Domestic violence is one person’s use of emotional, physical, economic, and/or sexual abuse to obtain power and control over someone else. It commonly happens repeatedly, over time, through a pattern of behavior. It is also referred to as abuse, assault, intimate partner violence, family violence, or spousal abuse. Domestic violence can happen to anyone, regardless of race, age, social status, education level, or gender. An abusive person chooses to enact violence—this violence is never the result or fault of a survivor’s actions.
How Can I Be Sure It’s Domestic Violence?
If you are wondering whether your situation is domestic violence, consider the following questions.
Does someone you care about:
- Constantly put you down or make fun of you?
- Repeatedly call or show up to check on you?
- Control all of the money?
- Scare or threaten you? (e.g. “If you do that again, I’ll . . .”)
- Always blame you?
- Control who you see or what you do?
- Force you to touch or be touched when you don’t want to?
- Glare, yell, raise fists, or break things?
- Grab, shove, slap, or hit you?
- Always do what they want instead of what you want?
- Feel like you “walk on eggshells” to avoid angering them?
- Feel scared to spend money?
- Stay in the relationship because you fear what would happen if you left?
- Always feel like it is your fault?
- Believe that if you just tried harder, everything would be okay?
- Believe you are “nothing” without them?
If you answered “yes” to even one of these questions and you want to talk to an advocate, call CARDV at 541-754-0110. All calls are confidential and will not be shared with anyone.
Warning signs of an abusive person
If someone in your life has one or more of the following warning signs, you may be in danger. The more of these behaviors they exhibit or show, the more likely they are to use emotional, physical, economic or sexual violence to control you.
Quick Involvement. Many abusers push for immediate commitment. They may say, “I’ve never felt like this about anyone before,” or “You are the first person who ever understood me.”
Jealousy. Abusers are suspicious and controlling of their partner. They are unreasonably jealous and accuse their partners of flirting or having affairs. They become angry and jealous when their partner spends time with family or friends.
Controlling Behavior. Abusers often make all the decisions in the relationship—which friends can visit, where they are going to live, what their partner can wear, and how to parent the children. Abusers often control all the money.
Isolates. Abusers often cut their partners off from family and friends. They may say, “Those people are a bad influence on you,” or “I miss you so much when you’re gone—I want you home with me.” Abusers often prevent their partners from using the car or the phone. Frequently, abusers do not allow their partners to have a job, go to school, or go anywhere alone.
Minimizes Their Behavior. Abusers minimize their behavior. They may say, “I was only joking. You are too sensitive,” or “I didn’t hit you that hard.”
Denies Things. Abusers deny that their actions happened. They will often say that abuse did not happen or make up stories for how injuries occurred.
Blames Others. Abusers do not take responsibility for their actions or feelings. Someone else is always responsible. They may claim, “My boss is out to get me,” or “My parents were abusive to me, it’s not my fault.”
Acts Like the Victim. When an abuser doesn’t get what they want, they believe they are the victim. They accuse their partner of being abusive if their partner defends themselves.
Abusive to Children. Abusers often expect children to act much older than they are. They may punish babies for crying, demand that small children sit quietly for long periods of time, or “tease” children. A very high percentage of abusers abuse children in addition to their partner. Even if the abuser does not physically harm the children, if one of their parents is being threatened or hurt, the children are being abused.
Abusive to Animals. Abusers are very often abusive to pets and may use them to bargain with or control their partner.
Using “Playful” Force. What may first appear to be playful wrestling quickly becomes something else. The abuser might hold their partner down and then taunt them for not being able to break free. The abuser is letting their partner know that the abuser is stronger and can overpower them.
Using Force During Arguments. Abusers often prevent their partners from leaving the room during an argument or hold them down. There is a chance they will use further and possibly greater violence in future arguments.
Using Force During Sex. Abusers may use many tactics involving force during sex. This can range from rape “fantasies” to forcing their partner to have sex. Abusers may keep their partner up all night begging for sex until they finally give in. Abusers often coerce their partner into sex.
Past Abuse. If the abuser has been abusive in a past relationship, they will likely be abusive again. They may claim, “I hit my last partner, but I was really stressed out and it was only once.” Stress doesn’t cause violence. If they made the choice to be abusive before, there is a good possibility they will choose to be violent again.
Threats. Threats should be taken seriously. Threats such as, “I’ll take the children away from you,” and “I’m going to break your neck,” are intended to control the survivor’s behavior. Threats are not just “figures of speech”—they are ideas thought of by the abuser that could be carried out.
Destroying Property. Abusers may put their fists through the wall or destroy their partner’s beloved objects. The message in this behavior is: “I could hurt you like this, too.”
If You Are a Survivor of Domestic Violence
You are NOT to blame. Domestic violence is the abuser’s fault, not yours.
You may experience a whole range of feelings. These emotions can vary from fear, shame, anger, shock, guilt, helplessness, distrust, self-doubt, and depression. That’s normal. Allow yourself the time and space to process whatever you’re feeling.
Give yourself permission to make your own decisions. You may or may not want to report the abuse, may or may not want to talk to someone about it, may or may not want help in dealing with the situation. Right now it’s important for you to have control over some part of your life. This may be difficult, and you may have mixed feelings about what to do. Give yourself permission to make the decisions that are best and healthiest for you.
You may get lots of advice, suggestions, and questions from other people. Friends and loved ones are not always educated in domestic violence, and you may find that their attempts to be supportive are more hurtful than helpful. Some people may say things that sound like they are judging you, or trying to make you feel responsible for the abuse you have experienced. Only you know what is best for you and your situation. Remember that no matter what happened, no one deserves abuse. It is not your fault.
Everyone handles abuse differently. You may find yourself behaving in ways you don’t usually behave. You may have trouble concentrating or making decisions. You may not enjoy the same things you used to. These are normal responses to abuse. If you can find ways to feel safer and happier/healthier, do what you need to do to take care of yourself.
Have a safety plan. Plan ahead for emergencies. Find others you can turn to for help and support (safe siblings, friends, neighbors, members of your church or other community group). Gather the basic things you will need if you decide to leave, including money, documents, medications, clothing, etc. Try to make sure you have a ride and a safe place to go. Know your legal rights, such as how to get a restraining order. Call CARDV’s 24-hr Crisis and Support Line for support and information.
Get help. You do not have to deal with this situation on your own. Although it is your choice whether to get help with an abusive situation, please remember that there are community resources, including CARDV, available to help people in your situation. You deserve to have support. You are not alone. You deserve to be safe.
Are you being treated with respect? Remember, when one person scares, hurts, or continually puts down another person; that’s abuse—and it’s not okay.