Domestic Violence FAQs

1.  Am I or Someone I Know Being Abused?

Domestic Violence, also known as domestic abuse, spousal abuse, battering, family violence, dating abuse, and intimate partner violence (IPV), is a pattern of behavior which involves the abuse by one partner against another in an intimate relationship such as marriage, cohabitation, dating or within the family.  Domestic violence can take many forms, including:

  • physical aggression or assault (hitting, kicking, biting, shoving, restraining, slapping, throwing objects, battery), or threats thereof
  • sexual abuse
  • emotional abuse
  • controlling or domineering (including controlling personal and electronic communications/interactions)
  • isolation from friends and family
  • intimidation
  • stalking
  • passive/covert abuse (neglect)
  • economic deprivation (i.e. controlling money, giving partner an allowance)

Domestic violence and abuse is not limited to obvious physical violence.  Domestic violence can also mean endangerment, criminal coercion, kidnapping, unlawful imprisonment, trespassing, harassment, and stalking. (Wikipedia)

Domestic Violence can start as control but can typically escalate to more physical forms of abuse/violent behaviors.

2.  What is Dating Violence?

Dating violence is controlling, abusive, and aggressive behavior in a romantic relationship.  It can happen in straight or gay relationships.  It can include verbal, emotional, physical, or sexual abuse, or a combination. (National Center for Victims of Crime)

3. What Are the Signs That I Am in an Abusive Relationship?

Warning Signs

      • Physical Controls:
        1. Hitting, grabbing, kicking, choking, pushing
        2. Breaking furniture or punching walls
        3. Physical intimidation
      • Emotional/Verbal Controls:
        1. Criticism, name calling, swearing, mocking, put downs, ridiculing
        2. Interrupting, changing topics, outshouting, not listening
        3. Excessive jealousy and possessiveness
        4. Threatening suicide
      • Sexual Controls
        1. Sexual coercion
        2. Accusations of "sleeping around"
        3. Threats of violence towards her or her friends if she refuses to interact sexually with her partner.
        4. Coerced sexual contact.  Prior sexual contact does not mean you do not have the right to refuse future sexual activity.

Other Warning Signs

Your Inner Thoughts and Feelings

Do you:

      • Feel afraid of your partner much of the time?
      • Avoid certain topics out of fear of angering your partner?
      • Feel that you can't do anything right for your partner?
      • Believe that you deserve to be hurt or mistreated?
      • Wonder if you're the one who is crazy?
      • Feel emotionally numb or helpless?

Your Partner's Violent Behavior or Threats

Does your partner:

      • Have a bad and unpredictable temper?
      • Hurt you, or threaten to hurt or kill you?
      • Threaten to take your children away or harm them?
      • Threaten to commit suicide if you leave?
      • Force you to have sex?
      • Destroy your belongings?

Your Partner's Belittling Behavior

Does your partner:

      • Humiliate or yell at you?
      • Criticize you and put you down?
      • Treat you so badly that you're embarrassed for your friends or family to see?
      • Ignore or put down your opinions or accomplishments?
      • Blame you for his own abusive behavior?
      • See you as property or a sex object, rather than as a person?

Your Partner's Controlling Behavior

Does your partner:

      • Act excessively jealous and possessive?
      • Control where you go or what you do?
      • Keep you from seeing your friends or family?
      • Limit your access to money, the phone, or the car?
      • Constantly check up on you?

4.  Can Abuse Only Be Physical?

When people think of domestic abuse, they often picture battered women who have been physically assaulted.  But not all domestic abuse involves violence.  Just because you're not battered and bruised doesn't mean you're not being abused.  Domestic abuse takes many forms, including psychological, emotional, and sexual abuse.  These types of abuse are less obvious than physical abuse, but that doesn't mean they're not damaging.  In fact, these types of domestic abuse can be even more harmful because they are so often overlooked -- even by the person being abused.

Emotional or Psychological Abuse

  • The aim of emotional or psychological abuse is to chip away at your feelings of self-worth and independence.  If you're the victim of emotional abuse, you may feel that there is no way out of the relationship, or that without your abusive partner you have nothing.
  • Emotional abuse includes verbal abuse such as yelling, name-calling, blaming, and shaming.  Isolation, intimidation, and controlling behavior also fall under emotional abuse.  Additionally, abusers who use emotional or psychological abuse often throw in threats of physical violence.
  • You may think that physical abuse is far worse than emotional abuse, since physical violence can send you to the hospital and leave you with scars.  But, the scars of emotional abuse are very real, and they run deep.  In fact, emotional abuse can be just as damaging as physical abuse -- sometimes even more so.  Furthermore, emotional abuse usually worsens over time, often escalating to physical battery.

Sexual Abuse

  • Sexual abuse is common in abusive relationships.  According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, between one-third and one-half of all battered women are raped by their partners at least once during their relationship.  Any situation in which you are forced to participate in unwanted, unsafe, or degrading sexual activity is sexual abuse.
  • Forced sex, even by a spouse or intimate partner with whom you also have consensual sex, is an act of aggression and violence.  Furthermore, women whose partners abuse them physically and sexually are at a higher risk of being seriously injured or killed.

Economic or Financial Abuse

Remember, an abuser's goal is to control you, and she/he will frequently use money to do so.  Economic or financial abuse includes:

  • Rigidly controlling your finances.
  • Withholding money or credit cards.
  • Making you account for every penny you spend.
  • Withholding basic necessities (food, clothes, medications, shelter).
  • Restricting you to an allowance.
  • Preventing you from working or choosing your own career.
  • Sabotaging your job (making you miss work, calling constantly).
  • Stealing from you or taking your money.

5.  Is It Still Abuse If.....

  • The incidents of physical abuse seem minor when compared to those you have read about, seen on television or heard other women talk about.  There isn't a "better" or "worse" form of physical abuse; you can be severely injured as a result of being pushed, for example.
  • The incidents of physical abuse have only occurred one or two times in the relationship. Studies indicate that if your spouse/partner has injured you once, it is likely he/she will continue to physically assault you.
  • The physical assaults stopped when you became passive and gave up your right to express yourself as you desire, to move about freely and see others, and to make decisions.  It is not a victory if you have to give up your rights as a person and a partner in exchange for not being assaulted!
  • There has not been any physical violence.  Many women are emotionally and verbally assaulted.  This can be as equally frightening and is often more confusing to try to understand.
(Breaking the Silence: a Handbook for Victims of Violence in Nebraska)

6.  How Do I Help Someone Else Who is Being Abused?

What To Do To Help Others

  • Ask questions, which will help her/him, recognize that has happened to her/him and to identify it as abuse.
  • Support her/his courage in asking for help, while respecting her/his limits.
  • Help her/him to recognize her/his partner's excuses for abuse.  The abuser may blame alcohol.  Tell her/him even though she/he may have a drinking problem, alcohol doesn't cause the violence.  Violence is always a choice made by the abuser.
  • Relay the message that you are available for nonjudgmental support.
  • Provide information on dynamics of abuse, typical patterns, and available resources.

What Not To Do

  • Assume she/he wants to end the relationship or that you know what is best for her/him.  This will make her/him afraid of disappointing you.  This kind of intimidation will only reinforce her/his role as a victim.
  • Ask her/him what she/he did to provoke him/her.  This will only reinforce feelings of self-blame and prevent her/him from expecting her/his partner to take responsibility.
  • Talk to her/him and the abuser together.  This will make her/him more fearful of opening up.  Don't talk to the abuser at all without her/his permission.

Recognizing the Warning Signs of Domestic Violence and Abuse

It's impossible to know with certainty what goes on behind closed doors, but there are some telltale signs and symptoms of domestic violence and abuse.  If you witness any warning signs of abuse in a friend, family member, or co-worker, take them very seriously.

General Warning Signs of Domestic Abuse

People who are being abused may:

  • Seem afraid or anxious to please their partner.
  • Go along with everything their partner says and does.
  • Check in often with their partner to report where they are and what they're doing.
  • Receive frequent, harassing phone calls from their partner.
  • Talk about their partner's temper, jealousy, or possessiveness.

Warning Signs of Physical Violence

People who are being physically abused may:

  • Have frequent injuries, with the excuse of "accidents."
  • Frequently miss work, school, or social occasions, without explanation.
  • Dress in clothing designed to hide bruises or scars (e.g. wearing long sleeves in the summer or sunglasses indoors).

Warning Signs of Isolation

People who are being isolated by their abuser may:

  • Be restricted from seeing family and friends.
  • Rarely go out in public without their partner.
  • Have limited access to money, credit cards, or the car.

The Psychological Warning Signs of Abuse

People who are being abused may:

  • Have very low self-esteem, even if they used to be confident.
  • Show major personality changes (e.g. outgoing woman becomes withdrawn).
  • Be depressed, anxious, or suicidal.

Speak Up If You Suspect Domestic Violence or Abuse


 Do:  Don't:
 Ask.  Wait for her/him to come to you.
 Express concern.  Judge or blame.
 Listen and validate.  Pressure her/him.
 Offer help.  Give advice.
 Support her/his decisions.  Place conditions on your support.


  • If you suspect that someone you know is being abused, speak up!  Expressing your concern will let the person know that you care and may even save her/his life.
  • Talk to the person in private and let her/him know that you're concerned about her/his safety.
  • Remember, abusers are very good at controlling and manipulating their victims.  Abused and battered women are depressed, drained, scared, ashamed, and confused.  By picking up on the warning signs and offering support, you can help them escape an abusive situation and begin healing.

7.  Am I or Someone I Know Being Stalked?

While legal definitions of stalking vary from one jurisdiction to another, a good working definition of stalking is a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear.  Stalking is serious, often violent, and can escalate over time. (National Stalking Resource Center)

Some things stalkers do:

  • Follow you and show up wherever you are.
  • Send unwanted gifts, letters, cards, or e-mails.
  • Damage your home, car, or other property.
  • Monitor your phone calls or computer use.
  • Use technology, like hidden cameras or global positioning systems (GPS), to track where you go.
  • Drive by or hang out at your home, school, or work.
  • Threaten to hurt you, your family, friends, or pets.
  • Find out about you by using public records or online search services, hiring investigators, going through your garbage, or contacting friends, family, neighbors, or co-workers.
  • Posting information or spreading rumors about you on the Internet, in a public place, or by word of mouth.
  • Other actions that control, track, or frighten you. (National Stalking Resource Center)

If you are being stalked, you may:

  • Feel fear of what the stalker will do.
  • Feel vulnerable, unsafe, and not know who to trust.
  • Feel anxious, irritable, impatient, or on edge.
  • Feel depressed, hopeless, overwhelmed, tearful, or angry.
  • Feel stressed, including having trouble concentrating, sleeping, or remembering things.
  • Have eating problems, such as appetite loss, forgetting to eat, or overeating.
  • Have flashbacks, disturbing thoughts, feelings, or memories.
  • Feel confused, frustrated, or isolated because other people don't understand why you are afraid. (National Stalking Resource Center)

Cyberstalking is the use of the internet or other electronic means to stalk or harass an individual, a group of individuals, or an organization. (Wikipedia)

A number of key factors have been identified:

  • False accusations.  Many cyberstalkers try to damage the reputation of their victim and and turn other people against them.  They post false information about them on websites.
  • Attempts to gather information about the victim.  Cyberstalkers may approach their victim's friends, family, and work colleagues to obtain personal information.
  • Monitoring their target's online activities and attempting to trace their IP address in an effort to gather more information about their victims.
  • Encouraging others to harass the victim.  Many cyberstalkers try to involve third parties in the harassment.  They may claim the victim has harmed the stalker or his/her family in some way, or may post the victim's name and phone number in order to encourage others to join the pursuit.
  • False victimization.  The cyberstalker will claim that the victim is harassing him/her.
  • Attacks on data and equipment.  They may try to damage the victim's computer by sending viruses.
  • Ordering goods and services.  They order items or subscribe to magazines in the victim's name.
  • Arranging to meet.  Young people face a particularly high risk of having cyberstalkers try to set up meetings between them.  (Wikipedia)

8.  What Are the Statistics?

Domestic Violence

  • Every nine seconds a woman is beaten in the U.S. (DVIP)
  • A woman is hit an average of 35 times by her spouse before she makes a police report. (Doorways for Women and Families)
  • One in four women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime. (CDC)
  • Most cases of domestic violence are never reported to the police. (NCADV)
  • Historically, females have been most often victimized by someone they knew. (NCADV)
  • Sexual assault or forced sex occurs in approximately 40-45% of battering relationships. (NCADV)
  • 85% of domestic violence victims are women. (NCADV)

Intimate Partner Violence

  • An estimated 1.3 million women are victims of physical assault by an intimate partner each year. (NCADV)
  • 48% of women have experienced psychological aggression by an intimate partner. (CDC)
  • 24 people per minute experience intimate partner violence. (CDC)
  • Only approximately one-quarter of all physical assaults, one-fifth of all rapes, and one-half of all stalkings perpetuated against females by intimate partners are reported to the police. (NCADV)
  • Girls and young women between the ages of 16 and 24 experience the highest rate of intimate partner violence -- almost triple the national average.  (

College Students

  • Approximately 70% of college students say they have been sexually coerced. (
  • 43% of dating college women report experiencing some violent and abusive dating behaviors including physical, sexual, tech, verbal or controlling abuse. (
  • Over one in five college women (22%) report actual physical abuse, sexual abuse or threats of physical violence. (
  • 52% of college women report knowing a friend who has experienced violent and abusive dating behaviors including physical, sexual, tech, verbal or controlling abuse. (
  • More than half (57%) of college students who report having been in an abusive dating relationship said it occurred in college. (
  • 38% of college students say they don't know how to get help for themselves on campus if they were a victim of dating abuse. (
  • More than half of all college students (57%) say it is difficult to identify dating abuse. (
  • One in three (36%) dating college students has given a dating partner their computer, email, or social network passwords and these students are more likely to experience digital dating abuse. (


  • 81% of women stalked by a current or former intimate partner are also physically assaulted by that partner; 31% are also sexually assaulted by that partner. (NCADV)
  • 1 in 6 women and 1 in 19 men have experienced stalking victimization at some point during their lifetime in which they felt very fearful or believed that they or someone close to them would be harmed or killed.
  • The majority of stalking victims are stalked by someone they know.  66% of female victims and 41% of male victims are stalked by a current or former intimate partner.
  • More than half of female victims and more than one-third of male victims indicated that they were stalked before the age of 25.
  • Repeatedly receiving unwanted telephone calls, voice, or text messages was the most commonly experienced stalking tactic for both female and male victims.
[Michele C. Black et al., "The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey: 2010 Summary Report," (Atlanta, GA:  National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2011).]

9.  Where Can I Go for Help?

Campus Resources

Community Resources

National Resources