When people think of domestic abuse, they often focus on domestic violence. But domestic abuse occurs whenever one person in an intimate relationship or marriage tries to dominate and control the other person. Domestic violence and abuse are used for the purpose to gain and maintain total control over their victim. An abuser doesn’t “play fair.” Abusers use fear, guilt, shame, and intimidation to wear their victim down and keep them dependant on them.
Domestic violence and abuse does not discriminate. Abuse happens among heterosexual couples and in same-sex partnerships. It occurs within all age ranges, ethnic backgrounds, and economic levels. Women are not only victimized; men and children are also abused. The bottom line is that abusive behavior is never acceptable, whether it’s coming from a man, a woman, a teenager, or an older adult. Every person deserves to feel valued, respected, and safe.
Despite what many people believe, domestic violence and abuse is not due to the abuser’s loss of control over their behavior. In fact, abusive behavior and violence is a deliberate choice made by the abuser to control their victim. Abusers use a variety of tactics to manipulate and exert their power, including:
Dominance – Abusive individuals need to feel in charge of the relationship. They will make decisions for their victim and the family, dictate what to do, and expect obedience. Abuser may treat their victim like a servant or as their possession.
Humiliation – An abuser will do everything they can to make their victim feel bad about themselves or defective in some way. After all, if one believe they are worthless and that no one else will want them, they it is less likely they will leave. Insults, name-calling, shaming, and public put-downs are all weapons of abuse designed to erode self-esteem and make the victim feel powerless.
Isolation – In order to increase the victim’s dependence on them, an abusive partner will cut them off from the outside world. They may keep the victim from seeing family or friends, or even prevent them from going to work or school. The victim may have to ask permission to do anything, go anywhere, or see anyone.
Threats – Abusers commonly use threats to keep their partners from leaving or to scare them into dropping charges. Abuser may threaten to hurt or kill the victim, their children, other family members, or even pets. They may also threaten to commit suicide and file false charges against the victim.
Intimidation – Abuser may use a variety of intimidation tactics designed to scare the victim into submission. Such tactics include making threatening looks or gestures, smashing things in front of the victim, destroying property and putting weapons on display. The clear message is that if the victim don’t obey, there will be violent consequences.
Denial and blame – Abusers are very good at making excuses for the inexcusable. They will blame their abusive and violent behavior on a bad childhood, a bad day, or even on the victim and the kids, the victims of their abuse. Abusive partner may minimize the abuse or deny that it occurred. They will commonly shift the responsibility on to the victim: Somehow, their violent and abusive behavior is the victim’s fault.
If you suspect that someone you know is being abused, speak up! Talk to the person in private and let them know that you’re concerned. Point out the things you’ve noticed that make you worried. Tell the person that you’re there, whenever they feel ready to talk. Reassure the person that you’ll keep whatever is said between the two of you, and let them know that you’ll help in any way you can.
Remember, abusers are very good at controlling and manipulating their victims. People who have been emotionally abused or battered are depressed, drained, scared, ashamed, and confused. They need help to get out, yet they’ve often been isolated from their family and friends. By picking up on the warning signs and offering support, you can help them escape an abusive situation and begin healing.