Definition of Domestic Abuse

Domestic abuse has been broadly defined as a pattern of abusive behaviors by one or both partners in an intimate relationship.  These partners may be married, dating, family members, friends, or roommates.  Depending upon the nature of the relationship of the people involved, domestic abuse can also be referred to as spousal abuse, intimate partner violence, domestic violence, dating violence, or family violence.

Domestic abuse has many forms including physical aggression or threats thereof, verbal abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, controlling or domineering behavior, intimidation, stalking, digital abuse, and economic deprivation. The principal aim of the abusive behavior is to gain and maintain power and control over another individual.

Characteristics of Domestic Abuse

Domestic abuse…

  • is a series of patterned behaviors
  • aims to gain or maintain power and control
  • involves harmful and coercive behaviors
  • is a choice
  • is learned
  • is not about anger management
  • is never the victim’s fault
  • is not caused by intoxication
  • is usually progressive

Forms of abuse

There are many different forms of abuse that take place within the context of intimate relationships.  Though the divisions between the types of abuse are usually fluid, some generalizations may be made.  With power and control often as the goal, perpetrators will use of fear, intimidation and humiliation to carry out the abuse.  Many times, actual physical violence is preceded by threats and other physical displays.

Because the aim of abuse is to gain or maintain power and control over another person, abusive behaviors are coercive by nature.  Abusers will try to get their partner to do what they want using a variety of tactics.  It is important to note that forms of verbal and emotional abuse are no less harmful than physical or sexual abuse.

Emotional Abuse

Actions used to hurt, scare, humiliate, intimidate, isolate and/or control

Verbal Abuse

Words used to hurt, demean, scare, humiliate, intimidate, criticize and/or control.

Physical Abuse

Actions used to harm physically, cause bodily injury and/or control.

Sexual Abuse

Actions used to control someone’s body, sexuality or reproduction.

Financial Abuse

Actions used to control someone’s money or access to money.

Digital Abuse

Actions using electronic technology such as a cell phone or computer to harass, stalk, humiliate, scare, intimidate and/or control.

Why Victims Stay

The person being victimized may often experience long periods of exposure to abuse interspersed with kind and loving behaviors.  As such, victims will oftentimes lack self-esteem, feel trapped and/or feel they are unable to speak out.

It can be difficult for loved ones (or even the victims themselves) to understand why someone would choose to stay in an abusive relationship, however, it is important to realize that leaving is not always an easy, nor a safe, option.  Most importantly, victims should never be judged or blamed for staying in an abusive relationship.  People stay in abusive relationships for a variety of reasons including:

  • Fear of repercussions of leaving
  • Love
  • Belief that s/he will change
  • Concern for children

The Importance of Safety Planning

Due to the potentially dangerous and fatal nature of domestic abuse, one of the first actions taken by our victim advocates is to prepare a Safety Plan with our clients.  The most dangerous time in an abusive relationship is when the victim attempts to leave his/her abuser.  Oftentimes, the potential for post-separation violence is very high.  A Safety Plan is not a guarantee of safety; it is about risk reduction.

*Ideally, a Safety Plan should always be developed with the guidance of a professional, such as a trained advocate at Hope’s Door New Beginning Center.

Request an Educator

Would you like one of our professional Educators to speak to your school, organization, or community group about the dynamics of domestic abuse, teen dating abuse or family violence?  Would you like us to customize a presentation for your organization?

Please submit a Request an Educator form and include as many details as possible such as your name, organization, contact information, dates requested and the topics you are intesersted in learning about.  One of our team members will contact you within 3 business days to discuss your needs and set up a date and time for one of our Educators to bring our educational programming to your organization or community group.

All Community Education services are free of charge.

More Information

We love hearing directly from members of our community.  If you would like more information or if you have a question regarding our free Community Education Services, please call 469-969-7254 or email

Thank you for supporting survivors of abuse in our community!

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