What is domestic violence?

Definition of domestic violence

Domestic violence, sometimes called battering, relationship abuse, or intimate partner violence, is a pattern of behavior used by a person against family or household members or dating partners to establish power and control over another person through fear and intimidation. This behavior may include any of the following: physical violence, sexual abuse, emotional and psychological intimidation, verbal abuse and threats, stalking, isolation from friends and family, economic control, destruction of personal property and animal cruelty.

Domestic violence affects every community across the country, regardless of ethnic group, culture, or background. People of all ages, income levels, faiths, sexual orientation, gender, and education levels experience domestic violence.

Domestic violence isolates the person being abused and can rob inner strength, feelings of self-worth and the ability to make personal choices. Often people experiencing abuse begin to feel responsible for the abuse.

Domestic violence is not a private matter, a family problem, a domestic “squabble” or a “fight.” It is not a momentary loss of temper or the abuse of drugs and alcohol. Abusers choose to use tactics of violence repeatedly to gain power and control.

Exposure to domestic violence traumatizes children and can destroy their ability to feel safe in the world as well as cause them to feel responsible for the abuse.

Physical and sexual violence against a family member or intimate partner is a crime and perpetrators can be arrested and prosecuted.

Tactics of Control

  • Using children – Any attempt to manipulate your partner’s behavior through the children. The same tactics used to create power and control in adult relationships interact in abusive adult-child relationships.
  • Using coercion and threats – Making threats and using coercion is saying or doing something to make your partner afraid that something bad will happen to her if she doesn’t do what you want. This tactic involves stating one’s intent to do something that will cause emotional or financial damage or will humiliate or psychologically damage the victim.
  • Using economic abuse – Using economics as a form of control is making your partner dependent on you for money or resources.
  • Using emotional abuse – Emotional abuse is defined as actions, statements, or gestures that are attacks on a person’s self-esteem and sense of self-worth. Acts intended to humiliate a partner. Emotional abuse and psychological abuse have served as broad generic categories for a variety of non-physical behaviours. While often co-existing with other forms of abusive behaviours, emotional abuse can exist independently of physical violence and may continue to serve as an effort to control her after the physical violence or relationship ends.
  • Using intimidation – Intimidation is the use of actions, words and looks that are meant to frighten, scare and/or bully a person into submission.
  • Using isolation – Isolation is not a single behaviour, but the result of many kinds of abusive behaviours. Isolating your partner involves any attempt to control who she sees, what she does, what she wants for herself, what she thinks or what she feels.
  • Using male privilege – Male privilege is a belief system that contends that men are entitled to certain privileges simply because they are men. As a tactic of control, male privilege refuses to recognize a partner as an equal and as an adult. Assuming certain privileges because of being male.
  • Minimizing, denying and blaming – minimizing is making light of an assault or abusive behaviour. Denial is stating or indicating that what happened didn’t happen. Blame is shifting responsibility for an abusive behaviour onto something or someone else. Minimizing, denying, and blaming are both subtle and powerful mind games that distort the truth, twist the facts to the point of absurdity and shift focus from himself to her.
  • Physical violence – physical abuse is the use of any physical force against your partner intended to make her afraid of you or to hurt her. The purpose of using physical abuse in a relationship is to control the thoughts, feelings and/or actions of the victim. Physical abuse is not merely an unhealthy way of dealing with anger or stress or means of venting frustration. It is, with few exceptions, a deliberate attempt to control the victim or use the victim. Whether or not the physical violence is the primary method of control, the type, level, severity, time or place are purposefully chosen by the batterer to best establish power over their partner. Violent physical acts do not have to be used with any regularity or frequency to contribute to an environment of coercion and control. The possibility for physical violence bolsters the effectiveness of other tactics. Threats of violence, observing violence toward others or experiencing violence directly creates fear and changes behaviour. The potential for physical violence is the foundation for the success of all other tactics. Once a man has physically assaulted a woman, all his subsequent behaviour carries with it that act.
  • Sexual Violence – Sexual violation of the victim by coercing manipulating or forcing her to engage in sexual activity at a time or in a way she does not desire or to attack her sexual integrity by sexualizing verbal or emotional attacks on her.

A person who exhibits violent behavior in a relationship often:

  • Has an explosive temper
  • Is possessive or jealous of their partner’s time
  • Constantly criticizes their partner’s thoughts, feelings, or appearance
  • Pinches, slaps, grabs, shoves, bites or throws things at their partner
  • Coerces or intimidates their partner into having sex
  • Blames their partner for their own anger
  • Causes their partner to be afraid
  • Abuses family pets
  • Destroys things that are important to their partner, friends, or family

A victim of an abusive or violent relationship often is:

  • Afraid of their partner’s temper
  • Afraid to leave because their partner has threatened to hurt themselves or others
  • Constantly defending or apologizing for their partner’s behavior
  • Afraid to disagree with their partner
  • Isolated from family and friends
  • Intimidated by their partner and coerced into having sex

How do we end domestic violence in Montana?

Ending domestic violence requires a social, political, and economic environment to ensure that all people affected by domestic abuse and violence are supported and batterers are held accountable. Everyone must be part of the solution.

Remember, no matter who you are, no matter what you do or don’t do, you never deserve to be physically or mentally abused