Intimate partner abuse is a form of domestic violence that can occur against both men and women. It does not matter what type of relationship one is involved in, abuse can occur in any type of relationship, including both heterosexual and same sex ones.
Depending upon the severity of the abuse, outsiders may not be aware of what is happening in someone’s relationship. That is why knowing the signs of abuse and being there for the victim, is the best way to help them out of a dangerous situation.
What is intimate partner abuse?
According to the domestic violence, is a “serious, preventable public health problem that affects millions of Americans.” This type of abuse describes any physical, psychological or sexual harm being caused by a current or former spouse, boyfriend or partner.
Abuse in a relationship can vary in severity, forms and frequency. As long as the abusive incidents reoccur, the acts are considered to be a form of domestic violence. The CDC states there are four main types of domestic abuse. They are:
- Physical violence: This is when the abusive partner uses physical force with the intent of causing injury, harm or death. Physical abuse includes, but is not limited to, choking, hitting, slapping, punching and biting.
- Sexual violence: There are three categories of sexual violence – use of physical force, engaging in sexual acts with someone who cannot consent or understand what is happening and abusive sexual contact. The use of guilt to coerce someone to have sex is also a form of sexual violence.
- Threats of violence: This is when the abuser threatens to commit sexual or physical violent acts against the victim in order to get something he or she wants. Threats can be made with or without intent to actually cause harm and may or may not involve a weapon.
- Emotional violence: This involves acts of humiliation, making the victim feel ashamed or embarrassed, isolating the victim from friends and family and forcing the victim to do something out of pure guilt. Stalking and various forms of harassment are considered to be a part of emotional violence.
Why do partners become abusive?
According to the Alabama Coalition Against Domestic Violence, intimate partner abusers come from all races, sexes, religions, socioeconomic classes, educational levels, occupations and areas of the world. Many abusers blend in with society and work normal jobs, leaving outsiders oblivious to their secret lives behind closed doors.
Characteristics of abusers include:
- Seeking complete control of their partner, including how they think, believe and act
- Restricting the rights and freedoms of their partner
- Punishing their partner for breaking the rules or challenging their authority
Domestic violence is not something that is hereditary. It is a learned behavior. Abusers learn their habits through observation, personal experience, family, culture and community. Contrary to popular belief, abuse is not caused by mental illness, drugs, alcohol, genetics, anger, stress, the behavior of the victim or problems in a relationship.
What does domestic mean?
There are many different definitions for what the word “domestic” in domestic violence means. In order to properly identify and prosecute against intimate partner abuse, we need to have a consistent definition of the word domestic. To help with prosecutions, The United States Department of Justice has defined the word domestic and how it relates to a violent relationship.
The Department of Justice defines domestic violence as “a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner.” In this definition, domestic refers to those involved in a relationship that is not work, school or community related.
What are some of the statistics?
The abusive relationships and how it affects everyone involved. Here are some of those statistics:
- Rape: More than one in four men and one in three women have been raped by someone they were in a relationship with.
- Murder-suicide: 74 percent of these have involved an intimate partner and more than 90 percent of those involve a female victim.
- Mental health: Issues involving poor mental health among women is three times higher when abused.
- Disabilities: Women with a disability have a 40 percent greater risk of being abused by an intimate partner.
How can I recognize a violent relationship?
Keep in mind not all relationships start out abusive. These acts of violence start out fairly mild and gradually escalate over time. As the abuser sees that he or she can get away with a comment, a slap or coercing their partner into having sex, they try to push their limits to see what they can get away with. Over time, the violence escalates into a full blown abusive relationship.
Signs of a potentially violent relationship include your partner:
- Tries to control what you do, where you go and who you spend time with
- Acts extremely angry and jealous, especially when there is no reason to be
- Hits, threatens to hit or strikes the wall
- Scares you
- Forces you to do things you do not want to, sexually and non-sexually
- Isolates you
- Tells your you deserve to be hit
- Demeans you
- Destroys your possessions
- Threatens to hurt himself or herself
How can I prevent the abuse?
Here are some tips from the Administration for Children and Families to help prevent intimate partner abuse within your community:
- Know the signs
- Get your community educated
- Get your community organized
- Create a community support network
- Keep your eyes and ears open
- Stop by and say “Hi” or call the police when you believe someone is being abused
- Be available to help a victim escape
- Help the victim by creating an intervention plan
- Check in regularly with those you believe are being abused
- Document everything
Stopping intimate partner abuse is not as easy as it may sound. That is why it is very important we as a community become educated about the signs, effects and dangers of domestic violence. The sooner we are able to recognize the patterns, the sooner we can help the victim, getting him or her out of a dangerous situation.