestic violence. Awareness, perception, definition and documentation of domestic violence differs widely from country to country, and from era to era.
Domestic violence and abuse is not limited to obvious physical violence. Domestic violence can also mean endangerment, criminal coercion, kidnapping, unlawful imprisonment, trespassing, harassment, and stalking.
Laws on domestic violence vary by country. While it is generally outlawed in the Western World, this is not the case in many developing countries. For instance, in 2010, the United Arab Emirates’s Supreme Court ruled that a man has the right to physically discipline his wife and children as long as he does not leave physical marks.
The social acceptability of domestic violence also differs by country. While in most developed countries domestic violence is considered unacceptable by most people, in many regions of the world the views are different: according to a UNICEF survey, the percentage of women aged 15–49 who think that a husband is justified in hitting or beating his wife under certain circumstances is, for example: 90% in Afghanistan and Jordan, 87% in Mali, 86% in Guinea and Timor-Leste, 81% in Laos, 80% in Central African Republicing to submit to a husband’s wishes is a common reason given for justification of violence in developing countries: for instance 62.4% of women in Tajikistan justify wife beating if the wife goes out without telling the husband; 68% if she argues with him; 47.9% if she refuses to have sex with him.
Traditionally, in most cultures, men had a legal right to use violence to “discipline” their wives. Although in the US and many European countries this right was removed from them in the late 19th/early 20th century, before the 1970s criminal arrests were very rare (occurring only in cases of extreme violence), and it was only in the 1990s that rigorous enforcement of laws against domestic violence became standard policy in Western countries.
The definition of the term “domestic violence” varies, depending on the context in which it is used. It may be defined differently in medical, legal, political or social contexts. The definitions have varied over time, and vary in different parts of the world. Traditionally, domestic violence was mostly associated with physical violence.
For instance, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary definition, domestic violence is: “the inflicting of physical injury by one family or household member on another; also: a repeated / habitual pattern of such behavior.”
However, domestic violence today, as defined by international conventions and by governments, has a much broader definition, including sexual, psychological and economic abuse.
The Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence states that:
” “domestic violence” shall mean all acts of physical, sexual, psychological or economic violence that occur within the family or domestic unit or between former or current spouses or partners, whether or not the perpetrator shares or has shared the same residence with the victim”.
The Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women classifies violence against women into three categories: that occurring in the family (DV), that occurring within the general community, and that perpetrated or condoned by the State. Family violence is defined as follows:
“Physical, sexual and psychological violence occurring in the family, including battering, sexual abuse of female children in the household, dowry-related violence, marital rape, female genital mutilation and other traditional practices harmful to women, non- spousal violence and violence related to exploitation”.
The term “intimate partner violence” (IPV) is often used synonymously with domestic abuse or domestic violence. Family violence is a broader definition, often used to include child abuse, elder abuse, and other violent acts between family members.
Broad definitions of domestic violence are common today. For instance the Act XX on Domestic Violence 2006, in Malta, defines DV as follows:
“domestic violence” means any act of violence, even if only verbal, perpetrated by a household member upon another household member and includes any omission which causes physical or moral harm to the other”
Terms such wife abuse, wife beating, and battering are descriptive terms that have lost popularity recently for several reasons:
- There is acknowledgment that many victims are not actually married to the abuser, but rather cohabiting or in other arrangements.[
- Abuse can take other forms than physical abuse. Other forms of abuse may be constantly occurring, while physical abuse happens occasionally. These other forms of abuse, that are not physical, also have the potential to lead to mental illness, self-harm, and even attempts at suicide.
- Males as well as females may be victims of domestic violence, and females as well as males can be the perpetrators.
- All forms of domestic abuse can occur in same sex partnerships.
“Domestic violence” may also be the name of a specific criminal offense, in a Criminal Code of a jurisdiction, describing various criminal acts. It may also appear in the context of legislation that is not necessary criminal, but rather civil (providing for civil remedies, protection orders etc.). See, for example, Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005.
The US Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) defines domestic violence as 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”.
The definition adds that domestic violence “can happen to anyone regardless of race, age, sexual orientation, religion, or gender”, and can take many forms, including physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional, economic, and psychological abuse.
The Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service in the United Kingdom in its “Domestic Violence Policy” uses domestic violence to refer to a range of violent and abusive behaviors, defining it as:
Patterns of behavior characterized by the misuse of power and control by one person over another who are or have been in an intimate relationship. It can occur in mixed gender relationships and same gender relationships and has profound consequences for the lives of children, individuals, families and communities.
It may be physical, sexual, emotional and/or psychological. The latter may include intimidation, harassment, damage to property, threats and financial abuse .
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