What Is Domestic Violence?

Domestic violence is not just about physical abuse. It includes any form of violence within a relationship, including threats. Often in an abusive relationship a person may be subjected to more than one form of violence. Domestic violence does not discriminate, but it does often escalate. It happens in all cultures, across all socioeconomic backgrounds, and is often used as a weapon of control and intimidation by a spouse, partner, or ex-spouse. It may happen at any time during a relationship, including while it is breaking down, or after it has ended. In fact, the risk of violence often increases after separation.

Physical abuse can include slapping, punching, kicking, biting, shoving, choking, or using a weapon or object to threaten or injure. It can and sometimes does result in death.

Psychological abuse can include the withdrawal of affection, extreme jealousy, being harassed by phone calls or visits, being threatened, having prized possessions destroyed, having pets hurt or killed, and enduring the suicide threats of the person who is abusive.

Neglect is a common form of abuse particularly with young children, with elderly people and with people who have a disability. It can include long term neglect that may result in physical ailments, as well as occasional neglect used as punishment e.g. deciding not to help a person to the washroom because they have been difficult.

Verbal abuse is constant criticism, name-calling, and put-downs. It includes unjust blaming, false accusations about loyalties or sexual actions. It can include repeated threats of violence against another person, their children, relatives, and/or pets.

Sexual abuse means being forced to perform sexual acts or being made to suffer pain or injury during sex. Sexual abuse can also include being infected with HIV, AIDS or with another serious sexually transmitted disease by a person who knows he/she is infected but refuses to tell their partner or to practice safe sex.

Economic abuse generally applies only to the abuse of adults. It means that even if the family is not poor, the person being abused will have no access to the family’s money, no say over what will be bought, have to unreasonably ask for money, and no money for her own use.

Spiritual abuse means the imposition of beliefs on others in order to control them. It is the exercise of power which fails to recognise the fundamental spiritual worth of the person or which damages another person’s sense of self-worth. Spiritual abuse can also include belittling or attacking another’s spiritual beliefs or preventing them from engaging in religious practice.