Domestic Violence – Are You Being Abused?

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January 20th, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

(Click here for more coverage of domestic violence.)

What is domestic violence? Many people think of it as purely physical in which one person beats up another. Many people think that only men commit domestic violence and women are always the victims.

Neither of these perceptions is accurate. Domestic violence involves more than just physical abuse. It includes verbal and emotional abuse which may have no physical component. Studies show that women commit domestic violence at rates similar to men. Further, they do this not only against men, but even in lesbian relationships in which no men are involved.

Our view is that all domestic violence is bad, no matter who commits it. Domestic violence will continue to be a problem especially if violent behaviors are written off because they are not physical or because women are committing them. Much of the literature and popular beliefs about domestic violence contribute to victimization of children, men, and even women by abusive women due to inaccurate biases that falsely classify women as not possibly being perpetrators of domestic violence. (See Women commit more than 70% of single-partner DV for a Harvard Medical School study which amply shows this.) Further, as modern research shows that partner violence tends to beget partner violence, the women abusing their partners makes it far more likely they will be co-abused in return.

When reading about domestic violence, you must realize that much of the literature and research in this field was done with the assumption that men are abusers and women are victims. Recent research has shown that this is not accurate, that anybody can be a victim and anybody an abuser. Some writings in the domestic violence field are gender-neutral and use well-designed studies to make their conclusions. For whatever reasons, some do not. Some claim it is because of sexist bias, others because of feminist propaganda. Whatever the reason, after you strip away the gender bias from the sources that haven’t caught up to the inaccuracy of the male abuser / female victim model popularized by early work in domestic violence in the 1970s despite much evidence to the contrary, there is still value to what these sources have to say.

For example, Professor Straus of the University of New Hampshire was one of the early researchers in domestic violence in the 1970s. He researched battered women and assumed that men were the abusers. However, over his 35 years of research, he has come to realize that abusers can be of either gender and that his earlier viewpoints were gender-biased. (See Female Violence Against Males.)

The bottom line is that all domestic violence is bad, regardless of who commits it.

Anybody can be a victim, even a tall muscular male or female can be abused by a much smaller partner, regardless of the partner’s gender. Size or gender doesn’t give one license to abuse another.

Mary Ann Dutton, a psychologist and law school professor who is an expert in domestic violence, has described it as “a pattern of behavior in which one intimate partner uses physical violence, coercion, threats, intimidation, isolation and emotional, sexual, or economic abuse to control and change the behavior of the other partner.”

Domestic violence occurs when one person gains power and maintains control over another. Sometimes it is done with overt aggression, other times in more subliminal ways to manipulate the victim into submitting to the abuser’s egocentric wants and needs.  Abusive partners can be male or female, married or not married, living together, separated, or dating. They can be abusive regardless of age, sexual orientation, race, or religion.

If you recognize that you are in an abusive relationship in any way, shape or form, but can justify it or think that things will improve or change for the better or you want to stand by someone because of the commitment you have made, think again.  You may not be able to help the person you are with, but you can save and protect yourself by letting the right people know about what is happening before it’s too late.

Types of domestic abuse:

Economic abuse

  • Prevents you from getting or keeping a job
  • Does not let you get job training or schooling
  • Makes you beg for money or gives you an allowance
  • Takes your money
  • Does not let you know about family assets or have access to family income
  • Makes you beg for items such as food, personal hygiene items, or basic necessities for you or your children
  • Incurs credit card or other types of debt in your name
  • Refuses to work and forces you to get a job and support him or her

Physical abuse

  • Bites, scratches, slaps, punches, kicks, chokes or throws objects at you
  • Shoves you down steps or into objects
  • Locks you in confining spaces or physically restrains you
  • Does not let you sleep
  • Deprives you of food or heat
  • Scares you by driving recklessly
  • Abandons you in dangerous places
  • Assaults you with weapons or objects
  • Does not allow you to seek medical attention when you are ill, injured, or pregnant

Emotional abuse

  • Undermines your sense of self-worth by constantly criticizing you or belittling your abilities
  • Makes you fear he or she will physically harm himself, your children, pets or property
  • Isolates you from friends, family, school and/or work
  • Calls you names in public and in private
  • Makes you think you are crazy; plays mind games
  • Tries to damage your relationships with your children or family

Sexual abuse

  • Coerces you into having sexual contact without your consent
  • Touches you in ways that hurt or scare you
  • Makes you have sex in ways or at times that are uncomfortable for you
  • Demands sex when your are sick, tired, or after beating you
  • Insults you in sexual ways or calls you sexual names
  • Refuses to let you use birth control
  • Forces you to watch while having sex with others
  • Forces you to have sex with others
  • Denies you protection from sexually transmitted diseases
  • Physically attacks the sexual parts of your body
  • Hurts you with weapons or objects during sex
  • Forces you to perform sexual acts for videotaping or photography

Ways abusers exert power and control over their victims:


  • Makes you afraid by using looks, actions, gestures, loud voice
  • Destroys your property
  • Abuses your pets
  • Displays weapons to frighten you

Coercion and threats

  • Threatens to do something to hurt you, your children, or pets
  • Threatens to report you to welfare or immigration authorities, the police, or Child Protective Services
  • Threatens to abandon you and your children
  • Threatens to commit suicide if you leave him or her
  • Forces you to drop criminal charges
  • Forces you to do illegal things

Minimizing, denying and blaming

  • Minimizes abuse and does not take your concerns about it seriously
  • Denies that abuse happened, will lie about or  leave out relevant details
  • Tells you that your fears are not important
  • Shifts responsibility of abuse to you, says that you caused it


  • Isolates you from your family and/or friends by displaying disapproval of your family and/or friends
  • Controls what you do, where you go, who you see or talk to, what you read (sometimes disguised as having the intention of “protecting” you)
  • Limits your involvement in activities outside of the home
  • Uses jealousy to justify controlling actions

Using children

  • Makes you feel guilty about the children
  • Threatens to take the children away
  • Uses false child abuse accusations to harass you and cause unnecessary involvement with police and CPS
  • Falsely claims need for supervised visitations, restricting your time with kids and financially hurting you
  • Conducts a parental alienation campaign against you
  • Interferes with contact between you and your children, especially court-ordered exchanges and visitations
  • Uses your children to relay threatening messages
  • Tells children lies about you or tells them you are responsible for the abuse

Male or female privilege

  • Treats you like a servant, has control of all the finances
  • Makes the “big” decisions without considering you
  • Acts like the “King or Queen of the Castle”, “It’s MY way or hit the highway”
  • Has rigid perception of men’s and women’s roles and responsibilities

Special considerations for recent immigrants

Some of the most vulnerable people in US society, or any society for that matter, are recent immigrants. They are often very dependent upon a spouse or significant other. They may not understand the laws, customs, and culture of their new home. They may have beliefs from their native culture that certain kinds of domestic violence are tolerable or even expected. And they likely lack financial resources and social connections to use to help protect their interests.

The following are special concerns for recent immigrants:

Residency and citizenship

  • Threatens to report you to the immigration authorities (USCIS) if you try to leave or go to the police
  • Fails to file papers to legalize your immigration status
  • Withdraws or threatens to withdraw papers filed for your legal residency
  • Does not allow you to seek citizenship


  • Hides or destroys important papers: passport, visa, ID cards, health-care cards, birth certificates, or marriage license
  • Lies to you about your residency status or the papers required to establish legal residency
  • Refuses to file papers to legalize your immigration status
  • Alleges on legal papers that you have a history of prostitution, drug abuse, or other criminal activities

Laws and regulations

  • Lies to you about US laws, the police and the courts
  • Threatens to report you to the immigration authorities
  • Lies to you about your right to access services such as health care and counseling


  • Threatens to report you to the immigration authorities if you work “under the table”
  • Prevents you from obtaining a work permit
  • Does not allow you to learn English or to get job training

English literacy

  • Makes you depend on him for English translation
  • Controls what information he does translate for you, withholding information that may be important
  • Makes you sign papers or legal documents that are in English which you don’t understand

Children and family

  • Threatens to take your children to a foreign country
  • Writes to your family and tells them lies about you
  • Threatens to abandon you and tell your family that you left
  • Threatens to have you deported without your children
  • Threatens to report your children to the immigration authorities
  • Threatens to harm members of your family in your home country

Cultural isolation

  • Does not allow you to learn English or American customs
  • Isolates you from friends and family or anyone who speaks your language
  • Does not allow you to practice your religion

Where to find help:

If you are being abused, you should seek help by appropriate means. Under severe abuse conditions, you should consider leaving the home with your children to a safe place. Be sure not to be followed.

Domestic violence hotlines:

If you are in immediate danger
Call 911

National Domestic Violence hotline
phone: 1.800.799.SAFE (7233)
click here for website

Further reading:

Wikipedia: Domestic Violence

Domestic Abuse Helpline for Men and Women (phone 1-888-743-5754)

Women’s Law: Learn more about domestic violence and abuse

Women’s Law: Where to find help

About Domestic Violence Against Men

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