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Women's Center

Domestic & Dating Violence

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Domestic violence, also known as "battering" or "spouse/partner abuse," is defined as an assaultive behavior between adults in an intimate relationship. The assaultive behavior can be inflicted by a current or former partner and be verbal/psychological, physical, or sexual in nature and intended to harm the physical or mental well-being of the victim. Rarely is domestic violence an isolated incident; it is a pattern of coercive behavior intended to exert control and domination by the offender toward the victim. The recurring abusive incidents usually escalate in frequency and severity and can result in serious physical injury, disablement, or death, without outside intervention to protect the victim, stop the violence, and hold the perpetrator accountable.


Forms of Domestic/Dating Violence

Physical Violence

Aggressive behavior done by the perpetrator to the victim's body. It includes pushing, shoving, kicking, slapping, punching, choking, biting, pinching, hair-pulling, hitting, burning, clubbing, stabbing, shooting, threatening with a knife or gun, and other acts of commission. Sometimes, particular areas of the body are targeted, such as hitting the face or hitting the abdomen during pregnancy.

Sexual Violence

Physical attacks or abuse of the genital areas or breast, unwanted touching or pinching of the breasts, rape with objects, forced sexual activity with a third person, forced sexual relations accompanied by either physical violence or the threat of physical violence; this includes marital rape.

Emotional/Psychological Violence

Assaults against a person's well-being by systematically degrading the victim's self-worth through name-calling, derogatory or demeaning comments; forcing the victim to perform humiliating, degrading acts; threatening to harm or kill the victim or victim's family; controlling access to money, sleep habits, eating habits, and social relations; and actions to imply the victim is "crazy."

Psychological Battering

Includes all the elements of emotional/psychological violence, but these behaviors follow at least one violent episode or attack on the victim, and maintains the impending threat of another assault.

Destruction of Property or Pets

A form of violence done without touching the victim's body. The assaults are made viciously on the victim by destroying personal belongings, family heirlooms, or the family pet. The destruction is purposeful and the psychological impact may be as devastating as a physical attack.


Myths vs. Realities



"My boyfriend shouldn't get so jealous, but when he does, I can tell that he cares for me. He does hit me sometimes, but when it is over, he gets really sweet and apologetic. It brings us closer together."

Our culture accepts violence in all its institutions, including dating, marriage, and child-rearing. We're taught to accept violence from those who say they love us, so violence is confused with strong feelings for someone. Violence doesn't equal love.
"I know him, and he's really not a bad person. It must be something I said or did that got me into this." Although our society perpetuates blaming a victim for the abuse she suffers, in fact, the real blame lies with the abuser. The victim is never to blame for an abuser.
Middle-class women are not battered.

Battered women are all ages, races, educational groups, religious groups, and socioeconomic groups.
A slap never hurt anyone. A slap can kill. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, 35 percent of all women who arrive at a doctor's office or hospital seeking emergency treatment are victims of domestic violence.
Men batter because they have been drinking or because the woman has been drinking. Not all batterers are users of alcohol or drugs. Even men who are chronic substance abusers batter when they are sober. Alcohol and drugs are an excuse for violence, not the cause.
Religious beliefs will prevent battering. Women indicated that their religious beliefs do not protect them from assaults. For some, belief in a deity helped them endure their suffering, offering comfort and solace. Others become disillusioned with their religion.

What to do if you are being abused

  • Talk with a friend or relative you trust about what's going on. They may be a good source of support.
  • Contact your local domestic violence program to find out about laws and community resources (i.e. shelters, counseling, legal assistance) before you need them. They can help you plan ways to stay safe.
  • Ask your health care provider or a friend to take photographs of your injuries and make sure that they are put in your medical records, or in a safe place with a written description of what happened. This information will make it easier for you if you decide to take legal action in the future, such as getting a restraining order, pressing criminal charges, or obtaining child custody, if you need to do this.
  • Arrange a signal with a neighbor to let them know when you need help (i.e. turning a porch light on during the day or pulling down a particular window shade).
  • Keep money stored in a secret place so that you have access to it in an emergency, or if you decide to leave. Be sure to include some coins so you can make calls from a pay phone if you need to. Call 911 if you are in danger or need help.
  • If you decide to leave, take important papers with you (i.e. birth certificates, passports, health insurance documents, photo ID/driver's license, checkbook, food stamps, Social Security cards). You may want to store these papers, as well as clothes and other things you would need, at a neighbor's or friend's house.


Useful links

Abusive relationship test

Are you in an abusive relationship? Answer a few question to see if you are.

The Battering Cycle

A chart of violent and nonviolent behavior.