The National Domestic Violence Hotline: www.thehotline.org

What Is Abuse?

Domestic violence can happen to anyone of any race, age, sexual orientation, religion or gender. It can happen to couples who are married, living together or who are dating.  Domestic violence affects people of all socioeconomic backgrounds and education levels.

Abuse is a repetitive pattern of behaviors to maintain power and control over an intimate partner. These are behaviors that physically harm, arouse fear, prevent a partner from doing what they wish or force them to behave in ways they do not want. Abuse includes the use of physical and sexual violence, threats and intimidation, emotional abuse and economic deprivation. Many of these different forms of abuse can be going on at any one time.

Illustration of Power & ControlView image larger

Sexually abusive methods of retaining power and control include an abusive partner:
  • Forcing you to dress in a sexual way
  • Insulting you in sexual ways or calls you sexual names
  • Forcing or manipulating you into to having sex or performing sexual acts
  • Holding you down during sex
  • Demanding sex when you’re sick, tired or after hurting you
  • Hurting you with weapons or objects during sex
  • Involving other people in sexual activities with you against your will
  • Ignoring your feelings regarding sex
  • Forcing you to watch pornography
  • Purposefully trying to pass on a sexually transmitted disease to you

Sexual coercion

Sexual coercion lies on the ‘continuum’ of sexually aggressive behavior.  It can vary from being egged on and persuaded, to being forced to have contact. It can be verbal and emotional, in the form of statements that make you feel pressure, guilt, or shame. You can also be made to feel forced through more subtle actions. For example, an abusive partner:

  • Making you feel like you owe them — ex. Because you’re in a relationship, because you’ve had sex before, because they spent money on you or bought you a gift
  • Giving you drugs and alcohol to “loosen up” your inhibitions
  • Playing on the fact that you’re in a relationship, saying things such as: “Sex is the way to prove your love for me,” “If I don’t get sex from you I’ll get it somewhere else”
  • Reacting negatively with sadness, anger or resentment if you say no or don’t immediately agree to something
  • Continuing to pressure you after you say no
  • Making you feel threatened or afraid of what might happen if you say no
  • Trying to normalize their sexual expectations: ex. “I need it, I’m a man”

Even if your partner isn’t forcing you to do sexual acts against your will, being made to feel obligated is coercion in itself. Dating someone, being in a relationship, or being married never means that you owe your partner intimacy of any kind.

Why do victims return to or stay with abusers?

  • A better question is, “Why does the abuser choose to abuse?” The deck is stacked against the victim when confronted with leaving or not. Abusers work very hard to keep victims in relationships.
  • There is a real fear of death or more abuse if they leave. In fact, a victim’s risk of getting killed greatly increases when they are in the process of leaving or have just left.
  • On average, three women die at the hands of a current or former intimate partner every day.
  • We, as a community, must do more to ensure the safety of victims when they leave.
  • Batterers are very good at making victims think that the abuse is their fault. Victims often believe that if they caused the violence, they can also stop it.
  • Victims stay because they are made to think they cannot survive on their own, financially or otherwise. Often abusers create a financial situation that makes leaving nearly impossible.
  • Survivors sometimes want the abuse to end, not the relationship. A survivor may return to the abuser because that’s the person she the survivor fell in love with, and she believes his promises to change. It’s not easy for anyone to let go of hopes and dreams.

LGBTQ+

Gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people experience domestic abuse at the same rate as heterosexual women.

Domestic violence – it’s something that can affect anyone. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) people do experience domestic abuse, but the reality of LGBTQ relationship violence is rarely discussed. LGBTQ people can be reluctant to seek help from the police for fear of homophobic or transphobic treatment, and may be unable to turn to family or friends for support if they are not ‘out’ about their sexuality. This can leave LGBTQ people who suffer from domestic violence especially isolated and at risk of further abuse.

About 25% of LGBTQ people suffer through violent or threatening relationships with partners or ex-partners – about the same rate as heterosexual women. Sometimes the abuse looks similar to that experienced by heterosexual women: emotional bullying, physical aggression, threats to harm the victim or other loved ones, social isolation, control of finances, extreme jealousy. There are additional features that can be present in LGBTQ intimate partner violence that do not factor into heterosexual relationships. The abuser may threaten to ‘out’ the victim to friends, family, religious communities, co-workers, and others if he or she does not comply with the abuser’s wishes. The abuser may use the close-knit dynamic of the gay and lesbian community and the lack of support for LGBTQ people outside the community to further pressure the victim into compliance.

Five Ways to Eliminate Domestic Violence

  1. Know what Domestic Violence is. When a spouse or intimate partner uses physical violence, threats, emotional abuse, harassment, or stalking to control the behavior of their partners, they are committing domestic violence
  2. Develop a Safety Plan. If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, develop a safety plan. This may include setting aside an extra pair of keys, money, passports, etc. to ensure the fastest and safest route out of your home. Know where you can go ahead of time once leaving your home. Try to remember the crisis hotlines, as they can assist you at any time.
  3. Call 911. Domestic violence is a crime. If you or someone you know is being battered, call 911 immediately for help.
    Exercise your rights. You and anyone you know who may be experiencing domestic violence have the right to go to court and petition for an order of protection.
  4. Get help for you (and/or you and your family). There are shelters dedicated to victims of domestic violence. Be sure to call Valley Crisis Center at 722-HELP (4357) to find the closest location near you. If not choosing a shelter, do call the crisis hotline to assist you. They are here specifically to aid in your needs.

Remember, no one deserves abuse and there is no excuse for domestic violence.