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Signs of Domestic Violence and Abuse

Domestic violence is a pattern of behavior that involves physical violence or other abuse by one person against another in a domestic situation including marriage, cohabitation and care-taking relationships such as an adult child caring for his/her elderly parent or grandparent.  Domestic violence happens in heterosexual as well as same-sex relationships.  Domestic violence can take a number of forms including physical, emotional, verbal, economic and sexual abuse.  The following are the more subtle signs of abuse that lead to physical violence in so many cases.  Yet, they are often not known or understood as abuse.

Examples of Non-Physical Ways to Exert Power and Control

Emotional Abuse

  • Name calling
  • Sexual put downs
  • Making her think she’s crazy
  • Playing mind games
  • Putting her down in front of family and friends
  • Bragging about other women; phoning them while in her house and/or bringing them around
  • Ignoring her, withdrawing attention


  • Putting her in fear by:
    • Using looks
    • Actions
    • Loud voices
    • Gestures
    • Body positioning
    • Smashing or destroying property
    • Hurting pets


  • Keeping her from outside communication with family and friends
  • Limiting her phone calls
  • Limiting her social life and contact with the outside world
  • Keeping her from doing activities she likes
  • Invading her privacy
  • Limiting her personal space


  • To kill her
  • To have someone else hurt her
  • To hurt her children
  • To take the children
  • To throw her out and make her homeless
  • To destroy property which is meaningful to her
  • To report her to welfare, DCFS, immigration, etc.
  • To commit suicide- self pity
  • To have her watched all the time
  • That if he doesn’t have her no one will

Economic Abuse

  • Keeping her from getting or keeping a job
  • Giving her an allowance
  • Making her ask for money
  • Taking her money
  • Controlling all the finances
  • Spending money on himself and withholding money for family needs

Using Children

  • Making her feel guilty about the children
  • Putting her down for the way she parents
  • Using the children to give messages
  • Misusing visitation to harass her
  • Abusing the children
  • Telling the children bad things about her

Sexual Abuse

  • Making her do things sexually against her will
  • Physically attacking the sexual parts of her body
  • Threatening her in order to obtain sex
  • Treating her like a sex object
  • Not taking “NO” for an answer
  • Insisting on sex on abuser’s terms; when, where, how

Using Male Privilege

  • Treating her like a servant
  • Acting like the “king of the castle”
  • Thinking he can do anything better than she can
  • Making all the big decisions
  • Having a know-it-all attitude; has to be right all the time
  • Thinking he has superior intelligence
  • Controlling her property

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