Understanding Domestic Violence And What It Means For You

Updated March 17, 2021
Medically Reviewed By: Karen Devlin, LPC

What Is Domestic Violence?

You could be experiencing domestic violence and not even know it. You could know someone who is experiencing domestic violence, and not even is aware of it.

The truth is that domestic violence and domestic abuse take on many forms, and not always obvious ones. When you look at someone in public, what you see is not always a clear indicator of what happens behind closed doors at home. If you've dealt with domestic abuse yourself, the people around you may have thought that your partner was great and didn't suspect a thing, but as soon as you got home, they would change completely. Domestic violence can be like that, and you must get the help you need if you find yourself in one of these situations.

Understanding Domestic Violence

Do you know what domestic violence is or what it can be or look like? Do you understand all that there is to know about domestic violence? The chances are pretty high that you don't because many people only think of domestic violence as strictly just physical abuse. The truth is that there are several different types of domestic abuse and many different types of behaviors that can be considered domestic violence. Keep an eye and an ear out for recognizing any of these signs or certain situations if you or someone you may know in a situation that needs to have action taken to end the abuse and get the individual back to a safe and healthy point in his or her life.

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Physical Abuse

Physical violence is the one that most of us think of when it comes to domestic violence. It seems the most obvious example and one that can much more easily be seen and recognized. When we think of physical abuse, we normally have come to mind the acts of hitting, kicking, slapping, or some other very clear type of physical attack upon another person. Whenever we hear that someone has been abused, we immediately think of something physical and leave marks and bruises on them. Sexual abuse, such as rape or unwanted physical contact, is another form of physical abuse that can happen between absolutely anyone of any age or gender, and it still can most definitely occur between partners or married couples as well, despite how unusual of a concept that may be to some people. Consent is not permanent and applicable to every situation, even if a person has said "yes" once or a hundred times before.

Sexual abuse can also consist of other exploitation types besides rape and molestation, although those two are the most recognized and the most obvious. Being forced to get an abortion, being forced to continue an unwanted pregnancy and not get an abortion, the use or lack of use of contraceptives, or otherwise being controlled by your reproductive wants or needs is sexual abuse in a sense that many would not recognize for what it is. Every person should have the ability to make their own choices about their contraceptive wants or needs. If they're exclusively involved with someone, the two need to reach a clear and agreed upon decision regarding the relationship's physical matters without either party ever tricking, deceiving, or going behind the other's back and betraying them with selfish intentions. If one partner is making all of the decisions and forcing the other to follow along without any say over their body and their future, it is most definitely a type of abuse that needs to be addressed quickly.

Mental Abuse

We often use the term 'psychological abuse' to refer to the mental and psychological attacks that one partner may use against another. These types of attacks will generally pertain to fear tactics, intimidation, or blatant threats against their significant other. Someone who refuses to allow their partner to talk to another person simply because they don't like them is guilty of inflicting psychological abuse upon them by controlling their partner's need for friendship and social interaction with others dictating who they are allowed to interact with. This can take a significant toll on a person and only further the psychological abuse as the individual becomes more isolated and depressed.

Gaslighting is a severe form of psychological abuse that many use to control their partners by twisting everything said and done in the relationship, convincing the individual in the situation that they're simply imagining things or not understanding the events taking place properly, therefore leading them to doubt nearly everything about themselves and the dangerous situation they're in. They may even grow to believe that they are deserving of such awful treatment and not realize how wrong it is for anyone to treat another that way.

Threatening violence, using blackmail against a partner, and other behaviors that can cause an individual to feel afraid of what 'could happen are also types of mental and psychological abuse. They become so fearful of the damage that their significant other is willing to cause. They will eventually become compliant to the abuser's wishes and other forms of abusive behavior without feeling capable of even defending themselves without suffering even worse repercussions.

This type of abuse is extremely detrimental for a person on the receiving end of this type of abuse, especially because so many people don't understand what psychological abuse is and are incapable of recognizing it when it happens to themselves or others. It's harder to pinpoint because you can't always see it as easily as someone covered in bruises or wearing a cast. As a result, it's harder for someone in this situation to get the help they need, and the individual is often too afraid even to try once they're allowed to do so.

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Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse is not quite the same as mental abuse, but it is very similar, just more specific. The difference lies in the fact that emotional abuse is related to specific emotions the individual may experience that the abuser will either provoke or punish them. The abuser may continually insult their partner, cause them humiliation, or criticize their every action, breaking them down mentally and emotionally. They may also hurt them, then soothe and reassure them, only to promptly crush them emotionally once again afterward. This sent the individual on an emotional rollercoaster of confusion and conflicted feelings that can easily cause some pretty significant psychological damage and extreme emotional pain. It damages their confidence in themselves, their sanity, and their ability to function in a relationship.

Emotional abuse is extremely significant yet extremely difficult to recognize as well. Often, an emotional abuser will start by attempting to veil their abuse by feigning concern for the partner or attempting to 'help' them in a way that causes embarrassment or hurt for the other partner. Cruelty masked with "good intentions" is an accurate way to describe this behavior. Constructive criticism or teasing is often a normal part of a relationship. Still, emotional abuse is when the lines of acceptable or not are very harshly crossed, not an accident. There will most definitely be a difference between those common and sometimes playful words of correction or advice compared to the damaging and intentional acts of emotional abuse.

Financial Abuse

Surprising to most, one person tightly controlling another's finances can be considered abuse, especially if it was never agreed upon to do so in the first place. Unless someone very clearly and rationally agrees to let another person handle their money because they don't feel comfortable enough to do so on their own, most everyone should have some semblance of control over money and a means to support themselves individually in their relationship. There always needs to be a certain amount of balance between partners.

If you have a job and are earning money in a relationship, or even if you don't and have to rely on other means, you should generally have some say over the funds shared between partners (especially spouses in this case), even for a small amount that you are allowed to spend or use for things that you may need or sometimes even just for something you may want. If you don't work but have agreed in your relationship that you'll be the one to stay home and handle the more domestic tasks, it's still a good idea to discuss a small amount as compensation for your work at home while your partner or spouse is provided the opportunity to go out and work while you handle everything else.

You should have the freedom to get a job if you feel compelled to have one; you should have the freedom to change jobs if you ever become unhappy in your current employment position. You should not have someone else dictating whether you can go back to school to further your education at any point in your life, nor have a say in whether you're allowed to quit that schooling or not if you change your mind somewhere along the way.

Two people in a relationship love and support each other and their goals in life, not dictate one another's the ability to support themselves. When an abuser refuses to allow their partner these freedoms to control their own lives or how they wish to earn or spend money, this is considered financial abuse.

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Getting Some Help

If you believe you may be involved or trapped in a domestic violence situation, you must seek professional and legal help to remove yourself from the risks as soon as possible. During and even after experiencing domestic abuse, a professional will be able to talk with you about everything you're going through or have already gone through and help you decide what to do with your future and the next steps you need to take maybe. Whether you think you want to leave right away or you're not entirely sure of what you want to do, it is possible to make improvements for yourself and your well-being. Discuss your mental and physical health with a trained professional who can provide you with the tools and confidence to break free and find peace and joy in your life again. Finding a counselor, therapist, or psychologist that you can be comfortable with is the first and most important key in the process.

If you believe that someone else is involved in a domestic violence situation, you must try to talk with them and with others they love and trust to learn more about the situation. Express your concerns and understand that they may flat out even deny the possibility of violence or abuse or may become angry or defensive if it's mentioned. Those who are suffering will generally do everything they can to make sure no one else knows but making sure that they know that you are there to support them is crucial to helping them come to their senses and want to get the proper help the situation.

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If you're looking for professional help but aren't sure how to get started, you may want to take a look at ReGain. It's a website that allows you to talk with a mental health professional without ever having to leave your home. Wherever you are, as long as you have internet access, you'll have absolutely no problem getting in touch with a licensed and trained professional to meet your needs. Even if you relocate at some point, have circumstances that would otherwise make you unable to travel to an office and meet with someone, or if your partner is guilty of domestic abuse and would not normally allow you to seek the help of any kind for fear of being found out, you'll still be able to set up and make it to your appointments, get the help you need and have all the convenience in the world provided to be able to pull it off and get it done. The quick and easy accessibility is a huge benefit to taking that first step to getting the guidance and support you need.

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