Domestic violence refers to the physical, emotional, and sexual abuse of a spouse or domestic partner. Early research into the problem of wife battering focused on middle-class couples, but it has since been recognized that spouse abuse occurs among wealthy professional couples as well. In addition, studies done in the late 1980s and 1990s indicate that domestic violence also occurs among gay and lesbian couples. It is estimated that four million women in the United States are involved in abusive marriages or relationships; moreover, most female murder victims are killed by their spouse or partner rather than by strangers. Domestic violence illustrates the tendency of abusive people to attack anyone they perceive as vulnerable; most men who batter women also abuse their children; some battered women abuse their children; and abusive humans are frequently cruel to animals.
What is domestic violence?
We speak of domestic violence when a person tries to control and exercise power over his partner in the context of a romantic relationship. Different types of abuse can occur: physical, emotional, sexual or financial. In most cases, the abusers are male and the victims are female. Any woman, in any type of home, can be affected by domestic violence. There are a number of warning signs that could indicate that your relationship is abusive.
What is physical abuse?
Physical abuse is possibly the most recognizable form of abuse. It can cause physical harm, and in some cases, put life at stake. It does not always leave scars or other visible traces. If they pull your hair, or throw an egg in your face, you are being mistreated. Do not underestimate what is happening to you. Over time, many times things get worse.
We talk about physical abuse when:
- They push you.
- They slap you or punch you.
- They hit you with clubs, golf clubs, rugby clubs, hammers or belts.
- Knives or pieces of broken glass are nailed to you.
- They gag you when you want to scream, during the physical confrontation.
- They spit or pee on you.
- They hit you severely, pulling your hair.
- They hit and rape you and push you down the stairs while pregnant.
- They hit your head against the wall or against the dashboard of the car.
What is emotional abuse?
Emotional abuse is a highly effective way of establishing a power imbalance within a relationship. It is often invisible or intangible to any external person. Emotional abuse is as damaging as physical violence. It often involves physical or sexual abuse, or threats thereof.
We talk about emotional abuse when:
- They belittle you.
- They constantly criticize you.
- They constantly monitor and control you in your use of technology: they record phone calls, check calls made, read text messages or emails, spy on you at home using hidden cameras installed at home.
- The abuser threatens to kill the woman, her children, the woman’s family or kill himself and gives details about how and when he will do it.
- The abuser is violent in the use of and breaks property such as the car, furniture, clothing or other household items.
- The abuser uses insults and derogatory language to refer to you (for example, “that thing”, “whore”).
- The abuser catches his victim, leaving him without car keys, emptying the car’s gas tank or depriving him of the use of the phone (taking it or breaking it), so that he cannot ask for help.
- The abuser never leaves his victim alone: inside the house, he persecutes her from room to room and when the woman leaves, he always goes with her.
What is sexual abuse?
When there is a dynamic of control and abuse within a relationship, the likelihood of coercion and sexual abuse is high. For women victims of abuse by their partners, negotiating a free and equal sexual relationship is all the more difficult.
We talk about sexual abuse when:
- You are repeatedly raped and beaten; they undress you by force and rape; they tell you that it is your duty to have sex with your abuser.
- They rape you in front of your children.
- They rape you at times when you are particularly vulnerable; for example, after giving birth.
- You are sexually degraded, including through the forced use of hard pornography.
What is financial abuse?
Financial abuse is a type of domestic violence, in which the abuser uses money as a means of controlling his partner. It is a technique that the abuser uses to gain power and dominance, designed to corner the woman in a state of complete financial dependence. By controlling a woman’s access to financial resources, the abuser manages to force a woman to choose between remaining in an abusive relationship, or facing extreme poverty.
We talk about financial abuse when:
- Home finances control you.
- They do not let you have your own income that allows you to be financially independent.
- You have to justify all purchases and expenses, providing receipts and tickets for them.
- They prohibit you from buying items for personal use, such as compresses or tampons.
- They confiscate your bank cards and empty the joint bank accounts.
- They do not pass the alimony to the children, or only occasionally.
- They forge your signature on checks.
- They hold your money if you don’t agree to have sex.
- They deny you money for food, for you and your children, and to pay household bills.
- The economic recession argument is used to justify abuse.
If you are, or think you could be in a mistreatment relationship, you can call the Women´s Aid National Toll Free Telephone Line, 1800 341 900, for information and support. Remember that no religion or culture accepts domestic violence. Domestic violence is described as “the most democratic of all crimes”. This means that domestic violence can affect any woman in an intimate relationship. There is no prototype “home” more conducive to domestic violence. Nor is it a prototype of a battered woman. In Ireland, one in five women is a victim of domestic violence, regardless of age, marital status, ethnicity, religion or socioeconomic background.