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Effects of Domestic Violence

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.

While DV affects people of all income levels, women with a household 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 a heightened risk for abuse.

What is 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.

Power & Control

Power and control is about the impact of the behavior on the survivor, which is why abuse looks different in different relationships. Abusers figure out what works to make the survivor 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.

The "power and control" wheel, depicting common strategies used by abusers against their victims

Types of Abuse

Physical Abuse

Physical abuse refers to any intentional, unwanted contact with your body or something near you, or any behavior that causes or aims to cause injury, disability, or death. professional development.

Abusive behavior may not always cause physical pain or leave a bruise, but it’s still unhealthy and should always be taken seriously.

Examples of physical abuse include:

  • Scratching, punching, biting, strangling, choking, or kicking.
  • Throwing items at you like a phone, book, shoe, or plate.
  • Pulling your hair.
  • Pushing or pulling you, or forcibly grabbing your clothing.
  • Threatening to use or using a gun, knife, box cutter, bat, mace, or other weapon against you.
  • Touching any part of you without your permission or consent.
  • Forcing you to have sex or perform a sexual act.
  • Grabbing your face to make you look at them.
  • Preventing you from leaving or forcing you to go somewhere.
Emotional & Verbal Abuse

Emotional abuse includes non-physical behaviors such as threats, insults, constant monitoring or “checking in,” excessive texting, humiliation, intimidation, isolation, or stalking.

Relationships can still be unhealthy or abusive even without physical abuse. Examples of behaviors that qualify as emotional or verbal abuse include:

  • Calling you names or putting you down.
  • Telling you what to do or wear.
  • Yelling or screaming at you.
  • Intentionally embarrassing you in front of others or starting rumors about you.
  • Preventing you from seeing or communicating with friends or family, or threatening to have your children taken away from you.
  • Damaging your property (throwing objects, punching walls, kicking doors, etc.)
  • Using online communities or communications to control, intimidate, or humiliate you.
  • Blaming abusive or unhealthy behavior on you or your actions.
  • Being jealous of outside relationships or accusing you of cheating.
  • Stalking you or your loved ones.
  • Threatening to harm you, your pet(s), or people in your life.
  • Threatening to harm themselves to keep you from ending the relationship.
  • Gaslighting you by pretending not to understand or refusing to listen to you; questioning your recollection of facts, events, or sources; trivializing your needs or feelings; or denying previous statements or promises.
  • Making you feel guilty or immature when you don’t consent to sexual activity.
  • Threatening to expose personal details, such as your sexual orientation or immigration status.
Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse refers to any behavior that pressures or coerces someone to do something sexually that they don’t want to do.

It can also refer to behavior that impacts a person’s ability to control their sexual activity or the circumstances in which sexual activity takes place, including oral sex, rape, or controlling reproductive methods and choices.

Everyone has the right to decide what they do or don’t want to do sexually, and not all sexual assaults are violent “attacks.” Most victims of sexual assault know their assailant, and people of all genders and sexualities can be victims or perpetrators of sexual abuse. That includes people who are married, dating, in a “friends with benefits” arrangement, or just acquaintances.

Examples of sexual abuse include:

  • Unwanted kissing or touching.
  • Unwanted rough or violent sexual activity.
  • Refusing to use condoms or restricting someone’s access to birth control.
  • Preventing someone from using protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
  • Sexual contact with someone intoxicated from drugs or alcohol, unconscious, asleep, or otherwise unable to give clear and informed consent.
  • Threatening, pressuring, or otherwise forcing someone to have sex or perform sexual acts.
  • Using sexual insults toward someone.

Sexual abuse is never the victim’s fault. Just because someone “didn’t say no” or doesn’t resist unwanted sexual advances doesn’t mean that they consent. Physical resistance can sometimes put victims at higher risk for further abuse, and the narrative that a lack of resistance equals consent makes it more difficult for survivors to report abuse. It’s up to each of us to understand consent and to communicate and respect the boundaries of our intimate partners, without exception.

Financial Abuse

Financial abuse often operates in more subtle ways than other forms of abuse, but it can be just as harmful to those who experience it.

Modern conditions of stark economic inequality mean that financial security is directly tied to our health and wellbeing. No one has the right to use money or how you choose to spend it to control your actions or decisions, and no one should control your ability to work.

Examples of financial abuse include:

  • Giving you an allowance or monitoring what you buy.
  • Depositing your paycheck into an account you can’t access.
  • Preventing you from seeing shared bank accounts or records.
  • Forbidding you from working or limiting the hours you do.
  • Preventing you from going to work by taking your car, keys, or other mode of transportation.
  • Getting you fired by harassing you, your employer, or your co-workers.
  • Hiding or stealing your student financial aid check or other financial support.
  • Using your social security number to obtain loans without your permission.
  • Using your child’s social security number to claim an income tax refund without your permission.
  • Maxing out your credit cards without permission.
  • Refusing to provide you with money, food, rent, medicine, or clothing.
  • Using funds from your children’s tuition or a joint savings account without your knowledge.
  • Spending money on themselves while preventing you from doing the same.
  • Giving you presents or paying for things with the expectation of something in return.
  • Using financial circumstances to control you.
Digital Abuse

Digital dating abuse is the use of technologies like texting and social media to bully, harass, stalk, or intimidate a partner. This behavior is often a form of verbal or emotional abuse, conducted online.

All communication in a healthy relationship is respectful, whether in person, online, or over the phone. It’s never okay for your partner to use words or actions to harm you, lower your self-esteem, or manipulate you.

Examples of digital abuse include:

  • Telling you who you can or can’t follow or be friends with on social media.
  • Sending you negative, insulting, or threatening messages or emails.
  • Using social media to track your activities.
  • Insulting or humiliating you in their posts online, including posting unflattering photos or videos.
  • Sending, requesting, or pressuring you to send unwanted explicit photos or videos, sexts, or otherwise compromising messages.
  • Stealing or pressuring your to share your account passwords.
  • Constantly texting you or making you feel like you can’t be separated from your phone.
  • Looking through your phone or checking up on your pictures, texts, and phone records.
  • Using any kind of technology (such as spyware or GPS in a car or phone) to monitor your activities.
Cultural Abuse

Cultural abuse refers to any behavior that uses your culture, identity, or spirituality to harm someone or control them.

Examples of cultural abuse include:

  • Forcing you to behave in a way that goes against your cultural, religious, or spiritual beliefs.
  • Not allowing you to go to worship services or celebrate holidays.
  • Making fun of your religion, culture, or identity.
  • Isolating you from your spiritual or cultural community.
  • Withholding immigration documents or threatening to call authorities based on your citizenship status.
  • Using slurs that are targeted towards your identity.
  • Not permitting you to dress in clothes that affirm your identity.
  • Telling you that you can’t speak in your native language.
  • Damaging or destroying belongings needed for your religious or cultural practices.

Stalking occurs when someone watches, follows, or harasses you repeatedly, making you feel afraid or unsafe.

A stalker can be someone you know, a past partner, or a stranger. While the legal definition of stalking varies from state to state, examples of stalking behavior include:

  • Showing up at your home or workplace unannounced or uninvited.
  • Sending you unwanted texts, messages, letters, emails, or voicemails.
  • Leaving you unwanted items, gifts, or flowers.
  • Calling you and hanging up repeatedly or making unwanted phone calls to you, your employer, a professor, or a loved one.
  • Using social media or technology to track your activities.
  • Spreading rumors about you online or in person.
  • Manipulating other people to investigate your life, including using someone else’s social media account to look at your profile or befriending your friends in order to get information about you.
  • Waiting around at places you spend time.
  • Damaging your home, car, or other property.
  • Hiring a private investigator to follow or find you as a way of knowing your location or movements.

Domestic Violence Myths & Realities

MYTH: LGBTQ+ couples do not experience domestic violence.
REALITY: 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.

MYTH: Most domestic violence happens in poor communities and neighborhoods with high crime rates.
REALITY: People of all income levels experience domestic violence, and wealthier abusers often use their resources and social standing to silence survivors and exert control.

MYTH: If a victim of domestic violence really wanted to leave, they could just leave.
REALITY: 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.

MYTH: Physical violence is the primary kind of domestic violence.
REALITY: 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.

MYTH: Once the violence has ended, survivors no longer experience its effects.
REALITY: 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).

MYTH: Once a survivor flees the abusive relationship, they are no longer at risk for further abuse.
REALITY: 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 (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 agreements.

MYTH: A survivor can only get help and support if they experienced bodily harm.
REALITY: Survivors of any type of domestic violence are believed and supported by The Second Step. You do not have to experience physical or sexual violence in order to get support and increase your safety.

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