What is Domestic Abuse?

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by Tina de Benedictis, Ph.D., Jaelline Jaffe, Ph.D., and Jeanne Segal, Ph.D. 
www.helpguide.org.

What is the definition of domestic abuse between intimate partners?

Domestic abuse between spouses or intimate partners is when one person in a marital or intimate relationship tries to control the other person.

The perpetrator uses fear and intimidation and may threaten to use or may actually use physical violence. Domestic abuse that includes physical violence is called domestic violence.

The victim of domestic abuse or domestic violence may be a man or a woman. Domestic abuse occurs in traditional heterosexual marriages, as well as in same-sex partnerships. The abuse may occur during a relationship, while the couple is breaking up, or after the relationship has ended.

Domestic abuse often escalates from threats and verbal abuse to physical violence. Domestic violence may even end up in murder.

The key elements of domestic abuse are:

  • intimidation
  • humiliating the other person
  • physical injury

Domestic abuse is not a result of losing control; domestic abuse is intentionally trying to control another person. The abuser is purposefully using verbal, nonverbal, or physical means to gain control over the other person.

In some cultures, control of women by men is accepted as the norm. This article speaks from the orientation that control of intimate partners is domestic abuse within a culture where such control is not the norm. Today we see many cultures moving from the subordination of women to increased equality of women within relationships.

What are the types of domestic abuse?

The types of domestic abuse are:

The divisions between these types of domestic abuse are somewhat fluid, but there is a strong differentiation between the various forms of physical abuse and the various types of verbal or nonverbal abuse.