Identifying domestic violence and abuse in marriages can sometimes be difficult. The signs are not always as clear as physical injuries and bruises. Domestic abuse can leave invisible wounds such as emotional trauma and other psychological damage. As a result, recognizing domestic violence can be challenging.
The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) defines domestic violence as “the willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, and/or other abusive behavior as part of a pattern of power and control used by an intimate partner against another.”
Anyone can be susceptible to abuse in a relationship. Perpetrators of abuse might have narcissistic, sociopathic, and psychopathic personalities that can make identifying abuse difficult. In all scenarios, victims of domestic abuse are not at fault. If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence or abuse, help is available through the Domestic Violence Hotline.
The five recognized forms of domestic violence include:
Physical abuse involves the intention or attempt to inflict bodily injury, trauma, harm, and other physical damage to another person. This type of abuse is slightly easier to recognize in victims. Research has indicated that men predominately perpetrate this form of violence. However, women are also capable committing physical abuse.
Examples of Physical Abuse
Examples of this type of abuse can include the following:
- Slapping, pinching, kicking, shoving, choking, and biting
- Subjecting someone to reckless driving
- Non-consensual rough wrestling
- Use of objects as weapons
- Physical bodily harm resulting in miscarriage and other internal injuries
- Inappropriate use of drugs and physical restraints
Signs of Physical Abuse
The signs of physical abuse can be identified through:
- Bruises and black eyes
- Broken bones
- Open wounds, cuts, or punctures
- Broken eyeglasses and other physical signs of being punished or restrained
- Sudden changes in behavior
- Perpetrator’s refusal to allow visitors to see the victim alone
This form of abuse is any nonconsensual sexual contact. Sexual abuse is a difficult aspect of domestic violence to discuss and sometimes identify.
Examples of Sexual Abuse
- Birth control sabotage and reproductive coercion
- Usage of sexually derogatory names and infidelity accusations
- Forcing a partner to strip or become a sex worker
- Forcing the victim to watch pornography or the abusive partner engage in sex with others
- Taking nonconsensual sexually explicit photographs
- Forcing/coercing unwanted touch, sodomy, other forms of sexual activity, or rape
According to NCADV statistics, 46.7% of female and 44.9% of male rape victims in the U.S. were acquaintances of the perpetrator. Of these percentages, 45.4% of female victims and 29% of male victims were raped by an intimate partner.
Signs of Sexual Abuse
- Bruising, sores, pain, or itching around genital area
- Unexplained venereal disease of genital infections
- Unexplained genital bleeding
- Torn or bloody underclothing
- An individual’s report of sexual assault
- Not wanting to receive help with personal care
Emotional abuse involves controlling behavior to have power over another person by using emotions to embarrass, shame, blame, criticize, and manipulate them. The goal of this type of abuse is to control the victim by discrediting, isolating, and silencing them. This is one of the most difficult forms of abuse to recognize as there are no physical injuries to indicate it.
Examples of Emotional Abuse
- Having unreasonable demands, needs, and overall dissatisfaction with the victim
- Criticizing the victim for not completing tasks according to the abuser’s standards
- Using insulting names such as “stupid” or “worthless”
- Having drastic mood changes and arguing for the sake of arguing
- Acting superior and humiliating the victim in public or private
- Threatening to harm themselves or the victim when upset
Signs of Emotional Abuse
- Feelings of frustration, confusion, anxiousness, or worthlessness when interacting with the abuser
- Signs of distress such as fearfulness and anger
- Social withdrawal or changes in their psychological state
- Silence when the abuser is present
- Dependence or codependence on the abuser
- Adapting to the abuser’s/other people’s expectations
Psychological abuse and emotional abuse are sometimes used interchangeably. The examples and signs of psychological and emotional abuse can be similar in some cases. In general, emotional abuse is broader and psychological abuse is one form of emotional abuse. Ultimately, psychological abuse involves the use of verbal and social tactics to control a victim’s way of thinking.
Examples of Psychological Abuse
- Invalidating, undermining, or dismissing perceptions of the victim’s reality
- Accusations of being selfish, needy, or materialistic when needs and wants of the victim are expressed
- Making decisions on what the victim can eat, wear, etc.
- Isolation by preventing/discouraging seeing family or friends
- Gaslighting by twisting the victim’s words, emotions, and experiences to use against them
- Making the victim’s needs and feelings seem unimportant/less important than the abuser’s
Signs of Psychological Abuse
- Fearfulness or silence when the abuser is present
- Changes in appetite and weight
- Low self-esteem
- Feeling confused, “crazy,” or second guessing opinions and recollection of events
- Tendency to withhold information from loved ones
- Constantly apologizing to the abuser
Also known as financial abuse, this form of domestic violence occurs when one partner controls the financial independence and freedom of the other. By using or misusing a victim’s money without their permission, the abuser strives to control their partner’s actions and freedom.
Examples of Economic Abuse
- Having all bank accounts under the abuser’s name
- Control over how, when, and where finances are spent
- Denying the victim the right to work outside of the house/make financial contributions to the family
- Misusing the victim’s name for financial reasons
- Forcing the partner to sign documents such as taxes, immigrations papers, etc. against their will
- Requiring accountability and justification for all money spent
Signs of Economic Abuse
- Unexplained lack of money
- Disparity between living conditions and finances
- Changes in deeds or title to property
- Unexplained transfer of assets to a family member or non-family member
- Missing personal possessions
- Harassment at workplace
What Can Domestic Abuse Lead to?
The effects of enduring physical, mental, or emotional abuse can be extremely damaging for the survivor. Healing and adjusting to a safe environment after domestic violence will take time and varies widely from person to person due to circumstances like their responses to abuse, age, and severity of abuse.
In extreme cases, domestic violence can lead to death or murder. Though even on less severe levels, survivors can experience other effects such as:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Low self-esteem
- Alcohol and drug abuse
- Inability to trust
- Suicidal ideation
If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts or attempts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
The effects of domestic violence can be long lasting and even lethal. Leaving an abusive marriage can lead to a whirlwind of emotions such as fear, worry, and anxiousness. In this decision, you must protect yourself as you leave your abuser. If possible, it is recommended to have a plan before leaving. The Colorado Coalition Against Violence can help connect you to resources within your area.
Domestic Violence & Divorce
In the process of divorcing a domestically violent partner, it is important to share abuse information with your attorney. Finding your way out of an abusive marriage can be difficult and distressing. With an experienced attorney’s guidance, further legal action can be taken, such as obtaining restraining orders, adjustments to child custody, or civil protection orders to keep you and your loved ones safe and separated from your abuser.Call today at (303) 647-4245 or schedule a free consultation to get started.