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What Is Domestic Violence?

Domestic violence is a pattern of coercive, controlling behavior that can include physical abuse, emotional or psychological abuse, sexual abuse or financial abuse. It is a pervasive, life-threatening crime that affects thousands of individuals in Connecticut regardless of age, gender, economic status, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or education. Victims are left feeling scared, confused, dependent and insecure about their ability to survive on their own, financially or otherwise. The children of an abused parent must contend with these same fears and realities.

Below are several types of abuse, including examples of each one. You can also learn more about risk factors and warning signs of an abusive relationship.

Types of Abuse

Physical Abuse 

Physical abuse is probably the easiest kind of behavior to recognize and understand as violent. It can be directed toward you or anyone you care about, including your pets. Aggressive physical contact should always be considered abusive and serious even if it doesn’t cause marks or permanent damage. Some examples of physical abuse include:

  • Scratching, biting, grabbing or spitting
  • Shoving and pushing
  • Slapping and punching
  • Throwing objects to hurt or intimidate you
  • Destroying possessions or treasured objects
  • Hurting or threatening to hurt your children and/or pets
  • Disrupting your sleeping patterns to make you feel exhausted
  • Burning
  • Strangling
  • Attacking or threatening to attack with a weapon 
  • Any threats or actual attempts to kill you
Emotional/Psychological Abuse 

Emotional or psychological abuse is any behavior, verbal or non-verbal, that your partner does to control you and/or damage your emotional well-being. Here are some examples of emotional abuse:

  • Name-calling and mocking, especially when targeting things you’re very sensitive about
  • Intimidating you when s/he is upset
  • Yelling in your face or positioning his/her body in a menacing way
  • Making humiliating remarks or gestures
  • Manipulating your children
  • Telling you what to do and/or where you can and cannot go
  • Placing little value on what you say
  • Interrupting, changing topics, not listening or responding, and twisting your words
  • Putting you down in front of other people
  • Saying negative things about your friends and family
  • Preventing or making it difficult for you to see friends or relatives
  • Cheating or being overly jealous
  • Shifting responsibility for abusive behavior by blaming others or saying you caused it 
  • Monitoring your phone calls, texts, car and computer use
Economic 

Money is often a tool that abusers use to establish absolute control in their relationships. An abusive partner might take all measures to ensure that you’re entirely financially dependent on him/her to prevent you from leaving or feeling like you have any power or say in your relationship. Economic abuse can take many forms, such as the following:

  • Forbidding the victim to work or attend school
  • Sabotaging employment opportunities by giving the victim a black eye or other visible injury prior to an important meeting
  • Jeopardizing employment by stalking or harassing the victim at the workplace
  • Denying access to a vehicle or damaging the vehicle so that the victim cannot get to work
  • Sabotaging educational opportunities by destroying class assignments
  • Withholding money or giving “an allowance”
  • Not allowing the victim access to bank accounts
  • Hiding family assets
  • Running up debt in the victim’s name
Stalking and Harassment 

An abusive partner or ex-partner might inappropriately demand your time even when you make it clear that you don’t want contact with him/her. Stalking and harassment can include the following:

  • Making unwanted visits or sending you unwanted messages (voicemails, text messages, emails, etc)
  • Following you, including installing GPS tracking software on your car or cell phone without your knowledge or consent
  • Checking up on you constantly
  • Embarrassing you in public 
  • Refusing to leave when asked
Sexual Abuse 

Sexual abuse is any sexual encounter that happens without your consent. We often talk about rape and other forms of sexual assault as something that only strangers commit; all forms of sexual assault, however, are equally wrong in relationships. Being in a relationship, for no matter how long a period of time, does not ever give your partner the right to sexually abuse you or demand any kind of sexual activity that you do not want to do. This includes, but is not limited to, the following examples:

  •  Unwanted touching
  • Rape: actual or attempted unwanted vaginal, oral, or anal penetration by an object or body part
  • Forcing or manipulating you into doing unwanted, painful or degrading acts during intercourse
  • Taking advantage of you while you’re drunk or otherwise not likely to give consent
  • Denying you contraception or protection against sexually transmitted diseases
  • Taking any kind of sexual pictures or film of you without your consent
  • Forcing you to perform sexual acts on film or in person for money 
  • Threatening to break up with you if you refuse sex

*Power & Control Wheel courtesy of The Duluth Model; www.theduluthmodel.org;

Download the Power & Control Wheel PDF.