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Domestic violence is the systematic use of physical, emotional, economic, spiritual and/or sexual abuse tactics used to gain and maintain power and control over an intimate partner or other family members.

The abuse most often is established over time and in most cases, begins subtly with insults, a shove or by isolating someone from family and friends. With time, the abusive behavior becomes more frequent and increases in severity.  Domestic violence can take many forms, including physical, sexual, emotional, verbal, economic and/or psychological abuse.  It affects people of all ages, sexual orientations, religions, genders, socioeconomic backgrounds and education levels, and takes place in all kinds of relationships.

Domestic violence is a crime rooted in power and control—it is never “caused” by making someone angry or upset. It is never justifiable or excusable, nor is it ever the fault of a survivor. All people deserve to be in healthy and loving relationships free of violence.

Even though domestic violence may occur in the confines of a home or a relationship, its effects and repercussions are felt beyond that.  Domestic violence is not a private issue; it is a community issue, a political issue, and a moral issue.  Above all, it’s a crime — a crime as serious as any other violent crime. Domestic violence affects us all.  We all have a part to play in ending it.

Types of Abuse

Physical Abuse

Physical Abuse is any intentional unwanted contact with the victim’s body by either the abuser or an object within the abuser’s control. Physical abuse does not have to leave a mark or bruise. It doesn’t even need to hurt.


It includes the following behaviors:

  • Hitting

  • Biting

  • Kicking

  • Throwing something at you

  • Pulling hair

  • Choking/strangulation

  • Pushing

  • Using a weapon

Verbal/Emotional Abuse

Verbal/Emotional Abuse is anything that the abuser says or does to the victim that causes fear, lowers the victim’s self-esteem, or manipulates or controls the victim’s feelings or behavior.


It includes the following behaviors:

  • Name-calling and put-downs

  • Yelling and screaming

  • Intentionally embarrassing the victim in front of other people

  • Keeping the victim from seeing or talking with friends and family

  • Telling the victim what to do

  • Using social media, online communications, or cell phones to control, intimidate, or humiliate the victim.

  • Making the victim feel responsible for the violence

  • Stalking

  • Threatening to commit suicide in order to manipulate the victim

  • Threats of violence and harm

  • Threats to expose the victim’s secrets (such as sexual orientation or immigration status)

  • Threats to take away the victim’s children

Sexual Abuse

Sexual Abuse is any sexual behavior that is unwanted or interferes with the victim’s right to say “no” to sexual advances.


It includes the following behaviors:

  • Rape

  • Unwanted kissing or touching

  • Forcing the victim to go further than they want (even if they have had sex before)

  • Unwanted rough or violent sexual activity

  • Not letting the victim use birth control or protection against sexually transmitted diseases

Economic/Financial Abuse

Economic/Financial Abuse is the attempt to make an individual financially dependent by maintaining total control over financial resources.


It includes the following behaviors:

  • Withholding access to money

  • Giving an allowance

  • Forbidding partner to work or make their own money

  • Requiring justification for all money spent

  • Forcing a partner to use their credit to rack up debt

Legal Abuse

Legal Abuse is the use of the legal and/or court systems to intimidate, harass, and manipulate victims. It includes the following behaviors:

  • Threatening to use the court system to have the children taken away

  • Vicious custody battles or court cases

  • Refusal to pay court ordered support or alimony

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