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Domestic Violence – Types of Domestic Abuse

Domestic Violence – Types of Domestic Abuse

Domestic violence also called: battery, partner abuse, spousal abuse can takes many forms. Recognizing abuse can be difficult especially when the abuser insists it isn’t abuse, swears you to secrecy, or threatens to harm you if you tell. So becoming aware of the forms that abuse can take helps you to be better prepared to recognize such behavior as abusive. Once you are able to label abuse, you can begin to take steps necessary to stop it from happening or repeating.

The abuser uses a variety of strategies, or tactics, to gain and maintain control over his or her partner. Domestic abuse may also be defined by identifying its function that being the domination, punishment or control of one’s partner. All forms of abuse can be devastating, eroding one’s self-esteem and self-confidence. Anyone can abuse you: parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, teachers, grandparents, colleagues, your lover or best friend. Forms of domestic violence can include physical violence, sexual violence, economic control, and psychological assault (including threats of violence and physical harm, attacks against property or pets and other acts of intimidation, emotional abuse, isolation, and use of the children as a means of control). Marital abuse is a common type of abuse.

Abuse is a misuse of power and a violation of trust. The abuse may happen once, or it may occur in a repeated and escalating pattern over a period of months or years. Surviving an abusive relationship is even harder when you’re a child, isolated from your friends and family, or you feel you deserve to be treated that way. Abuse does not only exist if serious physical violence is present. There are common factors that may help define and identify abuse. The element of fear is crucial to the abuser maintaining control. Abusive behaviour is intentional and is perpetrated to get certain results. When a person is fearful of reprisals or punishment from her partner, they change their behaviour.

Abusers/Batterers use a variety of tactics to manipulate you and exert their power. They may use one or many of the various behaviors to gain the power and control that they think they need over their victim(s). Becoming aware of the forms that abuse can take helps you to be better prepared to recognize such behavior as abusive. Once you are able to label abuse, you can begin to take steps necessary to stop it from happening or repeating. Abusive partners may use a number of different tactics to try to exert power and control over their victim. While each form of abuse may look different, they are all about asserting power over another person to control them. Here is a breakdown of the different tactics; forms and/or types of abuse that the abuser/battered may use on their victim(s):

  • Breaking Trust
  • Coercion and Threats
  • Disrespect
  • Economic or Financial Abuse
  • Emotional Abuse
  • ‘Femicide’ (female murder)
  • Harassment
  • Intimidation
  • Isolation
  • Jealousy and Blame
  • Neglect
  • Physical Abuse
  • Pressure Tactics
  • Psychological Abuse
  • Sexual Abuse
  • Spiritual Abuse
  • Stalking and Cyberstalking
  • Verbal or Nonverbal Abuse

Domestic violence and abuse are used for one purpose and one purpose only: to gain and maintain total control over you. An abuser doesn’t “play fair.” A major characteristic of the abusers is their ability to deceive others. In front of everyone else, they are cool, calm, charming and convincing. They will appear to be the most devoted and caring partner anyone could ask for in front of others. In the beginning, they will appear to the victim. Because they occur in intimate relationships, many kinds of abuse are often not recognized as violence. Abusers are responsible for the violence and harm they cause. They may continue to abuse others even if it destroys their relationships or has other negative effects on their lives such as involvement in the criminal justice system. Some abusers eventually kill their victims and themselves.

A diagram called the “Power and Control Wheel,” developed by the Domestic Abuse Intervention Project in Duluth, identifies the various behaviors that are used by batterers to gain power and control over their victims. The wheel demonstrates the relationship between physical and sexual violence and the tactics of intimidation, coercion, and manipulation that are often used by batterers.


Dominance – Abusive individuals need to feel in charge of the relationship. They will make decisions for you and the family, tell you what to do, and expect you to obey without question. Your abuser may treat you like a servant, child, or even as his or her possession.

Humiliation – An abuser will do everything he or she can to make you feel bad about yourself or defective in some way. After all, if you believe you’re worthless and that no one else will want you, you’re less likely to leave. Insults, name-calling, shaming, and public put-downs are all weapons of abuse designed to erode your self-esteem and make you feel powerless.

Isolation – In order to increase your dependence on him or her, an abusive partner will cut you off from the outside world. He or she may keep you from seeing family or friends, or even prevent you from going to work or school. You 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. Your abuser may threaten to hurt or kill you, your children, other family members, or even pets. He or she may also threaten to commit suicide, file false charges against you, or report you to child services.

Intimidation – Your abuser may use a variety of intimidation tactics designed to scare you into submission. Such tactics include making threatening looks or gestures, smashing things in front of you, destroying property, hurting your pets, or putting weapons on display. The clear message is that if you 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, and even on the victims of their abuse. Your abusive partner may minimize the abuse or deny that it occurred. He or she will commonly shift the responsibility on to you: Somehow, his or her violent and abusive behavior is your fault.

A common pattern of domestic abuse is that the perpetrator alternates between violent, abusive behavior and apologetic behavior with apparently heartfelt promises to change. The abuser may be very pleasant most of the time. Therein lays the perpetual appeal of the abusing partner and why many people are unable to leave the abusive relationship. Despite what many people believe, domestic violence and abuse is not due to the abuser’s loss of control over his or her behavior. In fact, abusive behavior and violence is a deliberate choice made by the abuser in order to control you. ‘Blaming the victim’ is something that abusers will often do to make excuses for their behaviour, and quite often they manage to convince their victims that the abuse is indeed their fault. This is part of the pattern and is in itself abusive. Blaming their behaviour on someone else, or on the relationship, their childhood, their ill health, or their alcohol or drug addiction is one way in which many abusers try to avoid personal responsibility for their behaviour.

In any relationship there are disagreements that develop from time to time and are usually solved through good communication based on a caring relationship; however, domestic violence is not a disagreement. It is a whole pattern of behaviors used by one partner to establish and maintain power and control over the other. These behaviors can become more frequent and intense over time. Abusers are able to control their behavior to when it suits them and are able to do it all the time. The abusive person is responsible for these behaviors. That person is the only one who can change them. Don’t wait until you and the ones you love get hurt. Remember that no matter what the abuser tells you, “You are not alone”. Talk with friends about your situation and consider getting some help.

  • Abusers pick and choose whom to abuse. They don’t insult, threaten, or assault everyone in their life who gives them grief. Usually, they save their abuse for the people closest to them, the ones they claim to love.
  • Abusers carefully choose when and where to abuse. They control themselves until no one else is around to see their abusive behavior. They may act like everything is fine in public, but lash out instantly as soon as you’re alone.
  • Abusers are able to stop their abusive behavior when it benefits them. Most abusers are not out of control. In fact, they’re able to immediately stop their abusive behavior when it’s to their advantage to do so (for example, when the police show up or their boss calls).
  • Violent abusers usually direct their blows where they won’t show. Rather than acting out in a mindless rage, many physically violent abusers carefully aim their kicks and punches where the bruises and marks won’t show.

Batterers use a wide range of coercive and abusive behaviors against their victims; some of the abusive behaviors used by batterers result in physical injuries. Other techniques employed by batterers involve emotionally abusive behaviors. While these behaviors may not result in physical injuries, they are still psychologically damaging to the victim. Batterers employ different abusive behaviors at different times. Even a single incident of physical violence or the threat of such violence may be sufficient to establish power and control over a partner; this power and control is then reinforced and strengthened by non-physical abusive and coercive behaviors.

Cycle of Violence

If you look at your own relationship with your partner you may notice that there is a consistency or cycle to the violence that you face. Your abuser, right after their violence attack on you, will start off with an apology and then shower you with loving gestures in between these abusive episodes so that it can be emotional hard or difficult to leave. They may then make you believe that you are the only person who can help them and that things will be different this time (compared to the last) and that they truly love you; but you must realize the dangers of staying are very real and potentially fatal. No-one deserves to be abused, and you don’t have to put up with it. There are a number of things you can do if you are experiencing violence and abuse from a partner or ex-partner. However none of these will be easy and none provides a complete or immediate end to the abuse. Noticing and acknowledging the warning signs and symptoms of domestic violence and abuse is an important step in preventing and stopping the abuse and the first step to ending it. No one should live in fear of the person they love. If you recognize yourself or someone you know in an abuse relationship, don’t hesitate to reach out and call for help.

Domestic violence falls into a common pattern within a relationship that usually follows a cycle.

  • Abuse: Your abusive partner lashes out with aggressive, belittling, or violent behavior. The abuse is a power play designed to show you “who is boss.”
  • Guilt: After abusing you, your partner feels guilt, but not over what he’s done. He’s more worried about the possibility of being caught and facing consequences for his abusive behavior.
  • “Normal” behavior: Your abuser does everything he can to regain control and keep you in the relationship. He may act as if nothing has happened, or he may turn on the charm. This peaceful honeymoon phase may give you hope that your abusive partner has really changed this time.
  • Fantasy and planning: Your abuser begins to fantasize about abusing you again. He spends a lot of time thinking about what you’ve done wrong and how he’ll make you pay. Then he makes a plan for turning the fantasy of abuse into reality.
  • Set-up: Your abuser sets you up and puts his plan in motion, creating a situation where he can justify abusing you.

The tension builds over a period of time – days, weeks, months or even years. Then when you do not suspect it now starts the assault/abuse, which is followed by a period of peacemaking, often referred to as the ‘honeymoon’ phase. Many believe that abused partners do not experience a true ‘honeymoon’ phase once the cycle of abuse has begun. This may more accurately reflect the abuser’s state.

Phase One – Tension Build-up

You can sense your partner’s edginess

You are unable to discuss the underlying problem with you

Your partner becomes verbally abusive

You may feel the abuse is deserved.

In order to cope, you deny that violence will occur and believe that it can be controlled.

Phase Two – Violent Episode

The tension builds until it becomes unbearable. You may even provoke violence to get it over with. Your partner loses control and acts violently.

It may begin with a push or shove. With time, it escalates to a slap, kick or punch, then possibly to the use of weapons, resulting in more serious injuries.

You partner claims not to want to hurt you, just to teach you a lesson.

Your partner justifies his/her actions and blames you.

Both you and your partner minimize the seriousness of the injuries.

You accept the blame.

Phase Three – Honeymoon

Your Partner:

Fears you will leave the relationship;

Is worried and tries to make up;

Becomes charming and manipulative;

Believes anger can be controlled and it will never happen again; and/or

May shower you with gifts (flowers, etc.)

Fears you will leave the relationship;

Is worried and tries to make up;

Becomes charming and manipulative;

Believes anger can be controlled and it will never happen again; and/or

May shower you with gifts (flowers, etc.)


Want to believe your partner;

Begin to feel responsible for the abuse; and/or

In advanced stages of abuse, the honeymoon period may be reduced to a day without violence or be totally absent.

If you look at your own relationship with your partner, you may relate to this cycle of violence. As the violence is not constant, you can often be confused, particularly when the abusive partner has positive traits as well. Being needed can be a powerful incentive to stay in a relationship. It can create a strong belief that things will get better. But once violence has begun, it will need outside intervention to stop.

Cycle of Violence Source:

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