About Domestic Violence

What is Domestic Violence?
Domestic violence is a range of behaviors used to establish power or exert control by one intimate partner over the other. The range of behaviors can include psychological, emotional, verbal, sexual, financial, spiritual, and physical abuse, as well as stalking and threatening behaviors. 

Who are victims?
Anybody can be a victim — rich or poor, and racial or ethnic group, age, educational background, sexual orientation or religion. High school drop-out or Ph.D. If you are worried about yourself or a loved one, help is available.

Who are abusers?
Like victims, domestic violence abusers come from all backgrounds. However, abusers do share some characteristics in that they tend to justify their abusive behaviors, fail to take responsibility for the abuse and use similar tactics to gain and maintain power and control over their partners.

Abusers typically present a different personality outside of their relationship than they do to their intimate partner, which complicates victims' ability to describe their experience and seek assistance.

Children Exposed to Domestic Violence
Children who witness or are exposed to domestic violence are at greater risk for a number of health and behavioral concerns. They are often present during abuse, and are physically injured as a result of domestic violence. People who abuse their partners are very likely to also abuse children in the home.

Types of Abuse

The following are common types of abuse and examples of abusive behaviors. This list is not exhaustive. If your partner is exerting power or control over you, you may be experiencing domestic violence.

• Physical abuse – slapping, hitting, kicking, choking, grabbing, pinching, shoving, punching, and the use of weapons.
• Sexual abuse – any coerced or forced sexual contact, undermining a person’s sexuality, unprotected sex, and rape.
• Verbal abuse – name-calling, insults, put-downs, threats, belittling, severe criticism.
• Psychological abuse – intimidation, isolation from family and friends, destroying possessions or treasured objects, threatening to hurt or abuse pets, controlling someone’s behavior.
• Stalking – calling, following, harassing, spying on, leaving messages, unwanted e-mails and phone calls.
• Economic abuse – attempts to make someone financially dependent, withholding money, keeping someone from work or school, harassing someone at work, controlling income, requiring justification for money spent, excessive gambling, refusing to pay bills/creditors, ruining credit.
• Legal abuse – dragging out legal/custody proceedings, refusing to pay support or alimony, withholding assets, fighting for custody solely to maintaining control over the victim’s whereabouts.
• Spiritual abuse – using religious or spiritual beliefs to manipulate someone, preventing the partner from practicing their religious or spiritual beliefs, ridiculing the other person’s religious or spiritual beliefs, forcing the children to be reared in a faith that the partner has not agreed to.

Abuse may occur frequently or infrequently, but in most cases it tends to escalate over time. Without intervention, domestic violence generally increases, and can lead to serious injuries and death.

Abuse and violence are learned behaviors, and as such, can be unlearned. People who are abusive are responsible for their behavior and should be held accountable for their actions by the legal and judicial systems, media, friends, family, co-workers and communities.

Power and Control Wheels

Domestic violence entails the use of many types of abuse to obtain power and maintain control over an intimate partner. In many abusive relationships, physical violence may be only one part of the abuse, and may even be rare. The "Power and Control Wheel" created by the Domestic Violence Project, Inc. in Duluth, portrays how this works.

The spokes on the wheel illustrate the many ways abusers exert power and control. The outer rim of the wheel depicts physical violence. As long as psychological abuse, threats and intimidation keep an abused person under control, physical violence may be unnecessary or rare. 

Since this basic power and control wheel was created, many other, similar wheels have been developed to illustrate abuse in specific relationships and communities:

Abuse in later life
Abusive power and control within the domestic violence shelter
Children exposed to domestic violence
LGBTQ relationships
People with developmental disabilities
People with disabilities
Police perpetrated domestic violence
Violence against Native women
Community Accountability
Domestic Violence Integrated Within Social Work Education
Natural Life Supporting Power
Continuum of Caring
Mental Health System
Three Circles
Coordinated Community Action Model
Judicial Responses that Empower Battered Women

Diagrama de Igualdade
Poder y Control En El Noviazgo
Rueda De Igualdade Para los Jovenes

Barriers to Leaving
Victims of domestic violence usually make repeated and sustained efforts to secure safety for themselves and their children, but many face barriers which impede their safety and security:

•  Fear—According to the FBI, battered women are at great risk for serious injury and homicide when they attempt to leave a violent relationship. Given this very real concern, it is important that the domestic violence victims’ fears not be minimized. If a victim decides to leave an abusive relationship, safety planning should be conducted.
•  Lack of Support—Since one of the major components of abuse is isolation, domestic violence victims often lack support systems. Their family ties and friendships have been destroyed, leaving them psychologically and emotionally dependent on the abusive partner.
•  Finances—As a result of the abuse, victims are often economically dependent on their abusers. This is particularly true for victims with children, and those who have been restricted from working outside the home. Public assistance is insufficient and affordable housing is scarce, and thus, economic realities often trap victims in violent relationships.
•  Children—Being a single parent is a strenuous experience under the best of circumstances, and for most domestic violence victims, conditions are far from ideal. Often abusers threaten to take children away if victims attempt to leave. Even after a separation, abusers continue to use children to maintain power and control over victims and inflict further harm.
•  Religious Beliefs and Values—Many religious beliefs reinforce commitments to marriage and family. Some faiths hold that the husband is head of the household, and it is a wife's duty to be submissive to him. Faith leaders may not recognize signs of abuse and fail to provide support to victims in their communities.
•  Love for Partner or Spouse—Most people enter a relationship for love, and that emotion does not simply disappear easily or in the face of difficulty.
•  Promises of Reform—Abusers often promise the abuse will never happen again, they will seek assistance, and they will change.

Are you in an abusive relationship? 
Does your partner:

• Act extremely jealous of others who pay attention to you, or use jealousy to justify his/her actions?
• Monitor where you go, who you call, and who you spend time with?
• Call you names, insult you, or continually criticize you?
• Put you down in front of other people, humiliate you, play mind games and make you feel as if you are crazy?
• Stop you from seeing or talking to friends or family, or limit your outside involvement?
• Prevent you from getting or keeping a job?
• Make all the decisions?
• Take your money or not let you have access to the family income?
• Make you afraid by using looks, actions, and gestures?
• Threaten to take away your children?
• Break things, damage property, throw objects, punch walls, or kick doors?
• Trap you in your home, or keep you from leaving?
• Push, slap, bite, kick or strangle you?
• Use physical force or intimidation in sexual situations?
• Prevent you from calling for help, or seeking medical attention?
• Act like the abuse is no big deal, it's your fault, or even denies doing it?
• Blame drugs or alcohol for his/her abusive behavior?
• Threaten to hurt or kill your pets?
• Scare or threaten you with weapons?
• Threaten to kill you or commit suicide?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may be involved in a relationship that is abusive. If there is something about your relationship that scares you, seek help.

You have the right to live without fear of abuse, oppression or the threat of violence. You deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. And you have the right to control your own life.

Get Help Now

If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship and needs help or would like to speak with someone about services and options, FREE and CONFIDENTIAL help is available 24 hours a day.

Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233); TTY 1-800-787-3224. Someone is available to help you 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to listen and provide information to help you get safe. They can give you the name and phone number for assistance in your community. 

The California Partnership to End Domestic Violence does not operate a 24-hour crisis hotline nor provide direct services to victims. However, you may reach our office between the hours of 9:00 am – 5:00 pm at 800-524-4765 to receive the hotline number for your local domestic violence program. Also check Domestic Violence Services by County.

Due to concerns about abusers´ ability to track their partners´ computer use, The Partnership does not provide assistance or referrals via email. Please reference our internet safety tips

Safety Planning

If you are in an abusive relationship:

Think of a safe place to go when the abuse begins - avoid rooms without exits (bathrooms), or rooms with weapons (kitchens).
• Make a list of safe people to contact and keep this list safe in several places.
• Abusers can monitor your computer usage; if you think you are being monitored, you probably are. Computers can provide a lot of information about what you look at on the Internet, the emails you send, and other activities. It is not possible to delete or clear all computer “footprints” so use a safer computer (such as a friend’s or one at the library) to do any internet research or electronic communications.
• Make copies of
important papers and documents you might need to take with you which would enable you to apply for benefits or take legal action (such as: social security cards and birth certificates for you and your children, passport or other visa documentation, your marriage license, leases or deeds in your name or both yours and your partner's names, your checkbook, your credit cards, bank statements and charge account statements, insurance policies, proof of income for you and your spouse, (pay stubs or W-2's), and any documentation of past incidents of abuse such as (photos, police reports, medical records, etc.)
• Abusers can monitor your
computer usage; if you think you are being monitored, you probably are. Computers can provide a lot of information about what you look at on the Internet, the emails you send, and other activities. It is not possible to delete or clear all computer “footprints” so use a safer computer (such as a friend’s or one at the library) to do any internet research or electronic communications.
Verizon Wireless´ HopeLine program collects unused cell phones and gives a limited supply of reconditioned phones to local domestic violence programs to be used by survivors of domestic violence. These free cell phones may be provided to you for a restricted time. They are intended to be used in emergency situations to call 911, to stay in contact with your local domestic violence program and to make other calls like your employer, potential landlords, utility companies, police, court staff, doctors, school staff, etc. necessary to help rebuild your life.  Every local domestic violence program in California has a process in place for lending out the free phones, so call them for details.


* Remember you have the right to live without fear and violence.

If you have left an abusive relationship:
Change your phone number, and remind friends, family and your employer not to give it out.

• Screen your calls.
• Save and document all contacts, messages, injuries or other incidents involving the abuser.
• Change locks if the abuser has a key.
• Avoid staying alone.
• Plan how to get away if confronted by an abusive partner.
• If you have to meet your partner, do so in a public place.
• Vary your routine and routes.
• Notify school and work contacts.
• Call a domestic violence hotline.

To help a friend
Listen to them and believe them.
• Hold what you are told in confidence.
• Encourage your friend to think about safety. Help your friend make concrete plans that deal with the most likely "what ifs."

• Pack an “emergency bag” with overnight clothes, toiletries, prescriptions, copies of identification and important records.
• Establish a "code word or sign" so that children, neighbors, family members, friends, and co-workers know when to call for help.

Borrow A Cellphone

Most importantly, reach out to a domestic violence program