Domestic violence is often experienced as a combination of physical, sexual, and/or emotional abuse. Following are some examples of the range of battering and abuse that can occur. This list includes examples of behaviors and actions that are violent and abusive. In working with people to assess their experiences with domestic violence, include questions such as, “Does your intimate partner do any of these things to you?”

Physical Abuse

  • Pushes you
  • Injures you with slaps, kicks and punches
  • Exposes you to risks, such as reckless driving
  • Throws objects
  • Threatens or injures with a weapon
  • Physically prevents you from leaving the house
  • Locks you out of the house
  • Abandons you in dangerous places
  • Refuses to help when sick, injured or pregnant
  • Prevents from seeking medical care
  • Keeps you awake at night against your will
  • Refuses to buy food or other articles necessary (for the family)
  • Destroys your property
  • Abuses the children
  • Threatens to injure your family or friends

Sexual Abuse

  • Treats others as sex objects
  • Withholds sex and affection
  • Forces you to strip when you don’t want to
  • Commits cruel sexual acts
  • Forces you to have sex against your will, rapes you
  • Forces you to have sex after a beating
  • Extremely jealous, accuses you of having affairs
  • Forces you to watch and/or repeat pornographic acts

Emotional Abuse

  • Continually criticizes you, yelling and/or insulting (e.g. telling you that you are too fat, too skinny, too stupid, bad parent, bad partner, bad lover)
  • Ignores your feelings
  • Ridicules your most valued beliefs
  • Denies you affection as punishment
  • Refuses to work and share financial responsibilities
  • Keeps you from working
  • Manipulates you with lies and contradictions
  • Insults family and friends to drive them away
  • Refuses to socialize with you
  • Prevents contact with family and friends
  • Keeps you from using the phone
  • Controls the money and makes all financial decisions
  • Humiliates you in public
  • Harasses you at work
  • Threatens to leave or throw you out of the house
  • Threatens to kidnap the children
  • Punishes or deprives the children


  • Domestic violence accounts for 21% of all violent crime in America.
    U.S. Department of Justice. Federal Bureau of Investigation. Nonfatal Domestic Violence 2003-2012. 2012.
  • About 1 in 4 women (24.3%) and 1 in 7 men (13.8%) have experienced severe physical violence by an intimate partner (e.g., hit with a fist or something hard, beaten, slammed against something) at some point in their lifetime.
    Center for Disease Control and Prevention. National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey. 2010.
  • More than 1 in 3 women (35.6%) and more than 1 in 4 men (28.5%) in the United States have experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime.One in five female high school students reports being physically and/or sexually abused by a dating partner.
    Center for Disease Control and Prevention. National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey. 2010.
  • Interpersonal violence is the leading cause of female homicides and injury-related deaths during pregnancy.
    American Psychological Association. Intimate Partner Violence. 2014.
  • The percentage of women who consider their mental health to be poor is almost three times higher among women with a history of violence than among those without.
    American Psychological Association. Intimate Partner Violence. 2014.
  • 39% of cities cited domestic violence as the primary cause of family homelessness
    The United States Conference of Mayors. Hunger and Homelessness Survey. 2007.
  • 18-24 year-olds comprised only 11.7% of the population in 1998 and 2002, but were the majority of victims of violence committed by a boyfriend or girlfriend (42%).
    U.S. Department of Justice. Federal Bureau of Investigation. Family Violence Statistics. 2005.
  • Battering occurs in gay and lesbian relationships at the same rate as heterosexual relationships – approximately 35%.
    Domestic Violence Intervention Program. Myths and Facts About Domestic Violence. 2014.
  • The American Medical Association (AMA) and FBI estimate 3-4 million women are battered each year in the U.S
    Domestic Violence Intervention Program. Myths and Facts About Domestic Violence. 2014.


There are many legal questions around Domestic Violence. We’ve prepared a list of Frequently Asked Questions to help guide you.

Warning Signs of Abuse

  • Jealousy
  • Controlling behavior
  • Quick involvement
  • Unrealistic expectations
  • Isolation
  • Blames others for his problems
  • Blames others for his feelings
  • Hypersensitivity
  • Cruelty to animals or children
  • “Playful” use of force in sex
  • Verbal abuse
  • Rigid sex roles
  • Jekyll-and-Hyde personality
  • Past battering
  • Threats of violence
  • Breaking or striking objects
  • Any force during an argument

If your partner exhibits more than three of these warning signs, there is a strong potential for abuse in the relationship.

Basic Rights in a Relationship

In an ongoing relationship you have the following rights:

  • The right to good will from the other
  • The right to emotional support
  • The right to be heard by the other and to be responded to with courtesy
  • The right to have your own view, even if your mate has a different view
  • The right to have your feelings and experience acknowledged as real
  • The right to receive a sincere apology for any jokes you find offensive
  • The right to clear and informative answers to questions that concern what is
    legitimately your business
  • The right to live free from accusations and blame
  • The right to live free from criticism and judgment
  • The right to have your work and your interests spoken of with respect
  • The right to encouragement
  • The right to live free from emotional and physical threat
  • The right to live free from angry outbursts and rage
  • The right to be called by no name that devalues you
  • The right to be respectfully asked rather than ordered

Why Do Victims Stay?

The reasons victims stay in abusive relationships are very complicated. There are a wide range of emotional feelings that allow the abuse to continue and prevent the victim from leaving. Here are a few reasons that victims stay in an abusive relationship:

  • Fear – Victims fear the physical harm that might come if they attempt to leave.
  • Love – Victims may truly have deep feelings for the abusive partner.
  • Promises – Promises that this abuse will never happen again.
  • Abuse = Love – Confusion between being loved and being controlled by their partner.
  • Guilt – Being made to think that the abuse is their fault, that they have the problem.
  • Not Being Believed – A strong fear that nobody will believe them if they speak out against the abuse.
  • Thinking They Can Change Them – The belief that over time the victim can change the abusive partner.
  • Low Self-Esteem – After being in an abusive relationship there is a feeling that they can do no better than their current relationship.
  • Being Alone – To end the relationship could mean a loss of mutual friends, relatives and others associated with the relationship.
  • Financial – Money, children and no place to go also hold victims in these relationships.

How to Help a Friend

What Helps

Offer Support: Find out if the person wants to talk or share their feelings. Don’t pressure them, but let them know you are there if they need you.

Listen and believe: Listen to their story without judging their actions. Focus your concerns on their partner’s specific behaviors that seem abusive, controlling or violent. Name the abusive behaviors without “trashing” the abuser.

Understand: Maintain respect for fears, pressures and needs that may hold them in the relationship. Remember that it isn’t helpful to you or to them to judge their reasons for staying.

Provide information: Learn about domestic violence and the resources in the community. Tell them about MAAV and/or give them a “palm card” listing hotline numbers and other resources.

Focus on safety: Ask if you can help them plan ways to keep themselves and their children safe. MAAV has information on safety planning if they are ready to do this.

Be patient: Ending any relationship takes time and is complicated; ending a violent one with controlling behaviors is even more so, and can be dangerous. They may need to reach out many times in order to leave permanently.

What Doesn’t Help

Trying to Rescue: Bonds of family and friendship and a sense of loyalty make it difficult to resist the urge to “rescue”. It is also tempting to try to initiate a plan of action on behalf of the victim, such as trying to arrange a shelter stay or other services, without consulting the victim.

Telling a victim what they “ought” to do:

The urge to help can be counterproductive when it manifests itself as pressure, ultimatums, or acts of further control. By telling someone what they ought to do, you force them to either let you down when they don’t take your advice or allow themselves to be controlled once again by someone else’s idea of how they should behave.

Blaming or criticizing: Continuing to offer support when the situation never seems to “get better” often becomes extremely frustrating. You may feel angry or fed up with both the victim and the abuser, which are natural reactions. However, victims who sense this may withdraw, increasing their isolation and dependency on the abuser. Give yourself support by talking with a friend or call MAAV at 662-2010.

Continue to give the person a reason to believe in themselves by showing them that you believe in them.

Effects on Children

Children and adolescents’ reactions to traumatic events will include their own individual experience of the event (what they saw, what they heard, etc.) and the crisis reactions they witness in the adults around them (parents, teachers, neighbors, etc). As with adults, a child’s distress can manifest itself in a number of ways. Some of these reactions are listed below.

PRE-SCHOOL: Ages 2-6 years

  • Aggressive behavior, hyperactivity
  • Anxiety about separation from parent or other caretaker
  • Silence, withdrawal from others
  • Regression: may refuse to feed, dress, wash self, may lapse in toilet training, bedwetting
  • Sleep disturbance, nightmares; fears of darkness, “monsters”, strangers
  • Physical reactions: loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, tics
  • Re-enactments/play about the recent event
  • Inability to understand death and its permanency; eg. the child may talk about return of deceased
  • Increase in anxiety, insecurity with changes in routine

EARLY CHILDHOOD: Ages 6-10 years

  • Behavioral changes may occur – either quieter, lethargic, withdrawn, or active, noisy
  • Fantasies about traumatic event with “savior” ending
  • Regressive reactions including excessive clinging, crying, whimpering, wanting to be fed or dressed
  • Complaints of headaches, stomach aches, nausea, persistent itching, scratching
  • Sleep disturbance, nightmares, night terrors, bedwetting
  • Irritability. Disobedience
  • School phobia; inability to concentrate with drop in school achievement
  • Competition with siblings for parental attention
  • Decreased trust in adults
  • Displaced fears, eg. not feeling safe in place where there’s no immediate threat

PREADOLESCENT: Ages 11-14 years

  • Anger at unfairness of event
  • More childlike in attitude
  • Disruptive behavior; resistance to authority
  • Increased difficulty relating to siblings, teachers, parents
  • Loss of interest in peer activities
  • Psychosomatic illness such as: headaches, complaints of vague aches, overeating or lack of appetite, stomach aches, bowel problems, skin disorders
  • Sleep disturbances including excessive sleep
  • Judgmental about own behavior especially when close connection to violence or trauma
  • Anti-social behavior eg. lying, stealing
  • Sadness or depression; may believe existence is meaningless
  • Drop in level of school performance, attendance
  • Alcohol, drug abuse
  • High risk behaviors including unprotected sex

ADOLESCENT: Ages 15-18 years

  • Accelerated entry into adult world in effort to gain some control over environment
  • Feelings of anger, shame, betrayal; act out frustration through rebellious acts
  • Judgmental about behavior of others as well as their own
  • Anti-social behavior, eg. stealing, vandalism
  • Alcohol, drug abuse; decreased impulse control
  • High risk behaviors including speeding, unprotected sex
  • Psychosomatic illness: bowel and bladder complaints, headaches, skin disorders
  • Sleep and/or eating disorders
  • Vague physical complaints or exaggerated fears of physical problems
  • Painful menses or cessation of menses
  • Isolation; withdrawal from peers and family
  • Feelings of inadequacy, depression, hopelessness, helplessness
  • Suicidal thoughts, gestures
  • Revenge, wish to “get even”
  • Marked increase or decrease in physical activity
  • Decline in social interests and activities
  • Foreboding of another tragedy leading to sense of foreshortened future