Note: CODA services are available to all victims of domestic violence - male or female. Studies show 87% - 95% of reported cases of domestic violence involve female victims and male perpetrators. The use of "she" and "her" in this site is to avoid the more awkward "he/she" and "his/her" and is in no way meant to ignore or minimize the suffering of male victims of domestic violence or female victims of same sex abuse.
What is Intimate Partner (or Domestic) Violence?
Domestic violence, also known as intimate partner violence, is a pattern of behavior in which abusers employ multiple methods to gain complete control over their partners. Victims come from every educational, socio-economic and racial classification.
Male Privilege: The roots of domestic violence lay in male privilege. Centuries of patriarchal tradition in which women were regarded as the property of husbands give abusers a sense of entitlement. Even when they suspect abuse, family and friends can be hesitant to interfere. They, too, are subject to the underlying, age-old assumption that the male has the right to control his family.
Entitlement: Intimate partner violence is frequently viewed as an anger issue. Although anger may be used to gain power, domestic violence is about control of the victim, not anger. Similarly, domestic violence is not a 'relationship problem.' Nothing a victim can do will improve the situation. The problem lies with the abuser who believes he is entitled to behave as he wants.
Results: Years of violence and threats often leave a person too traumatized to break away. If the victim does make the decision to leave, statistics show she enters the most dangerous time of her relationship. She may be stalked or even killed as the abuser sees his carefully-created world of control disintegrating around him.
How Do Abusers Maintain Control?
A "successful" abuser will use multiple methods to achieve control. Abusers are skilled at manipulation and finding what types of abuse will work most effectively with each victim.
Emotional and Psychological Abuse:
Isolation is a common form of emotional abuse. If the abuser can cut off the victim from family and friends, he can control her more easily and perhaps even convince her the abuse is her fault. He may monitor her activities and/or phone calls to ensure his wishes are followed.
Verbal abuse can be devastating to a victim and, over time, erode her self esteem and faith in her capabilities to alter her situation. Verbal abuse includes name-calling, publicly humiliating the partner or making demeaning remarks about appearance, intelligence, capabilities, friends or family members. The abuser may repeatedly tell the victim she will never "make it on her own."
Threats of violence toward the victim, children, pets or others are common abusive techniques. The victim's personal circumstances may prompt more specific threats. "I'll....
...see you never get custody of the children.
...turn you in to immigration.
...out you to your family.
...harass you at work till you lose your job."
The ultimate threat which resonates in the mind of every victim who has heard it is, "If you leave me, I will kill you."
Causing harm to possessions or pets is another emotionally abusive tactic which sends the message, "If I can hurt this animal, I can hurt you."
Recurring extramarital affairs are psychologically abusive and cross into the realm of physical abuse if sexually transmitted diseases are involved.
Scratching, biting, spitting, shoving, pushing and throwing objects are physical manifestations of abuse which can escalate to strangling, burning or attacks with knives and other weapons.
Some abusers forbid partners to work thereby prohibiting financial independence Or, working partners are often forced to turn over their paychecks to the abusers. In either case, the victim has no access to money with which to break free. Many victims have no idea of the family assets or their own financial rights. Without this knowledge, it's easy to believe remarks such as, "If you leave, you'll never get this house."
Sexual abuse is any sexual encounter without consent and includes unwanted touching, forced sexual activity, painful or degrading acts during intercourse or exposure to sexually transmitted diseases. Conversely, withholding sex or affection can also be means to controlling a partner.
Stalking and Harassment:
Relentless phone calls, uninvited visits, constant following, checking and/or refusing to leave when asked constitute the abusive pattern of stalking and harassment. Stalking can cause fear without the abuser ever threatening or physically harming the victim.