Understanding Domestic Violence

What is Domestic Violence?

Defining Terms & Acronyms

  • DV: Domestic Violence
  • IPV: Intimate Partner Violence
  • Victim: a person who suffers form a destructive or injurious action or agency
  • Survivor: a person who continues to function or prosper in spite of opposition, hardship or setbacks
  • Abuse: a person that treats other in a harmful, injurious or offensive way.
  • LGBTQQIA (Most often shortened to LGBTQ) : Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transsexual, Queer, Questioning, Intersexed, (straight) Ally.
  • Intimate Partner: Current and previous spouses or dating/non-marital partners*.

*Co-habitation or sexual involvement is not necessary to establish that a person is an intimate partner.


What is Abuse/ Domestic Violence/ Intimate Partner Violence?

Many people who are being abused do not see themselves as victims. Many abusers do not see themselves as being abusive. People often think of domestic violence as only physical violence (hitting, visible bruising, etc.) However, domestic violence takes other forms, such as verbal, psychological, emotional, financial, spiritual, and sexual.

Domestic violence is about one person in a relationship using a pattern of behaviors to control the other person. It can happen to people who are married or not married; heterosexual, gay, or lesbian; living together, separated, or dating.

Crime Against Women

  • IPV is primarily a crime against women.
  • Women are much more likely than men to by killed by intimate partner.
  • In 2000, intimate partner homicides accounted for 33.5% of the murders of women and less than 4 percent of the murders of men.
  • In 2001, victims of intimate partner violence:
    • Women:  85% of the (588, 490 total) vs. Men: 15% of the victims (103,220).  

(Bureau of Justice Statistics Crime Data Brief, Intimate Partner Violence  , 1993-2001, February, 2003) 


Cycle of Violence

The cycle of violence is the process by which power is maintained by one person over another. The image below details the 3 main phases of the cycle of violence. How long each phase lasts varies with the relationship -- each cycle may take days or even years. While most domestic violence situations follow this cycle, please note that it may not be true for all relationships.



Forms of Abuse

  • Physical Abuse
  • Psychological/ Emotional Abuse
  • Verbal Abuse
  • Sexual Abuse
  • Economic/ Financial Abuse
  • Spiritual Abuse

Examples of Abuse Include:

  • Stalking/Cyber Stalking/Harassment, Degradations or threats
  • Food or Sleep Deprivation
  • Denying contraceptive, rape, sex in unwanted places


Power and Control Wheels

Domestic violence stems from the abuser exerting power over and controlling their intimate partner. The following wheels show how an abuser may use their power to control a survivor of domestic violence. (Click on th images to view them in larger size)

 powercontrolwheel NCDSV   powercontrolwheel immigrant NCDSV



Warning Signs of an Unhealthy Relationship

Do you ever:

  • feel afraid of your partner?
  • avoid certain topics out of fear of angering your partner?
  • believe that you deserve to be mistreated?
  • feel that you can't do anything right for your partner?

If your partner repeatedly uses one or more of the following to control you:

  • pushing, hitting, slapping, choking, kicking, or biting
  • threatening you, your children, other family members or pets
  • threatening suicide/ self-harm to get you to do something
  • blaming you for their own abusive behavior
  • constantly and purposefully embarrasses you in front of friends/ family
  • keeping or taking your paycheck; limit your access to money, phone, car, time away from partner
  • puts you down or makes you feel bad; humiliates or constantly criticizes you
  • forcing you to have sex or to do sexual acts you do not want or like even if you are married- this is rape
  • keeping you from seeing your friends, family or from going to work


Barriers to Leaving an Abusive Relationship

  • Fear
  • Guilt
  • Culture
  • Social Norms
  • Love
  • Lack of Options
  • Children
  • Lack of Support
  • Victim Blaming
  • Physical Isolation
  • Denial
  • Financial Dependence
  • Religion/Spiritual
  • Immigration Status
  • Shame and blame
  • Stalking
  • Harassment


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