What is domestic violence? |

Domestic violence is not physical violence alone. Domestic violence is any behavior the purpose of which is to gain power and control over a spouse, partner, girl/boyfriend or intimate family member. Abuse is a learned behavior; it is not caused by anger, mental problems, drugs or alcohol, or other common excuses.

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Types of Domestic Violence

When the general public thinks about domestic violence, they usually think in terms of physical assault that results in visible injuries to the victim. This is only one type of abuse. There are several categories of abusive behavior, each of which has its own devastating consequences. Lethality involved with physical abuse may place the victim at higher risk, but the long term destruction of personhood that accompanies the other forms of abuse is significant and cannot be minimized.

Please explore the following sections to learn more about how to identify domestic violence.

Types of Abuse:

  • Control
  • Physical Abuse
  • Sexual Abuse
  • Emotional Abuse & Intimidation
  • Isolation
  • Verbal Abuse: Coercion, Threats, & Blame
  • Using Male Privilege
  • Economic Abuse

Control Controlling behavior is a way for the batterer to maintain dominance over the victim. Controlling behavior, the belief that they are justified in the controlling behavior, and the resultant abuse is the core issue in abuse of people. It is often subtle, almost always insidious, and pervasive. This may include but is not limited to:

  • Checking the mileage on the odometer following their use of the car.
  • Monitoring phone calls, using caller ID or other number monitoring devises, not allowing them to make or receive phone calls.
  • Not allowing their freedom of choice in terms of clothing styles or hairstyle. This may include forcing the victim to dress a specific way such as more seductively or more conservatively than they are comfortable.
  • Calling or coming home unexpectedly to check up on the victim. This may initially start as what appears to be a loving gesture, but becomes a sign of jealousy or possessiveness.
  • Invading the victim’s privacy by not allowing time and space of their own.
  • Forcing or encouraging their dependency by making the victim believe that they’re incapable of surviving or performing simple tasks without the batterer or on their own.
  • Using the children to control the victim parent by using the children as spies, threatening to kill, hurt or kidnap the children, physical and/or sexual abuse of the children, and threats to call Department of Child Safety (DCS, formerly CPS) if the victim parent leaves the relationship.

Physical Abuse: According to the AMEND Workbook for Ending Violent Behavior, physical abuse is any physically aggressive behavior, withholding of physical needs, indirect physically harmful behavior, or threat of physical abuse. This may include but is not limited to:

  • Hitting, kicking, biting, slapping, shaking, pushing, pulling, punching, choking, beating, scratching, pinching, pulling hair, stabbing, shooting, drowning, burning, hitting with an object, threatening with a weapon, or threatening to physically assault.
  • Withholding of physical needs including interruption of sleep or meals, denying money, food, transportation, or help if sick or injured, locking victim into or out of the house, refusing to give or rationing necessities.
  • Abusing, injuring, or threatening to injure others like children, pets, or special property.
  • Forcible physical restraint against the victim’s will, being trapped in a room or having the exit blocked, being held down.
  • The batterer hitting or kicking walls, doors, or other inanimate objects during an argument, throwing things in anger,destruction of property.
  • Holding the victim hostage.

Sexual Abuse: Sexual abuse is using sex in an exploitative fashion or forcing sex on another person. Having consented to sexual activity in the past does not indicate current consent. Sexual abuse may involve both verbal and physical behavior. This may include, but is not limited to:

  • Using force, coercion, guilt, or manipulation or not considering the victim’s desire to have sex. This may include making the victim have sex with others, have unwanted sexual experiences, or be involuntarily involved in prostitution.
  • Exploiting a victim who is unable to make an informed decision about involvement in sexual activity because of being asleep, intoxicated, drugged, disabled, too young, too old, or dependent upon or afraid of the perpetrator.
  • Laughing or making fun of another’s sexuality or body, making offensive statements, insulting, or name-calling in relation to the victim’s sexual preferences/behavior.
  • Making contact with the victim in any nonconsensual way, including unwanted penetration (oral, anal or vaginal) or touching (stroking, kissing, licking, sucking or using objects) on any part of the victim’s body.
  • Exhibiting excessive jealousy resulting in false accusations of infidelity and controlling behaviors to limit the victim’s contact with the outside world.
  • Having affairs with other people and using that information to taunt the victim.
  • Withholding sex from the victim as a control mechanism.

Emotional Abuse & Intimidation: According to the AMEND Workbook for Ending Violent Behavior, emotional abuse is any behavior that exploits anther’s vulnerability, insecurity, or character. Such behaviors include continuous degradation, intimidation, manipulation, brainwashing, or control of another to the detriment of the individual(AMEND 3). This may include but is not limited to:

  • Insulting or criticizing to undermine the victim’s self-confidence. This includes public humiliation, as well as actual or threatened rejection.
  • Threatening or accusing, either directly or indirectly, with intention to cause emotional or physical harm or loss. For instance, threatening to kill the victim or themselves, or both.
  • Using reality distorting statements or behaviors that create confusion and insecurity in the victim like saying one thing and doing another, stating untrue facts as truth, and neglecting to follow through on stated intentions. This can include denying the abuse occurred and/or telling the victim they are making up the abuse. It might also include crazy making behaviors like hiding the victim’s keys and berating them for losing them.
  • Consistently disregarding, ignoring, or neglecting the victim’s requests and needs.
  • Using actions, statements or gestures that attack the victim’s self-esteem and self-worth with the intention to humiliate.
  • Telling the victim that she is mentally unstable or incompetent.
  • Forcing the victim to take drugs or alcohol.
  • Not allowing the victim to practice their religious beliefs, isolating the victim from the religious community, or using religion as an excuse for abuse.
  • Using any form of coercion or manipulation which is disempowering to the victim.

Isolation: Isolation is a form of abuse often closely connected to controlling behaviors. It is not an isolated behavior, but the outcome of many kinds of abusive behaviors. By keeping the victim from seeing who they wants to see, doing what they want to do, setting and meeting goals, and controlling how the victim thinks and feels, the abuser is isolating the victim from the resources (personal and public) which may help the victim leave the relationship. By keeping the victim socially isolated, the batterer is keeping the victim from contact with the world which might not reinforce the abuser’s perceptions and beliefs. Isolation often begins as an expression of his love for the victim with statements like “if you really loved me, you would want to spend time with me, not your family”. As it progresses, the isolation expands, limiting or excluding the victim’s contact with anyone but the batterer. Eventually, the victim is left totally alone and without the internal and external resources to change their life.
Some victims isolate themselves from existing resources and support systems because of the shame of bruises or other injuries, the abuser’s behavior in public, or the abuser’s treatment of friends or family. Self-isolation may also develop from fear of public humiliation or from fear of harm to herself or others. The victim may also feel guilty for the abuser’s behavior, the condition of the relationship, or a myriad of other reasons, depending on the messages received from the abuser.

Verbal Abuse: Coercion, Threats, & Blame: Verbal abuse is any abusive language used to denigrate, embarrass or threaten the victim. This may include but is not limited to:

  • Threatening to hurt or kill the victim or their children, family, pets, property or reputation.
  • Name calling (‘ugly’, ‘bitch’, ‘whore’, or ‘stupid’)
  • Telling victim they are unattractive or undesirable.
  • Yelling, screaming, rampaging, terrorizing or refusing to talk

Using Male Privilege: As long as we as a culture accept the principle and privilege of male dominance, men will continue to be abusive. As long as we as a culture accept and tolerate violence against women, men will continue to be abusive.

According to Barbara Hart in Safety for Women: Monitoring Batterers’ Programs:
All men benefit from the violence of batterers. There is no man who has not enjoyed the male privilege resulting from male domination reinforced by the use of physical violence . . . All women suffer as a consequence of men’s violence. Battering by individual men keeps all women in line. While not every woman has experienced violence, there is no woman in this society who has not feared it, restricting her activities and her freedom to avoid it. Women are always watchful knowing that they may be the arbitrary victims of male violence. Only the elimination of sexism, the end of cultural supports for violence, and the adoption of a system of beliefs and values embracing equality and mutuality in intimate relationships will end men’s violence against women.

Domestic violence is about power and control. A feminist analysis of woman battering rejects theories that attribute the causes of violence to family dysfunction, inadequate communications skills, women’s provocation, stress, chemical dependency, lack of spiritual relationship to a deity, economic hardship, class practices, racial/ethnic tolerance, or other factors. These issues may be associated with battering of women, but they do not cause it. Removing these factors will not end men’s violence against women.

Batterers behave abusively to control their partner’s behavior, thereby achieving and maintaining power over their partners and getting their own needs and desires met quickly and completely. There are also many secondary benefits of violence to the batterer. A batterer may choose to be violent because he finds it fun to terrorize his partner, because there is a release of tension in the act of assault, because it demonstrates manhood, or because violence is erotic for him. Violence is a learned behavior and batterers choose to use violence. The victim is not part of the problem. The victim may accept responsibility for causing the batterer to lose their temper,î but the truth is, the abuser must be held accountable for his behavior.

Four widespread cultural conditions allow and encourage men to abuse women. These are:

  • Objectification of women and the belief that women exist for the ‘satisfaction of men’s personal, sexual, emotional and physical needs’.
  • An entitlement to male authority with a right and obligation to control, coerce, and/or punish her independence.
  • That the use of physical force is acceptable, appropriate, and effective.
  • Societal support for his dominance, controlling and assaultive behavior. By failing to intervene aggressively against the abuse, the culture condones the violence.

Economic Abuse: Financial abuse is a way to control the victim through manipulation of economic resources.
This may include, but is not limited to:

  • Controlling the family income and either not allowing the victim access to money or rigidly limiting their access to family funds. This may also include keeping financial secrets or hidden accounts, putting the victim on an allowance or allowing the victim no say in how money is spent, or making the victim turn their paycheck over to the abuser. Causing the victim to lose a job or preventing them from taking a job. The abuser can make the victim lose their job by making them late for work, refusing to provide transportation to work, or by calling/harassing/calling the victim at work.
  • Spending money for necessities (food, rent, utilities) on nonessential items (drugs, alcohol, hobbies.)

Material from Women’s Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh Volunteer Training Manual, AMEND, and the ACESDV safety plan manual were used to develop this section. 


 Arizona law defines stalking as follows:

Arizona Revised Statute 13-2923. Stalking; classification; definitions
A. A person commits stalking if the person intentionally or knowingly engages in a course of conduct that is directed toward another person and if that conduct either:

  1. Would cause a reasonable person to fear for the person’s safety or the safety of that person’s immediate family member and that person in fact fears for their safety or the safety of that person’s immediate family member.
  2. Would cause a reasonable person to fear physical injury to or death of that of that person or that person’s immediate family member and that person in fact fears physical injury to or death of that person or that person’s immediate family member.

B. Stalking, under subsection A, paragraph 1 of this section is a class 5 felony. Stalking under subsection A, paragraph 2 is a class 3 felony.

C. For the purposes of this section:

  1. “Course of conduct” means maintaining visual or physical proximity to a specific person or directing verbal, written or other threats, whether express or implied, to a specific person on two or more occasions over a period of time, however short, but does not include constitutionally protected activity.
  2. “Immediate family member” means a spouse, parent, child or sibling or any other person who regularly resides in person’s household or resided in a person’ s household within the past six months.  

Common Stalking Behaviors

Below is a list of common stalking behaviors. Stalking during a relationship or after it has ended is high-risk behavior. It is typically defined as the willful, malicious and repeated following or harassing of another person, accompanied by a credible threat of violence. It has been increasingly recognized as a serious crime in the United States. Safety precautions must be taken if it is occurring to you or someone you love! And remember, in most states, these behaviors are also against the law.

  • Mailing cards or other cryptic messages
  • Breaking windows, breaking into or vandalizing partner’s home
  • Taking partner’s mail
  • Leaving things, such as flowers on doorstep or at work
  • Watching partner from a distance
  • Hang-up calls on the telephone
  • Following partner with a car or on foot
  • Hiding in bushes or other surveillance of partner’s home
  • Surveillance of partner at work
  • Other trespassing
  • Vandalizing partner’s property
  • Destroying property to scare or intimidate partner
  • Stealing things from partner
  • Breaking into partner’s house or car
  • Filing numerous pleadings in court cases
  • Filing for custody of children regardless of their needs
  • Not respecting visitation limitations
  • Harassing telephone calls or notes
  • Violation of restraining orders  

Stalking Victim Recommendations

Please be aware that a stalking situation may never be resolved to the victim’s satisfaction or to the satisfaction of the suspect. Also, not all the suggestions presented will be appropriate or feasible for all situations — each case is to be analyzed individually, as not any two relationships are the same.

This material was taken from recommendations developed by the Texas Council on Family Violence

Domestic Violence and Arizona Law

 Arizona Statute defines domestic violence by the relationship between the victim and abuser and the type of crimes committed. The following is a list of qualifying relationships and types of crimes considered:

  • The relationship between the victim and the defendant is one of marriage or former marriage or of persons residing or having resided in the same household.
  • The victim and the defendant have a child in common.
  • The victim or the defendant is pregnant by the other party.
  • The victim is related to the defendant or the defendant’s spouse by blood or court order as a parent, grandparent, child, grandchild, brother or sister or by marriage as a parent-in-law, grandparent-in-law, stepchild, step-grandchild, brother-in-law or sister-in-law.
  • The victim is a child who resides or has resides in the same household as the defendant and is related by blood to a former spouse of the defendant or to a person who resides or has resides in the same household as the defendant. 

Some Common Ways Abusers Control Victims

Controlling behavior is a way for the batterer to maintain dominance over the victim. Controlling behavior, the belief that the abuser is justified in the controlling behavior, and the resulting abuse is the core issue in abuse of victims. It is often subtle, almost always insidious, and pervasive. There is a relationship between violence and other tactics of control.  While physical assaults might occur frequently or infrequently, other parts of the pattern can occur daily. The use of these other tactics is effective because one battering episode builds on past episodes and sets the stage for future episodes. All tactics of the pattern interact and have profound effects on the victims.  Examples of these tactics include:Isolating the victim
-Initially, an abuser might cut off the victim from supportive relationships with the claims of “loving you so much” and “wanting to be with you all the time.”
– The intent is to control the victims time and isolate them from their support system of family and friends who might question the abusers actions. For example, the abuser might refuse to have telephone service or reliable transportation, monitor the victims email, or make the family change residences frequently.
– The abuser might constantly criticize the victim’s family and friends or harass the victim so much that it is easier for the victim to simply cut off contact with family and friends. This maybe done by using coercion, threats or force.
– A victim might believe what their abuser says because they are so isolated they have no access to information that might contradict the abuser.
-Calling or coming home unexpectedly to check up on the victim. This may initially start as what appears to be a loving gesture, but becomes a sign of jealousy or possessiveness.Using the children
-The abuser might punish the children as a way to hurt the victim.
-The abuser might sexually abuse the children or force them to watch the abuse of the victim.
-They might use the children to spy or report on the victims activities.
-They might threaten to kidnap or kill the children if she leaves him.
-The abuser could gain legal custody, just take the children, or use custody and visitation arrangements to harass or harm her.
-They might make threats to call Child Protective Services if the victim leaves the relationship.Damaging relationships
-The abuser might discredit the victim’s relationships with others in the community, such as employers, clergy, friends and neighbors, by spreading rumors or distorted information.  For example, an abuser might tell others that the victim is crazy or a liar or send messages from the victims email address to alienate them from friends and family.Attacking property and pets
-The abuser might hit the wall next to where the victim is standing or throw objects at them.  They might pound the table next to the victim or break their favorite possessions. An abuser might say:  “Look what you made me do” or “You’ll be next.”
-The abuser might harm pets to hurt and intimidate the victim.Stalking and Monitoring partner or ex-partner
-The abuser might follow, threaten, harass and terrify his partner or ex-partner, especially after they have left or separated.
-The abuser might monitor the victim’s whereabouts, daily activities, phone conversations or email to prove to the victim that they cannot conceal anything from them.
-An abuser may monitor phone calls, using caller ID or other number monitoring devises, or not allow the victim to make or receive phone calls.
-They might check the mileage on the odometer following the victims use of the car.
-Not allowing the victim freedom of choice in terms of clothing styles, makeup or hairstyle. This may include forcing the victim to dress more seductively or more conservatively than they are comfortable.
-Invading the victims privacy by not allowing them time and space of their own.Taken From: Understanding the Nature and Dynamics of Domestic Violence by the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence 


Barriers to Leaving

Often, individuals ask survivors of domestic violence why do you stay? Or why don’t you just leave if it is that terrible? These are questions that are inevitably asked at one point to a survivor when she discloses her abuse. The questions may be irritating to domestic violence victim advocates, but the questions are wonderful teaching opportunities and a means to provide awareness. They are also great moments to address victim blaming. After these questions are asked and the following information is given, we can then ask the question that really needs to be asked: “Why does the abuser abuse?” We can also encourage our audience to replace the question “Why does the victim stay?” with “Why does the abuser abuse?”

There are as many reasons that people stay in abusive relationships. Domestic and/or sexual violence survivors stay in their relationships for all the same reasons anyone stays in a relationship. The relationship is complicated by multiple factors. A discussion of those factors is below. These factors are more accurately viewed as barriers to leaving.

Dependency: This should not be confused for co-dependency. When survivors are out of their abusive relationships, she may be financially, emotionally, or socially dependent on the abuser. Their social status and sense of self may depend on continuing the relationship. The abuser’s income producing capabilities may exceed the victim’s. Even if it does not appear to be the case, some survivors believe they will not be able to exist without their abusive partner.

Fear: The abuser may have threatened to hurt or kill the victim, the children, family members, friends, or others if they leave the person who chooses to abuse. The abuser may have also threatened suicide or murder-suicide. Because there has been a history of physical violence, the victim may believe their abuser is capable of following through on these threats.

Isolation: Often the victim will have limited contact with the outside world because of the abuser’s isolating abuse. Embarrassment over bruises and/or threats from the abuser keeps the victim from connecting with friends and family. The perpetrator may regularly cause scenes in public or at family gatherings. The isolation may extend to the victim not being allowed to use the phone or the mail to contact their family and friends without fear of further abuse.

Taken From: Understanding the Nature and Dynamics of Domestic Violence by the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence