About Domestic Violence
Domestic violence refers to a pattern of harmful behaviors used by one person to maintain power and control over another within the context of a dating, family or household relationship. The types of harm that occur in relationships are not always physical; they can also be emotional, psychological, verbal, financial, economic, social, reproductive, institutional, and health-based.
Domestic violence is maintained by societal and cultural attitudes, institutions, and laws which are not consistent in naming this violence as wrong.
Types of Abuse
In a domestic violence relationship, the person causing the harm tries to maintain power and control over the other person by any of the following methods:
- Verbal Abuse: Using words can be a powerful way to demean, criticize, hurt, misdirect anger, and manipulate.
- Emotional Abuse: Undermining an individual’s self worth or self esteem, including by diminishing their abilities, name calling and put downs, blaming them, damaging a partner’s relationship with their children, damaging their reputation, gaslighting them, or minimizing or denying abuse that is occurring.
- Psychological Abuse: Causing fear by intimidation; threatening physical harm to themself, their partner, children, or family; hurting pets; isolating them; destroying property; using social privilege, such as race, ability, or immigration status to demean, intimidate, or threaten them; forcing isolation; threatening to out their gender or sexual identity or immigration status.
- Economic Abuse: Making their partner financially dependent by maintaining control over financial resources, damaging their credit, withholding access to their money, limiting attendance at school or work, or sabotaging job opportunities.
- Sexual/Reproductive Abuse: Sexual assault or sexual violence, attacking the victim’s body, forcing sex after physical violence, manipulating means of birth control, or engaging in any non-consensual sexual behavior.
- Physical Abuse: Hitting, slapping, pinching, shoving, grabbing, biting, burning, strangulation attempts and choking, forcing them to endure sleep deprivation, driving recklessly, denying medical care, or forcing them to use alcohol or drugs.
Recognizing Domestic Violence
Signs you can look out for if you suspect a friend, coworker, or loved one is being abused include:
- Unexplained injuries, bruising, or other pains;
- Wearing unseasonable clothing (like long sleeves in the summer);
- Appearing withdrawn or not as social as they used to be;
- Acting fearful around their partner, or being quiet and letting their partner answer questions and speak for them;
- Symptoms of depression and trauma, like exhaustion, confusion, isolation, and panic;
- Blaming themselves for their partner’s anger or dissatisfaction;
- Minimizing or denying arguing, fighting, or abuse within the household;
- Ignoring their own mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual needs;
- Frequent visits to the doctor or hospital for unexplained or odd reasons;
- Missing work or social obligations more often than usual.
How to Help
- Listen: You may be the first person your friend, coworker, or loved one has told about the abuse. Validate their feelings by letting them know you believe them, you’re sorry this happened to them, and you are here to listen and support them.
- Support: Let them know you are a safe person to talk to. Validate them and let them share as they feel comfortable. Don’t press for details. Thank them for trusting you.
- Connect: Connect them to resources that can help, and let them decide whom to contact, if they want to contact anyone, and when to do it. Taking the first (or second or third) step to get help is hard, and can often put victims of abuse at greater risk. A great resource is the Illinois Statewide Domestic Violence Hotline, available 24/7, 365 days a year. Call or text 877-863-6338 (877-TO END DV) or chat with us at this link.
- The Network: Advocating Against Domestic Violence has an Emergency Crisis Fund for survivors of Domestic Violence to address critical gaps in the safety net for survivors. More information about the Emergency Crisis Fund and how to access funds is available here.