What is Domestic Abuse? How to Read the Signs

As a society, we tend to shy away from the topic of domestic abuse but with 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men being affected by it, domestic abuse is something we need to seriously address. 

What is domestic abuse?

We all know that bruises and broken bones are clear signs of abuse, but sometimes the injuries from abuse are invisible to the untrained eye. A household or relationship can seem perfectly normal from the outside while still hiding darkness and heartache within.  

Legally, domestic abuse is defined as a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship, used by one person to maintain or gain power and control over another person

I’m going to reiterate because this is important.

Abuse is anything used to gain power over another person.

This includes any behaviors that intimidate, manipulate, humiliate, isolate, frighten, terrorize, coerce, threaten, blame, hurt, injure, or wound someone.


The following is a list of the types of domestic abuse, even the often overlooked ones.


Types of domestic abuse

  1. Spousal Abuse– Any abusive behavior between intimate partners who are married, dating, or living together in the same residence.
  2. Verbal Abuse- the use of words to hurt another person. This could be anything from calm belittling to angry screaming.
  3. Emotional Abuse any act including confinement, isolation, verbal assault, humiliation, intimidation, infantilization, or any other treatment which may diminish the sense of identity, dignity, and self-worth of an individual.
  4. Physical abuse– We all know this one but just to make sure there isn’t any question- any intentional act causing injury or trauma to another person by way of bodily contact.
  5. Sexual Abuse The use, persuasion, inducement, enticement, or coercion of a person to engage in, or assist any other person to engage in, any unwanted sexual acts.


What causes domestic abuse?

The main cause in every domestic abuse situation is one person’s need to have control over another person.

Yep. As mentioned above, abuse is all about control.

There are some other factors that play into the type and severity- such as influence of family members, cultural traditions, depression and other mental illnesses- but when it comes down to it, abuse is about power.


Examples of domestic abuse

  • Your partner slaps you. Slaps are tricky because they don’t necessarily leave a mark. But guess what? Still physically abusive and not ok.
  • You partner guilts you into sex or sexual acts you are not comfortable with.
    • This includes those blow jobs and anal sex you weren’t feeling 100% about.  
    • And just because you tried something/ wanted something yesterday, does not mean you have to try/want the same thing today.
  • A loved one constantly verbally degrades you
  • A loved one holds anger at you without giving you a chance to redeem yourself


Signs of domestic abuse

  • You feel as if you can never do anything right
  • Your partner shows extreme jealousy when you hang out with friends or spend time away.
  • You feel isolated from family and friends
  • Your partner insults, demeans or shames you
  • You do not have any control over finances in your own home
  • Your partner takes your money or does not give you money for necessary expenses.
  • Your partner looks at you or acts in ways that scare you
  • You do not have control over what you do or who you hang out with
  • You can not make your own decisions
  • Your partner prevents you from working or going to school
  • Your partner destroys your property ( punches a wall etc.)
  • You feel pressured into having sex or doing things you aren’t comfortable with



Ok so if someone is in a relationship and feels terrible, why do they stay? This is a big question and honestly, if you’ve never been abused, it’s hard to understand. I’m going to try to explain it using the top three reasons people stay.

1. Finances 

Surprisingly- and depressingly- the number 1 reason domestic violence survivors stay or return to an abusive relationship has to do with finances. Financial abuse takes place in 98% of all domestic abuse cases.

98 Percent.

That’s a depressing percent.


  1. Fear

Another big reason to stay is fear and the very real danger that comes from leaving an abuser. Of the total domestic violence homicides, 75% of victims were killed as they attempted to leave or do leave the relationship.


  1. Diminished sense of self

The last reason I want to address is the psychological effect of abuse. A big part of abuse is taking away someone’s control of life and diminishing self-worth. If you are mentally trained to believe you are nothing and never have a say, think about how that would affect your life choices.

Bottom line, leaving abuse is easier said than done so don’t judge. Just love.  


What you can do

You can’t always convince someone to leave an abusive relationship. In fact, more often than not, it will push the person further away.

Instead, if someone you know is in an abusive relationship, the best thing you can do is be their cheerleader. Find ways to make them feel in control, even with simple things like letting them pick what food to eat or what movie to watch. Also, build up their self-esteem as often as possible. Make sure they know their personal worth.


If you are or think you might be in an abusive relationship, please see my support resource page for more information. You deserve to be happy, don’t let anyone take that away from you.

Domestic abuse is a challenging thing, but the more educated and supportive we become as a society, the more successful we will be at extinguishing all types of abuse.

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