The Issue

Domestic violence is a societal issue. One that hurts us all.


Domestic violence intensifies over time

Appearance


Domestic violence is the willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, and/or other abusive behavior as part of a systematic pattern of power and control perpetrated by one intimate partner against another.

It is not always easy to determine in the early stages of a relationship if one person will become abusive. Domestic violence intensifies over time. Abusers may often seem wonderful and perfect initially, but gradually become more aggressive and controlling as the relationship continues.

Abuse may begin with behaviors that may easily be dismissed or downplayed such as name-calling, threats, possessiveness, or distrust. Abusers may apologize profusely for their actions or try to convince the person they are abusing that they do these things out of love or care.

However, violence and control always intensifies over time with an abuser, despite the apologies. What may start out as something that was first believed to be harmless (e.g., wanting the victim to spend all their time only with them because they love them so much) escalates into extreme control and abuse (e.g., threatening to kill or hurt the victim or others if they speak to family, friends, etc.). Some examples of abusive tendencies include but are not limited to:

  • Telling the victim that they can never do anything right
  • Showing jealousy of the victim’s family and friends and time spent away
  • Accusing the victim of cheating
  • Keeping or discouraging the victim from seeing friends or family members
  • Embarrassing or shaming the victim with put-downs
  • Controlling every penny spent in the household
  • Taking the victim’s money or refusing to give them money for expenses
  • Looking at or acting in ways that scare the person they are abusing
  • Controlling who the victim sees, where they go, or what they do
  • Dictating how the victim dresses, wears their hair, etc.
  • Stalking the victim or monitoring their victim’s every move (in person or also via the internet and/or other devices such as GPS tracking or the victim’s phone)
  • Preventing the victim from making their own decisions
  • Telling the victim that they are a bad parent or threatening to hurt, kill, or take away their children
  • Threatening to hurt or kill the victim’s friends, loved ones, or pets
  • Intimidating the victim with guns, knives, or other weapons
  • Pressuring the victim to have sex when they don’t want to or to do things sexually they are not comfortable with
  • Forcing sex with others
  • Refusing to use protection when having sex or sabotaging birth control
  • Pressuring or forcing the victim to use drugs or alcohol
  • Preventing the victim from working or attending school, harassing the victim at either, keeping their victim up all night so they perform badly at their job or in school
  • Destroying the victim’s property

It is important to note that domestic violence does not always manifest as physical abuse. Emotional and psychological abuse can often be just as extreme as physical violence. Lack of physical violence does not mean the abuser is any less dangerous to the victim, nor does it mean the victim is any less trapped by the abuse.

abuse is a learned behavior

Impact


Domestic violence does not always end when the victim escapes the abuser, tries to terminate the relationship, and/or seeks help. Often, it intensifies because the abuser feels a loss of control over the victim. Abusers frequently continue to stalk, harass, threaten, and try to control the victim after the victim escapes.

This kind of abuse violence encompasses tactics including, but not limited to, physical and sexual violence; threats of violence; economic, emotional, and psychological abuse; and/or the use of privilege. The frequency and severity of domestic violence can vary dramatically; however, the one constant component of domestic violence is one partner’s consistent efforts to maintain power and control over the other.

If one partner feels the need to dominate the other in any shape or form, whether it is physical, sexual, emotional, economic or psychological, then it is significantly more likely a relationship will turn violent. Research has shown that people with abusive tendencies generally turn violent when they feel out of control. The Power and Control Wheel, originally developed by the Domestic Abuse Intervention Project in Duluth, Minnesota, shows the elements of power and control that interact that create a pattern of violence and abuse. It can be viewed it here.

It is important to note that abuse is a learned behavior, which, in some cases could have been learned early on in childhood. An abuser may have witnessed domestic violence in his or her home and understood that violence was a means of maintaining control in the family unit.

Significant life changes, such as pregnancy or a family member’s illness, can also increase the risk for domestic violence to occur. In these cases, the perpetrator may feel left out or neglected and may seek to regain control over the survivor.1

Additionally, in economic downturns, incidents of domestic violence increase exponentially. Factors associated with economic downturns such as job loss, housing foreclosures or debt can contribute to higher stress levels at home, which can lead to increased violence. Financial difficulties can also limit options for survivors to seek safety or escape and may have a more difficult time finding a job to become financially independent of abusers.

The fear of becoming homeless is one of the main reasons domestic violence survivors will stay with their abusers. If domestic violence victims are not able to secure safe housing, 60% will return to their abusers, 27% will become homeless and 11% will start living in their cars.

In domestic violence homicides, women are 6 times more likely to be killed when there is a gun in the home

1 in 15 children is exposed to intimate partner violence each year, and 90% of these children are eyewitnesses to this violence.

Economic abuse occurs in 98% of abusive relationships.

The Issue


Part of a bigger system.

Many factors can contribute to domestic violence, but none excuse hurting another person.

Partners who are in healthy relationships respond to problems by talking things out together—or sometimes by seeking therapy—and do not turn to controlling or abusive behavior.

You have a right to be respected in all aspects of your relationship.

The roots of domestic violence and other types of violent relationships are linked to power and control.

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Liberation and Equity
Systemic oppressions, including oppression based on race, gender, and class, impact us all – from how we show up to how we interact with others. In order to effectively collaborate and move our work forward, we need to be able to identify and understand the oppressions that hold us back and find ways to break free.

 

Oppression
“The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people.” Martin Luther King, Jr.
Oppression is what happens when people are pushed down by societies. Here is a (non-comprehensive) list of types of oppression.

Sexism
Heterosexism
Abelism
Racism
Classism
Sizeism

Oppression is a big topic. To read more about it and how it plays out on a personal level, a societal level, and an institutional level, click here.

 

Structural violence
“Structural violence is one way of describing social arrangements that put individuals and populations in harm’s way… The arrangements are structural because they are embedded in the political and economic organization of our social world; they are violent because they cause injury to people … neither culture nor pure individual will is at fault; rather, historically given (and often economically driven) processes and forces conspire to constrain individual agency. Structural violence is visited upon all those whose social status denies them access to the fruits of scientific and social progress.” Dr. Paul Farner

 

What does this look like in real life?

Download tools:
Tool to Love while challenging racist behaviors.
Tool to Engage Youth in Discussions About Liberation