What is domestic violence and how does it differ from domestic abuse? Are they the same thing or two different things?
Domestic abuse refers to when one partner in a couple attempts to control the other partner. They may use fear, guilt, shame, humiliation, isolation, financial means and/or manipulation. But they stop short of actual violence.
Domestic violence (or relationship violence) is when one partner actually resorts to some means of physical violence or threats of physical violence in order to gain control.
You may hear of a person being accused of or charged with domestic violence say- “I didn’t deserve to be charged” “but I never hit her!” That is possible. Domestic violence may also consist of pushing, kicking, forcible restraint, hair pulling, threats with a weapon or using a weapon, slapping, biting, pinching, forcible sexual acts, shoving, burning, breaking furniture, threats against the victim- or their pets, children or family members or preventing them from calling for emergency assistance. A lack of a physical injury does not prevent a person from being charged with domestic violence as long as there is evidence of any violent physical contact.
Domestic abuse. Attempts to control and dominate by means other than violent physical contact. It may be withholding money for necessities or other financial means. Some may refuse to allow the partner to work or they may spend excessively so that the partner is forced to use all their income to pay for the necessities. Isolating the victim by preventing contact with friends or family. Repeated excess criticism- as a person a parent or their accomplishments or mental status, name calling, swearing, threats and other intimidating behavior. Demanding continuous contact and/or complete accounts of how time or money was spent. When domestic abuse no longer works for the control and domination, physical violence may occur. Or physical violence may be occurring along with the domestic abuse. The victim may be afraid to tell about the violence- or may not wish others to think badly of their partner if they choose to stay so they may deny domestic violence.
We all know of the deaths and serious injuries that have occurred. But there are other results also and they can last even longer than the relationship. A loss of self esteem on the part of the victim, feelings of helplessness and other emotional scarring. Fear that can be long lasting- even after the relationship has ended. Many times families will have a lower standard of living due to the financial domination. Depression and sometimes suicide. Sexual dysfunction is not uncommon. Because of previous abuse, many will lose their ability to trust others- they trusted the one they loved and it failed so they lose the ability to trust in their own judgement.
Yet all the while the abuse and/or violence may not be continuous. It may be sporadic with periods of relatively normal sometimes even loving behavior in between. Any violent or abusive actions are excused- tired, drunk, high, someone else’s fault (often the victim’s) or even that the victim’s judgement is faulty- it didn’t happen like that. After a violent episode the perpetrator may apoligize to the victim- yet all the while deny to others that the violence occurred or occurred in that way.
An abusive relationship is a risky relationship. And a violent relationship is a dangerous one. And you never really know when one is going to turn into the other. Because of the possibility that the violence can turn against the children, other family members and even strangers the risks are not only to the victim but to everyone surrounding the victim. In every abusive relationship this should also be taken into consideration.
Keep yourself safe, your family safe and your community safe.