About Domestic Violence

Domestic violence (DV) - also called relationship abuse, intimate partner violence, or dating violence - is a pattern of coercive control within a relationship, especially an intimate relationship.

20 People

each minute are victims of physical violence by an intimate partner in the United States.

15 Million

children are exposed to domestic violence each year in the United States.

Infographic 20 people

20 people every minute

1 IN 3

More than 1 in 3 women (35.6%)

1 in 4

more than 1 in 4 men (28.5%)

in the United States have experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime.

Domestic Violence Goes
By Different Names

Intimate partner violence or abuse

Spousal abuse

Relationship violence or abuse

Dating violence or abuse

Elder abuse

It affects different groups differently.

While DV affects people of all income levels, women with a household income income of less than $50K face increased economic vulnerabilities that impact their ability to flee an abusive relationship.

Undocumented and trafficked survivors often face significant legal and language barriers when seeking safety, and are at risk for abuse.

Power & Control

is about the impact of the behavior on the victim, which is why abuse looks different in different relationships. Abusers figure out what works to make the victim feel afraid, off balance, confused, stressed out, exhausted, or otherwise unable to assert themselves or say what they need. This often starts very slowly and builds over time.


Treating her like a servant

Making all the big decisions.

Acting like the “master of the castle”

Being the one to define “men’s and women’s roles”


Using power over you to get what they want.

Twisting your arm.

Threatening to hurt or shame you.


Asserting dominance over you.

Acting threatening without explicit threats.

Using size, gestures, or glances to silence you.

Emotional Abuse

Using “crazy making” to deny the abuse.

Creating or exploiting anxiety or depression.

Making you feel stupid.


Preventing you from speaking to family and friends.

Making you feel bad about socializing.

Controlling your access to phones or computers.


Downplaying your concerns.

Telling you their anger is your fault.

Saying it’s not big deal and you should just get over it.


Defaming you in front of your children.

Threatening to take your children away.

Threatening to hurt your children if you don’t comply.

Economic Abuse

Controlling all the finances.

Preventing your access to resources.

Forcing you to run all your purchases by them.

Taking out credit cards in your name.

Ruining your credit.

Myths & Realities


Same sex couples do not experience domestic violence.


It happens at approximately the same rate as with heterosexual couples, but also happens within the context of the larger societal oppression of same-sex couples.


Most domestic violence happens in poor communities and bad neighborhoods.


People of all income levels experience domestic violence, and wealthier abusers often use their resources and social standing to silence survivors and exert control


If a victim of domestic violence really wanted to leave, s/he could just leave.


When a survivor decides to leave an abusive relationship is the most dangerous time. Social, cultural, economic, religious, or legal barriers also keep survivors in abusive relationships.


Physical violence is the primary kind of domestic violence.


Although nearly half of all women and men in the United States have experienced psychological aggression by an intimate partner in their lifetime (48.4% and 48.8%, respectively), there are many other ways that domestic violence happens, including verbal, emotional, and economic abuse. These may occur together with or independently from physical violence.


Once the violence has ended, survivors no longer experience its effects.


Survivors of violence are more likely to report frequent headaches, chronic pain, difficulty sleeping, and poor physical and mental health. The long-term health impacts of abuse including cardiovascular disease and a weakened immune system are well-documented by the Adverse Childhood Experience Study (ACES).


Once a survivor flees the abusive relationship, they are no longer at risk for further abuse.


Survivors of violence are often stalked by former partners, well after the relationship has ended; in fact, contact during this period can be extremely risky – even deadly. [cite – Jackie Campbell Danger Assessment] Court-involved survivors often continue to be controlled, harassed, and have life-saving resources depleted by former partners. Children continue to be impacted by an abusive parent in custody and visitation arrangements.

The Effects of DV.

In addition to the physical wounds that domestic abuse sometimes leaves, often just as severe are the effects that few see, and include PTSD, Depression, Dissociation, Anxiety and Difficulty sleeping.

If you suspect you may be in an abusive relationship…

Contact an advocate to discuss your options and plan for your safety. Make a plan before you leave, if at all possible.

Leaving an abusive relationship is a very dangerous time, with a higher-than-average risk of escalated violence.

If you know someone who is in an abusive relationship…

Because isolation is both a tactic and consequence of abuse, it’s important that they know you are there for them, that you believe them, and that they are not alone. An advocate at The Second Step can help you find ways to support them without making their situation even more difficult.

If you are in
immediate danger

Call 911

If you are in Massachusetts and need shelter, call SafeLink, the Massachusetts statewide 24/7 toll-free domestic violence hotline, at 877-785-2020 or (TTY) 877-521-2601.

You can also search www.domesticshelters.org to find domestic violence programs in your area, or call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE).

I have a piece of advice for the other women who are experiencing what I’ve experienced: It’s okay to let your abusive relationship go.I know it is scary, but there are people out there who are willing to help you, like the people at The Second Step.  Please leave before it is too late.
— LeDawn, domestic violence survivor

What if someone I know is in an abusive relationship?

It can be very scary when we suspect or know that someone we love or care about is in an abusive relationship. It is natural to want to rush in to help and support them as best we can. We may have challenging emotions ourselves including anger, fear, helplessness, sadness, and fatigue. Although we might want to, we cannot singly-handedly extract our loved ones from abusive relationships. Here is what you can do to support them.

Validate their experience: Survivors of violence often feel isolated in their experience, and fear that people will not believe them if they reach out. Always believe and validate their experience without passing judgement, no matter where they may be in their process.

Respect their timeline: Leaving an abusive relationship is an extremely complicated and potentially dangerous activity. A survivor knows best their situation, and can work with a skilled advocate to craft a safety plan that matches their unique situation. The actions that survivors take (including staying) can often seem counter-intuitive to their loved ones. The best way to support your loved one is to offer them support and resources, so that they have them when they are ready leave.

Take care of yourself: Supporting a loved one can be challenging and emotionally draining. In order to best be their for your loved one, be mindful to take care of yourself. Remember: you are best able to support your loved one with a kind, compassionate, and clear head when you exhibit good boundaries. If you need help supporting your loved one, an advocate can provide you with emotional support and guide you to helpful resources like: Family and Friends’ Guide to Domestic Violence: How to Listen, Talk and Take Action When Someone You Care About is Being Abused.

If you’d like to speak with an advocate now, please contact The Second Step at 617-965-3999.