What is Domestic Violence?

Definitions and Descriptions

Domestic violence is a pattern of abusive behaviors in the context of an intimate relationship. Abusive behaviors are used by one individual to control or exert power over another individual.

Domestic violence typically increases in frequency and severity over time. It often begins as emotional abuse and escalates to physical abuse. Both emotional and physical abuse can be devastating for the individual.

Physical Abuse:

Physical abuse is the most commonly recognized form of violence. It ranges from actions like punching, kicking, breaking bones or using household objects as weapons; denying sleep, nutrition and medical care; and/or causing internal or permanent injury. In the extreme, physical violence may lead to homicide. Additionally, sexual violence is a specific form of physical abuse.

Emotional Abuse:

Emotional abuse is another form of violence and is used to render a person helpless and dependent on the abuser. Examples of emotional abuse include the use of derogatory and degrading names, threats of physical/sexual abuse, denial of an individual’s feelings and abilities, blaming an individual for the violence or accusing the individual of promiscuity.

Sexual Abuse:

Please click here for information on Sexual Abuse, which will take you to the Sexual Violence section.

Environmental Abuse:

Environmental abuse also is a form of violence and becomes apparent when the individual is kept economically dependent on the abuser, imprisoned by geographic isolation or denied any freedom. Destruction of the individual’s possessions, abuse of the children and the driving away of friends and family also fall into the category of environmental abuse.

Social Abuse:

Social abuse may well be the hidden form of violence that supports and reinforces the other three forms of abuse. Rigid social roles that limit the expression of feelings such as anger or depression, teach individuals that they are not as capable or as important as their abuser. Other rigid social roles convey that individuals need to be protected and controlled. These are just a few examples of social norms that can become constraining and abusive. Social abuse exists in the family, the church, the school system and the media. The police and legal system, medical system, social service and the economic system also may support social abuse by undervaluing requests for help or blaming the individual experiencing domestic or sexual violence.

Child Abuse:

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Elder Abuse:

Please click here for information on Elder Abuse, which will take you to the Elder Abuse page.