Domestic Abuse 101

Domestic abuse, also known as intimate partner violence or family violence, is a pattern of behaviors used by one person to gain power and control over another within a close relationship. These relationships include spouses, partners, parents, children, and other family members.

Abusive behaviors in domestic situations can be physical, emotional, psychological, or economic. Physical abuse involves acts of violence, while emotive and psychological abuse may include manipulation, humiliation, or threats. Economic abuse entails controlling financial resources, limiting access to money, or sabotaging employment opportunities.

It is essential to recognize the signs of domestic abuse, such as unexplained injuries, changes in behavior, isolation from friends and family, or financial control. If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic abuse, seeking help from local support services or authorities is crucial to ensure safety and well-being.

Abuse is a learned behavior. Some people witness it in their own families growing up; others know it slowly from friends, popular culture, or structural inequities throughout our society. No matter where they develop such behaviors, those who commit abusive acts choose to do so — they also could decide not to.​

Many people experience or witness abuse and use their experiences to end the cycle of violence and heal themselves without harming others. While outside factors (including drug or alcohol addiction) can escalate abuse, it’s essential to recognize that these issues do not cause domestic abuse.


  1. Fear: A person will likely fear the consequences if they decide to leave their relationship, either out of fear of their partner’s actions or concern over their safety.
  1. Normalized abuse: If someone grew up in an environment where abuse was expected, they might not know what healthy relationships look like. As a result, they may not recognize that their partner’s behaviors are unhealthy or abusive.
  1. Shame: It can be difficult for someone to admit that they’ve been or are being abused. They may feel that they’ve done something wrong, deserve the abuse, or that experiencing abuse is a sign of weakness.
  1. Intimidation: A survivor may be intimidated into staying in a relationship by verbal or physical threats or threats to spread information, including secrets or confidential details (i.e., revenge porn, etc.).
  1. Low self-esteem: After experiencing verbal abuse or blame for physical abuse, survivors can easily believe those sentiments and think they’re at fault for their partner’s abusive behaviors.​
  1. Lack of resources: Survivors may be financially dependent on their abusive partner or have previously been denied opportunities to work, a place to sleep on their own, language assistance, or a network to turn to during moments of crisis.
  1. Immigration status: Undocumented people may fear that reporting abuse will affect their immigration status.
  1. Cultural context: Traditional customs or beliefs may influence someone’s decision to stay in an abusive situation, whether held by the survivor or by their family and community. Some cultural beliefs normalize abuse, making it difficult for victims to solicit support from the community.
  1. Children: Many survivors may feel guilty or responsible for disrupting their family unit. Keeping the family together may not only be something that a survivor may value but may also be used as a tactic by their partner to guilt a survivor into staying.​
  1. Love: Experiencing abuse and feeling genuine care for a partner causing harm are not mutually exclusive. Survivors often still have strong, intimate feelings for their abusive partner. They may have children together, want to maintain their family, or the person abusing them may be charming (especially at the beginning of a relationship). The survivor may hope that their partner will return to being that person.​


Understanding healthy relationship dynamics and promoting awareness about domestic abuse are critical steps in preventing and addressing this pervasive issue.

In healthy, non-abusive relationships, there is mutual respect, trust, and open communication between partners. Both individuals feel safe expressing their thoughts and emotions without fear of judgment or retaliation. Boundaries are established and respected, creating a sense of autonomy and personal space.

In such relationships, there is support for each other’s goals and aspirations. Conflict is approached with constructive communication and a willingness to find resolutions together. Partners celebrate each other’s successes and provide comfort during challenges. There is a shared sense of equality and a recognition of each other’s individuality.

Physical and emotional safety are paramount in healthy relationships. Kindness, empathy, and understanding contribute to a positive and nurturing environment. Overall, a healthy relationship fosters personal growth, happiness, and a strong sense of connection between partners.

Click on the different types of abuse to learn more.

  1. Physical abuse
  2. Emotional or psychological abuse
  3. Child sexual abuse
  4. Sexual abuse
  5. Financial abuse

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