At its core, domestic violence (also called intimate partner violence, domestic abuse or relationship abuse) is about power and control. It’s when someone you’re close to tries to threaten or control you. Anyone can be a victim—no matter his or her age, race, religion, education level, income, sexual orientation or gender. The abuser could be a spouse, a domestic partner or someone you date.
What are the possible signs?
Domestic violence can involve physical abuse, such as hitting, kicking, slapping or biting. But it can also take the form of psychological, sexual, emotional or financial abuse.
Signs of an abusive relationship can vary because every relationship is different. But some common signs include a partner who:
- Constantly puts you down, calls you names or says that you can’t do anything right.
- Frightens you with threats.
- Forces you to have sex.
- Keeps you from contacting family or friends.
- Hits, slaps or pushes you, or pulls your hair.
- Says it is your fault if he or she hits you.
- Vows the abuse will not happen again (though it does).
- Tries to control how you access or spend money.
- Attempts to control where you go, what you do or what you wear.
- Breaks your things or threatens to harm your children or pets.
If you’re being abused, it’s crucial to get help. Here are some steps you might want to take:
Tell someone you’re being abused. That might be a nurse, doctor, counselor or social worker, a close friend or family member, or a clergy member. It’s the first step in breaking a violent pattern in a relationship.
Make a safety plan. Pack a suitcase with clothes and important items (such as keys and money) so you—and your kids if you have them—can quickly leave a violent situation. Know where you will go. You might stay with family, friends or a shelter for abuse victims.
Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233. Trained advocates are available 24/7 to offer support and referral services. Or you can visit thehotline.org. If you’re in danger now, call 911.
Sources: American Academy of Family Physicians; American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists; National Domestic Violence Hotline; U.S. Department of Justice