Domestic Violence – Basic Facts


Domestic violence relates to abuse, violence and intimidation between people in an intimate relationship.[1] It is a pattern of behavior by the abuser using different types of abuse to control the other person through intimidation and fear. This often causes psychological and physical harm to the victim. This article lists basic information about domestic violence, and what victims can do to help and keep themselves safe.

Types of Abuse
Examples of different types of abuse:[2]

Physical Abuse: shaking, slapping, pushing, punching, scratching, kicking, spitting, biting, using weapons, trying to strangle or choke, destroying property and throwing things, abuse of children or pets, forced feeding, physical restraint

Emotional Abuse: blaming a woman for the problems in a relationship, comparing a woman to others to lower her self-esteem and self-worth, usually being in a bad mood, intentionally embarrassing a woman in public, telling a woman what to wear, preventing a woman from seeing her friends and family, stalking, making a woman feel guilty when she refuses sex, using humiliation and intimidation

Financial Abuse: complete control of finances and money, restricting access to bank accounts, providing inadequate allowance and monitoring what a woman spends money on, forbidding a woman to work, taking a woman’s pay and not allowing her to access it, restricting access to education

Verbal Abuse: name calling, criticism, swearing, and humiliation in public or in private, attacks on a woman’s intelligence, body, or parenting, yelling

Social Abuse: monitoring a woman’s phone calls, emails, and online activity, deciding which friends and family members a woman can talk to and spend time with, criticizing a woman’s friends and family, not allowing a woman to meet or spend time with others including children, moving the woman far away so she cannot be reached, verbally/physically abusing a woman in public or in front of other people

Sexual Abuse: rape including marital rape, deliberately causing pain during sex, forced sex without protection against pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases, forcing a woman to perform sexual acts, using sexually degrading insults, unwanted touching, unwanted exposure to pornography, sexual jokes, using sex to coerce compliance

Spiritual Abuse: preventing a woman from practicing her religion, misusing religious beliefs and practices to justify other types of abuse and violence, forcing a woman to act against her spiritual or religious obligations, accusing a woman of being too religious or not religious enough, ridiculing a woman’s understanding of religious practices or beliefs

The Power and Control Wheel

The Power and Control Wheel explains patterns and tactics used by the abuser to dominate and control the victim.[3] Read more about The Power and Control Wheel.

The Cycle of Violence

The cycle of violence states that many violent relationships have a pattern or happen in a cycle.[4] The pattern is different for everyone and every relationship and the cycle can happen in a day, weeks or months.[5]

The Cycle has three phases:

Phase 1: Tension building. Tension begins to rise in the relationship displayed by increased verbal, financial and emotional abuse.[6] Problems over domestic issues like money, work, and children increases.[5] The abuser starts to react more negatively while the victim gives in or avoids the abuser as an attempt to control the situation.[5]

Phase 2: Acute Explosion. The tension grows to a point when physical abuse begins. The peak of violence is in this phase.[6] The abuse is usually triggered by the abuser’s emotional state or an external event, and not by the victim’s behavior.[5] For the abuser, this release of tension may become addictive, as they are unable to deal with their anger in another way.[4]

Phase 3. Honeymoon Stage. The tension has decreased. The abuser starts to feel regret and shame over their behavior, and starts to apologize and minimize the abuse[4,5] The abuser may promise to never be violent again, blames the violence on factors like stress, purchase gifts, and act more lovingly to the victim.[6] The victim may believe the abuser has changed and that the abuse was a one-time event. Both the victim and abuser can experience this denial as they hope for the relationship to continue without future violence.

As time passes, this cycle may begin again.

The diagram below shows the cycle of violence experienced by both the abuser and the victim.

Figure 1. The Cycle of Violence.[6]
For the victim, the effects of violence do not end when the abuse stops. Psychological and physical symptoms are usually experienced.[7]

Psychological Symptoms:[7]

  • Depression and other mental health issues
  • Fear
  • Stress
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Low self-esteem
  • Eating disorders
  • Sleep disorders
  • Loss of energy
  • Difficulties making decisions
  • Substance abuse

Physical Symptoms: [7]

  • Injuries to the head, face, neck, thorax, breasts and abdomen
  • Chronic conditions like headaches, neck pain, and back problems
  • Cardiac and immune system symptoms
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms like digestive problems and abdominal pain
  • Gynecological problems including sexually transmitted diseases
  • Delays between physical injuries and treatment

What to Do When you are in an Abusive Relationship[8]

Create a safety plan. A safety plan is a personalized and practical plan that includes ways to remain safe and plans for leaving. It involves coping with emotions and coming up front about the abuse to others.

  • If an argument seems unavoidable, try to have it in a room or area that has access to an exit and one which does not have any weapons in it
  • Use your own instincts and judgment to keep you and your children safe and protected
  • Have someone you trust who you can call, seek shelter and/or ask for money
  • Keep numbers of the police, emergency and safety hotlines ready
  • Have a packed bag ready that includes important documents, clothes, and money, and keep it hidden and ready in order to leave quickly
  • Think of other ways in which you can increase your independence
  • Review your safety plan regularly

Caring for your Safety and Mental Health

  • Engage in activities that help improve your mood and well-being
  • Have someone you trust who you can talk to
  • Seek professional help like seeing a counselor
  • Have positive thoughts about yourself
  • Be assertive with others about your needs

[1] White Ribbon Australia. (n.d). Domestic violence definition. Retrieved from
[2] White Ribbon Australia. (n.d).Types of violence.Retrieved from
[3] Domestic Abuse Intervention Programs. (n.d). Understanding the power and control wheel. Retrieved from
[4] Micah Projects Inc. (n.d). The cycle of violence.Retrieved from
[5] Confederation of European Probation. (n.d). The cycle of violence. Retrieved from
[6] White Ribbon Australia. (n.d). Cycle of violence.Retrieved from
[7] Diez, S., Escutia, C., Pacheco, B., Martinez, M., Caracena, N., & Contreras, A. (2009). Prevalence of intimate partner violence and its relationship to physical and psychological health indicators. International Journal of Clinical and Health Psychology, 9(3), 411-427.
[8] Arab American Family Services. (n.d). Domestic Violence Prevention and Intervention Department.Retrieved from

Photo Credit: Pixaby

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