Patient Education

Domestic Abuse

Domestic abuse is unfortunately a common problem in America today. Although many relationships are abusive in nature, very few are actually reported to law enforcement or other services which provide victim assistance. Domestic violence may affect anyone from any walk of life - it knows no racial, social, religious, or age exceptions. If you are suffering in an abusive relationship, it is important get help, because no one deserves to live with abuse. This page provides information on the different types of abuse, what you can do to help someone in an abusive situation, or how to get help.


Domestic violence is categorized as a behavioral pattern marked by control, threats, and even physical violence exhibited by one person in a relationship toward another. Most commonly, domestic abuse is committed by men, with women as their victims. A woman is considered to be abused if her partner acts toward her with no regard to her emotions, fears, body, and rights. An abused woman has suffered repeated emotional, physical, or sexual harm from her partner in a relationship. Almost 20% of visits made to the emergency room by women are a result of domestic violence.

Abuse can be either threatened, or actual. It may also take on several forms:

  • Physical assault and battering: This may include hitting, choking, beating, throwing objects, slapping, kicking, pushing, or attacking with a weapon.
  • Psychological abuse: Threatening with force, trying to control or dominate the woman’s life, making the woman perform degrading acts, taking away or breaking valuable possessions.
  • Sexual assault: forcing the victim to engage in sexual activity against their will.

Domestic abuse comes in many forms. An abuser may harm his or her partner, by depriving him or her of money, food, clothing, shelter, access to health care or transportation, or clothing. Some abusers may restrict the victim’s right associate with others, including friends or family. The abuser may try to control the woman’s reproductive choices interfering with her access to health care and tampering with her birth control method.


Although all women in any relationship are at risk for domestic violence, there are certain patterns that are usually displayed in aggressive and abusive men. There is usually no sure way to tell if a man will end up being abusive before you begin a relationship with him. Sometimes the violent tendencies grow over time or as you get to know his personality better. However, there are several important things to look for if you have concerns whether or not a man may be or become abusive:

  • Cruelty to children or animals: "The best way to judge a man is not how he judges his equals, but how he judges his inferiors"- J.K. Rowling. This quotation is very true in all walks of life, because often a man who thinks it is acceptable to be violent to beings that are smaller and weaker than him may also think that it is acceptable to abuse a woman. Kicking, slapping, or neglecting pets is a big warning sign that a man may have a violent streak. Also, even if a man does not hit or slap children, he still may emotionally abuse them.
  • Violence in childhood: If a man or woman was abused as a child or witnessed abuse, he or she may be prone to commit abuse as an adult.
  • Quick involvement/Domination of Life: A man who is abusive may become involved with his partner at a very quick pace to ensure that he can more quickly control every aspect of her life. The man will begin to become exponentially more upset and violent if she does not spend the majority of her time with him.
  • Substance abuse: A man that is an alcoholic or uses illegal drugs may be more prone to abuse.
  • Negative attitude toward women/Rigid gender roles: If a man believes that he is superior to his partner because he is a man, this may believe it is acceptable to abuse his partner. Men who believe that men should lead and control the family and do not recognize the equality of are more likely to commit abuse.
  • Hypersensitivity: Men that are abusive may be extremely sensitive to their partner’s comments, and may become easily angered or.

There are many other signs that a partner may be abusive or that you may be in an abusive relationship. It is important to break off things immediately with a anyone who shows any sort of violence or cruelty towards you, because no person in the world deserves to be abused.


There are many different ways to abuse or control a victim. Anyone who acts aggressively towards you without regard to your rights and feelings is abusing you, even if physical violence in to involved. This abusive behavior will cause you to lose self confidence. The abuser wants you to believe that you cannot survive outside the relationship. Usually, there is a certain cycle that is repeated throughout relationship with domestic violence:

  • Phase 1: The abuser begins to threaten and scare the woman and cause tension to which she will respond by attempting to please him or calm him down.
  • Phase 2: The abuser ignores her attempts and begins to physically hurt her. This may be in the form of beating, kicking, raping/forcing sex, or using weapons or throwing things at her.
  • Phase 3: The abuser is suddenly completely apologetic and guilty, promising to never hurt her again. He may buy her gifts or take her out. However, sometimes he will blame the outburst on the woman, saying that she provoked him.

This vicious cycle of threatening, beating, and apologizing is very common in many abusive relationships. Often the woman will be too afraid to leave the man, or she may have misplaced hope in his promises never to hurt her again. In emotionally abusive relationships, the abuser will often degrade the victim to the point that she does not even feel that she deserves to be in the relationship at all. He can do this in many ways such as criticizing her appearance, body, intelligence, or any of her other qualities. The emotionally abusive man may also insist upon complete control of her life, sometimes forcing her to quit her job to stay home with him, monitoring all her calls and emails, preventing her from seeing friends or family, and even sometimes choosing her clothes or how she styles her hair.

There are several easy questions that can help you determine if your current relationship may be abusive:

  • Does he put you down in public or in the home and make you feel bad?
  • Does he control who you can talk to and spend time with?
  • Does he make you have sex with him even when you don’t want to?
  • Does he blame his aggression on things you say or do?
  • Does he frighten you or threaten you with violence or throw/smash things?
  • Does he promise it will never happen again, but it does?

Even if you only answered yes to one of these questions, it is important to talk to someone about your unhappiness. There are ways that you can get help and out of the constant cycle of pain and abuse.


The first step you can take to save yourself from an abusive relationship is talk to someone. Even though this may be very hard to do, tell someone you trust that you are being abused. Anyone from family members to teachers, clergy. Nurses, doctors, or social workers will be able to help you and give you support. Although you may feel ashamed for being in an abusive relationship, the people you love and care about will understand and support you.

It is also important to think about long term decisions you will have to make about your relationship. Some women do not leave their abusive partners because they do not have their own house, and their partners have taken their money or clothes. However, there are many places that provide shelter, food, and clothes for women who have left bad situations. These places can offer medical treatment for injuries caused by abuse and also help women start over in a new, safe, supportive environment. Also, it is a good idea to make a safety plan for you and your children should you need to leave a violent situation. Pack a suitcase with clothing changes, bathroom items, and an extra set of keys. Leave this bag with a friend or neighbor in case you need to exit the house quickly. Also, it is important to keep special items such as cash, your checkbook, any medications and ID cards in a place where you can gather them easily if you need to leave quickly. Make sure you know exactly where you can go if things get serious, and make sure to leave before your abuser becomes violent. Talk to your children about calling the police or the emergency room for help instead of trying to stop the attacker themselves. Tell them to leave the room if you begin to fight.


Although abusive relationships take serious physical and mental tolls on thousands of American women the damage is often unreported. If you are a victim of domestic violence, it is important for you to remember that you deserve much better, and that help is always there if you are willing to seek it. Although leaving an abusive man can frightening and difficult, it is important to keep your (and your children(s)) best interests in mind and to do what it takes to live a happier, healthier life.