Definition

What is Domestic Violence?

Domestic violence is physical, emotional, sexual, verbal, psychological, or financial abuse between two people in a current or former intimate relationship. This may include either current or former spouses or dating partners. It is not restricted to heterosexual relationships and may occur in any racial or socio-economic settings. Domestic violence can be one isolated event or long-term abuse characterized by emotional, sexual or physical trauma. 

Domestic violence may be any of the following:

  • Physical abuse is when a person hurts, or attempts to hurt a partner of any kind by aggressive or painful attacks on their partner. This may include striking, kicking, burning, pushing, choking, shoving, pinching, slapping or any other physical assault.
  • Sexual abuse is forcing or coercing a partner into sex, unwanted touching, or even sexual accusations or threats, without the partner's consent.
  • Threats of physical or sexual abuse include the use of words, gestures, weapons, or other means to communicate the intent to cause harm. 
  • Emotional abuse may occur when an abusive person threatens to injure their partner or important belongings or loved ones. This may also include eroding their partner's sense of self-worth through name calling, put downs and/or yelling.
  • Isolation keeps a partner from contacting friends and family. A restriction from contact with others outside the situation maintains the abusive partner's control.
  • Financial abuse occurs when one partner controls some or all aspects of the finances within the relationship. This can come in the form of allowances or not allowing a partner to have a bank account, credit card, or access to either. Financial abuse is a tool commonly used by abusers as it helps to isolate their victim quickly.

Many victims of domestic violence suffer physical injuries. Injuries can include:

  • Minor cuts, scratches, bruises and welts.
  • Chronic pain and physical trauma caused by broken bones, internal bleeding, choking and head trauma. Injuries of this nature can ultimately result in death.

Not all injuries are physical -- Domestic violence can also be, or cause:

  • Emotional harm, low self-esteem
  • Difficulty in trusting others or sustaining meaningful relationships
  • Trigger-induced anger or stress
  • Eating disorders
  • Depression
  • Thoughts and feelings about suicide, or suicide attempts within the relationship.