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What is "Domestic Violence"?

The National Domestic Violence Hotline (www.ndvh.org) defines domestic violence as "a pattern of behavior in any relationship that is used to gain or maintain power and control over an intimate partner."

According to the Kentucky Domestic Violence Association (www.kdva.org), domestic violence is "a pattern of coercive behaviors that one person exercises over another."

Regardless of the definition, if you are in an abusive relationship or situation, you must seek out the resources you need to protect yourself and your children from abuse.

You may be in an emotionally abusive relationship if your partner:

  • Calls you names, insults you or continually criticizes you.
  • Does not trust you and acts jealous or possessive.
  • Tries to isolate you from family or friends.
  • Monitors where you go, who you call and who you spend time with.
  • Does not want you to work.
  • Controls finances or refuses to share money.
  • Punishes you by withholding affection.
  • Expects you to ask permission.
  • Threatens to hurt you, the children, your family or your pets.
  • Humiliates you in any way.

You may be in a physically abusive relationship if your partner has ever:

  • Damaged property when angry (thrown objects, punched walls, kicked doors, etc.).
  • Pushed, slapped, bitten, kicked or choked you.
  • Abandoned you in a dangerous or unfamiliar place.
  • Scared you by driving recklessly.
  • Used a weapon to threaten or hurt you.
  • Forced you to leave your home.
  • Trapped you in your home or kept you from leaving.
  • Prevented you from calling police or seeking medical attention.
  • Hurt your children.
  • Used physical force in sexual situations.

You may be in a sexually abusive relationship if your partner:

  • Views women as objects and believes in rigid gender roles.
  • Accuses you of cheating or is often jealous of your outside relationships.
  • Wants you to dress in a sexual way.
  • Insults you in sexual ways or calls you sexual names.
  • Has ever forced or manipulated you into to having sex or performing sexual acts.
  • Held you down during sex.
  • Demanded sex when you were sick, tired or after beating you.
  • Hurt you with weapons or objects during sex.
  • Involved other people in sexual activities with you.
  • Ignored your feelings regarding sex.

If you said "yes" to any of the above situations, you may be in an abusive relationship.  Please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233), 1-800-787-3224 (TTY) or your local domestic violence center to talk with someone about it.

The American Bar Association's Commission on Domestic Violence reports that domestic violence is the use of:

  • Physical violence
  • Threats
  • Emotional abuse
  • Harassment
  • Stalking to control a person's behavior

by a spouse, intimate partner or date. Domestic abuse can also include psychological intimidation.

A CDC Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System Survey found that:

  • In households with incomes under $15,000 per year, 35.5% of women and 20.7% of men suffered violence from an intimate partner.
  • 43% of women and 26% of men in multiracial non-Hispanic households suffered partner violence.
  • 39% of women and 18.6% of men in American Indian/Alaska Native households suffered partner violence.
  • 26.8% of women and 15.5% of men in white non-Hispanic households suffered partner violence.
  • 29.2% of women and 23.3% of men in black non-Hispanic households suffered partner violence.
  • 20.5% of women and 15.5% of men in Hispanic households suffered partner violence.

The following information is adapted from a report by the ABA Commission on Domestic Violence and other sources.

  • Batterers use domination, intimidation, terrorizing, rule-making, stalking, harassing and injurious behavior to control and manipulate the actions of their partners and sometimes their children.
  • Physical violence includes putting your hands on a person against his/her will. It also includes shoving, pushing, grabbing, pulling or forcing someone to stay somewhere. Regardless of the relationship between two people, using physical violence or force against someone is a crime.
  • Emotional abuse - where one partner continuously degrades or belittles the other or accuses the other of being stupid, unattractive, a bad parent, unfaithful or any other similar fault - can indicate domestic violence or the potential for domestic violence.
  • Domestic violence impacts children as well - even if they are never physically injured by it. Children who witness domestic violence often suffer from behavioral and cognitive problems. Boys, especially, are more likely to be aggressive and engage in criminal behavior if they grow up in homes where domestic violence exists.

Even after divorce, batterers often use issues arising in custody and visitation cases to try to re-establish control over their victims. For example, a batterer may fail to show up on time for scheduled visitation, intending to harass the victim or to create a reason for further contact.

Because you may always be connected to your abuser through your children, you must learn now how to protect them and yourself from the clutches of the person from whom you sought to escape by getting a divorce. Your abuser will always be your child's father or mother, but you can take steps to shield them from danger and to protect yourself as well.  

Return to our main Domestic Violence page to learn more about protecting yourself and the ones you love from physical, emotional and sexual abuse from an intimate partner