Domestic violence, also known as "battering," is an entrapping and systematic pattern of abusive and coercive behavior used to gain dominance, power, and control by one partner over another, who is their intimate partner. Domestic violence usually includes the use of illegal and legal behaviors and tactics that undermine the victim’s sense of self, free will, and safety. Abusive behavior can impact other family members and can be used in other family relationships. An abuser can inflict domestic violence upon one person without abusing others so that the abuse is secret or isolating to the victim.
Domestic violence is a widespread public health problem that crosses all classes, socio-economic statuses, races and ethnicities, lifestyles, religious beliefs, orientations, and identities. The only clear distinction is gender; most victims of domestic violence are women, and most domestic violence perpetrators and abusers are men. According to statistics of the National Institute of Justice, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Bureau of Justice, women are at significantly greater risk of domestic violence than men. Approximately 1 in 4 women in the U.S. have experienced severe physical violence by an intimate partner at some point in their lifetime. Many academic leaders have identified domestic violence as a major criminal justice, health care, and social issue.
Read about the Power and Control Wheel, which is an infographic that describes how abusers feel entitled to power and control over their intimate partners and use eight universal tactics to gain power and control over the partner. On the infographic, physical and sexual violence encompass the tactics done by the abuser. The physical and sexual violence causes the victim terror, entrapping the victim in the abuser's systems and patterns of domestic abuse and violence.
"They never said they wanted power and control. An abuser would never say that. They felt entitled to that power and control," said the late Ellen Pence, mother of the domestic violence work movement.
Signs of Domestic Violence
Perpetrators of domestic violence (batterers) use a combination of the following tactics to gain and maintain dominance, power, and control over the victim. Batterers make a choice to use control tactics and violence, including when the violence occurs and the amount of injury inflicted by their acts. Batterers bear sole responsibility for their actions.
Physical violence: Pushing; grabbing; shoving; restraining; kicking; spitting; biting; pulling hair; pinching; hitting; punching; slapping; strangling (choking); cutting; stabbing
Sexual violence: Unwanted touching or fondling; forced sexual contact; rape; accusing her of being unfaithful; humiliating or objectifying her body; restricting her access to reproductive health care; forcing her to engage in unwanted sex acts; threatening to have sex with someone else; coercing her into having sex
Coercion and threats: Making or carrying out threats to do something to hurt her; threatening to leave her, to commit suicide, to report her to welfare, to have her deported or report her to immigration authorities; making her drop charges or not testify; making her do illegal things
Intimidation: Making her afraid by using looks, actions, gestures; destroying her property; abusing pets; displaying weapons
Emotional abuse: Putting her down; calling her names; making her think she’s crazy; playing mind games; humiliating her; making her feel bad about herself; making her feel guilty
Isolation: Controlling what she does, who she sees and talks to, what she reads, where she goes; limiting her outside involvement; using jealousy to justify actions; withholding important documents (immigration paperwork, birth certificates, social security cards)
Using children: Making her feel guilty about the children; using the children to relay messages; using visitation to harass her; threatening to take the children away, to fight for custody, to harm the children; undermining her parenting; teaching the children to treat her with disrespect
Economic abuse: Preventing her from getting or keeping a job; making her ask for money; giving her an allowance; taking her money; not letting her know about or have access to family income
Male privilege/entitlement: Treating her like a servant; making all the big decisions; making all the rules; adhering to strict gender roles and being the one to define men’s and women’s roles
Minimizing, denying, blaming: Making light of the abuse and not taking her concerns about it seriously; saying the abuse didn’t happen; shifting responsibility for abusive behavior; saying she caused the abuse; claiming to be the “real” victim
Considerations for Safety Planning
- Threats to severely injure or kill her or her children if she leaves
- Batterer promises that he will change
- Access to transportation
- Access to communication with friends and family
- Access to a “safe” place in her home
- Access to resources and supports
- Access to affordable housing
- Access to economic resources
- Workplace safety (getting to and from work, safety while at work)
- Cultural, social, or religious beliefs about marriage, families, and children
- Concerns related to parenting
- Immigration issues
Kansas Crisis Hotline
National Domestic Violence Hotline
Safety planning helps develop tools in advance of potentially dangerous situations.
Supporting a Victim of Domestic Violence
Learn how you can support a victim of domestic violence.