Domestic violence occurs when one person in a relationship exerts control over the other through physical, emotional, psychological, sexual, or economic abuse. It affects people of all ages, genders, ethnicities, and economic situations. Stalking or harassment of a current or former partner is also considered domestic violence.
Domestic violence typically occurs in a cycle. The abuser’s behavior may escalate over time, becoming more intense until a violent or abusive incident occurs. Afterward, the abuser may apologize, offer gifts, or promise better behavior. Eventually, this “honeymoon” period fades and the abuse begins to escalate again.
An abusive person may coerce or control their partner in a variety of ways. These include:
- Insecure, possessive, controlling, or jealous behavior
- Showing up at work or social activities uninvited
- Unpredictable temper or mood swings
- Invading the partner’s privacy by accessing their mail, phone, and email or social media accounts
- Threats toward their partner or others in the partner’s life
- Blaming their partner when things go wrong or for “forcing” them to engage in abuse
Domestic violence frequently affects other people in the couple’s life. Children and family members may be targets of abuse or witness it firsthand. Friends and neighbors may recognize warning signs or abusive behavior patterns. It’s common to feel worried or frustrated when a friend or loved one is in an abusive situation.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-SAFE) are available to help someone who is experiencing domestic violence. Keep in mind that an abused person is at most risk when they first leave the situation, so it’s best to have a safety plan in place before they do.