woman with love shouldn't hurt written on her back Photo by Sydney Sims on Unsplash

Domestic violence (DV) is not only physically aggressive behavior. It can be verbal, emotional, financial, sexual, or any behavior done with the intent to intimidate or control.

It can be obvious or subtle.

Anyone can be a victim of domestic violence regardless of gender, race, economic background, age, religion, or education.

Abusive Relationship Cycle

Cycle of violence: tension builds, abuse takes place, apologies, excuses, amends

Abuse in relationships follows a common cycle :

  • Violence that's interspersed with apologies and promises to stop

  • Isolating the victim from any supports, such as family, friends, or work

  • Making the victim feel guilty for their feelings, behavior, or wanting the abuse to stop

Physical Abuse

woman with bruised eye

Physical abuse looks like:

  • hitting

  • pushing

  • kicking

  • throwing things

  • forcing you to do something

  • physical aggression done to intimidate

It doesn't have to cause a major injury to count as physical abuse.

Emotional Abuse

Woman crying and saying I guess this is all my fault.

Emotional abuse looks like:

  • humiliating

  • criticizing

  • controlling

  • shaming

  • blaming

  • neglecting emotional needs

  • causing drama between you and your loved ones or friends

Emotional abuse often goes undetected because it might look like just a bad relationship.

Verbal Abuse

woman swearing

Verbal abuse looks like:

  • name calling

  • belittling your opinions or feelings

  • gaslighting

  • threatening

  • ignoring or giving the silent treatment

  • talking in a condescending voice

Verbal abuse may be disguised as "joking."

Financial Abuse

counting cash

Financial abuse looks like:

  • giving you an allowance

  • forbidding you to work

  • hiding money

  • stealing your identity

  • forbidding you from accessing bank accounts

  • making you account for every penny you spend

  • dragging out a divorce to make it more expensive for you

Financial abuse happens in 99% of all domestic violence cases.

Sexual Abuse

A graphic explaining the definition of sexual assault

Sexual abuse is any unwanted:

  • touching of your body

  • inserting into any body part

  • showing sexual pictures you didn't ask for

The high-risk, high-emotion state that often goes with sexual abuse can create a strong trauma bond to the primary aggressor and makes it difficult to leave the relationship.

Check Your Understanding

Flaticon Icon Your significant other seemed like the perfect match at first. They were attentive, good-natured, and didn't pressure you for sex.

Flaticon Icon About 2 weeks into your relationship, they start sending you links to porn sites. You tell them to stop and they accuse you of being a prude.

You feel ashamed, but think they must be right.

Flaticon Icon About 6 weeks into your relationship, they're sending you unsolicited pictures of themselves and you notice they're making "jokes" at your expense when you meet up with their friends.

When you try to talk to them about this, they blame you for being too sensitive. You feel confused but try not to make a big deal about it.

After all, they probably just had a bad day. Plus, if they didn't care about you, they wouldn't be taking you to all these great places!

Flaticon Icon About 8 weeks into your relationship, they're still sending pictures and making jokes about you.

They're also starting to comment that you've gained weight since you met and need to go on a diet.

They also tell you that their ex wants to get back together and is blowing up their phone...but that you shouldn't worry because you're beautiful even if you're getting fat.

You want to crawl into a hole but decide to start working out fanatically to lose weight.

Flaticon Icon Last night you celebrated your 3 month anniversary.

Your significant other got drunk, and you got into an argument because they said you're not spending enough time with them.

They yelled at you and shoved you, but there weren't any marks on your body.

You rationalize that they didn't mean to do it. They just had too much to drink. And the fact that they sent you flowers the next day proves they're really sorry.


Is this domestic violence or just a bad relationship?

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If you experience domestic violence:


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