Partner violence

Partner violence, often referred to as domestic violence or dating violence, is a systematic pattern of power and control tactics carried out by one intimate partner against another. It is characterized by one partner’s consistent effort to maintain power and control over another. Partner violence tactics can include physical violence, sexual violence, financial abuse, psychological abuse, and emotional abuse. The degree and frequency of these instances can vary drastically from person to person and from one day to the next.

Partner violence includes but is not limited to physical abuse. The absence of physical violence does not mean that an abuser is any less dangerous to the victim-survivor. Some other examples of power and control tactics may include but are not limited to:

  • Telling the victim-survivor that they can never do anything right
  • Showing jealousy of the victim-survivor’s family and friends and time spent apart
  • Accusing the victim-survivor of cheating
  • Preventing or discouraging the victim-survivor from seeing friends or family members
  • Embarrassing or shaming the victim-survivor via put-downs
  • Controlling household finances including taking the victim-survivor’s money or other assets or refusing to give the victim-survivor money for expenses
  • Acting in ways that frighten or terrorize the victim-survivor, such as punching walls, throwing things, or threatening body language 
  • Intimidating them with guns, knives, or other weapons
  • Controlling who the victim-survivor sees, where they go, or what they do
  • Dictating how the victim-survivor dresses, wears their hair, etc.
  • Stalking the victim-survivor or monitoring the victim-survivor’s every move (in-person or also via the internet and/or devices such as GPS tracking or even the victim-survivor’s own cell phone)
  • Preventing the victim-survivor from making their own decisions
  • Withholding the victim-survivor’s necessary medication or medical treatment
  • Withholding the food, basic needs, or necessary medication or medical treatment from the children of the victim-survivor
  • Abuse against the children of a victim-survivor
  • Telling the victim-survivor that they are a bad parent or threatening to hurt, kill, or take away their children
  • Threatening to hurt or kill the victim-survivor’s friends, loved ones, or pets
  • Pressuring the victim-survivor to have sex when they don’t want to, or to do sexual acts that are not wanted or comfortable for the victim-survivor
  • Forcing sex with others
  • Refusing to use protection when having sex, or sabotaging birth control
  • Pressuring or forcing the victim-survivor to use drugs or alcohol
  • Preventing the victim-survivor from working or attending school
  • Destroying the victim-survivor’s property

Contrary to popular belief, partner violence does not always end when the victim-survivor escapes the abuser, tries to terminate the relationship, and/or seeks help. In fact, partner violence often intensifies during such times of transition because the abuser feels a loss of control. There is no “typical” victim-survivor. Individuals from all walks of life can and do experience partner violence. 

Victim-survivors do not bring the violence upon themselves. The responsibility for abuse lies solely with the abuser. Victim-survivors of partner violence often face substantial barriers (financial, psychological, physical, and cultural) when attempting to leave their abusers, and for many people it takes multiple attempts to leave.

Victim-survivors of partner violence may experience an array of emotions and feelings surrounding their experiences, including but not limited to:

  • Desire for the abuse – but not necessarily the relationship – to end
  • Feelings of isolation
  • Feelings of depression
  • Feeling that nothing will change and there’s nowhere to go
  • Unawareness of the availability of support services
  • Fear of judgment or stigma if they reveal the abuse
  • Denial or minimization of the abuse and tendency to make excuses for the abuser
  • Love for the person
  • Investment in the relationship
  • Withdrawing emotionally
  • Distance (physical or emotional) from family or friends
  • Impulsiveness or aggression
  • Financial dependence on the abuser
  • Guilt related to ending the relationship
  • Feelings of shame
  • Anxiety
  • Suicidal thoughts/actions
  • Abuse of alcohol or drugs
  • Hope that their abuser will change and/or stop the abuse
  • Religious, cultural, or other beliefs that reinforce their need to stay in the relationship
  • Lack of support from friends of family
  • Fear that they will not be able to support themselves after they escape the abuser
  • Have children in common with their abuser and fear for their safety if the victim-survivor leaves
  • Have pets or other animals they don’t want to leave
  • Be distrustful of local law enforcement, courts, or other systems if the abuse is revealed
  • Have had unsupportive experiences with friends, family, employers, law enforcement, courts, child protective services, etc. and either believe they won’t get help if they leave or fear retribution if they do (ie: they fear they will lose custody of their children to the abuser)

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