What is Relationship Abuse?
Relationship violence, dating violence or domestic violence, includes any number of behaviors used by one person to control their current or former romantic partner. Social isolation, economic deprivation, psychological abuse, sexual abuse, and physical abuse are all included in the term domestic violence or relationship abuse. Any one or combination of these is never okay and is against the law.
Isolation can result from the abuser’s manipulation and/or playing on their partner's sympathies. It can also come from the frustration and/or fear of the abuser’s reactions to their partner going out or seeing friends and family. Isolation takes away a person’s control as they lose resources and support available to them.
Economic abuse can occur by theft or manipulation, destruction of property, or by acting in a way that prevents the victim from obtaining/maintaining employment. Again, the effect is that the survivor has fewer resources, and is further under the control of the abuser.
Psychological or emotional abuse involves attacks on the victim’s self-esteem and feelings of self-worth. This often takes the form of put-downs and controlling, belittling and/or intimidating behaviors. Often after a victim's self-worth has been broken down, they may feel responsible for further abuse and mistreatment. Many people believe that as long as a person isn't being hit that the abuse isn't that bad; however, the effects of psychological abuse often last much longer than those of physical abuse.
Sexual abuse is present when the abuser forces or coerces any sexual acts or contact. Just because someone is in a relationship does not make him or her obligated to any sexual behavior. Abusers will sometimes use threats, guilt trips, or violence to “convince” their partner to engage in sex. Also, abusers often feel a sense of guilt and remorse after a bout of violence and want to "make love" to make things right. Out of fear of further violence or harassment, a survivor may comply.
Physical abuse can include any actual or threatened physical attacks, even when these physical attacks are not directed at the person, but instead at a wall or valued possessions. It may often begin by "playful" pinching or pushing, but can escalate to restraining, shoving, and striking.