Before moving forward, we need to know exactly what we’re talking about. One of the biggest problems with domestic violence is that many of its victims don’t realize what’s happening to them. Time and time again a woman—or, in some cases, a man—who suffers at the hands of an abusive spouse will say, “He’s never hit me, so I guess his behavior can’t be described as violent.” Sometimes she’ll make excuses for him: “He’s just mean or grumpy,” or “He’s having a bad day.” All too often she’ll actually blame herself, usually at his instigation. Whatever the details of the case, the result is usually the same: she persuades herself that the situation is no big deal and fails to see what’s really going on.
What Is Domestic Violence?
Pay close attention to this next sentence: Domestic violence is not limited to physically hitting. Domestic violence is all about power and control. So in addition to hitting, it includes
- aggressive behaviors such as screaming, yelling, and throwing objects across the room.
- intimidating, bullying, and destroying a spouse’s possessions.
- calling a spouse names, demeaning a spouse privately or in front of others, even if claimed to be said “in jest.”
- controlling the finances so a spouse doesn’t have access to money.
- using coercion or threats (to divorce, take the kids away, stop working, etc.).
- isolating or restricting who a spouse’s friends are and when the spouse can and can’t see them.
- demanding accountability for everything done and every place visited.
- minimizing and/or denying negative actions and their impact.
- blaming the spouse for the anger, violence, selfishness, and irrational behaviors.
- telling the children that the spouse is a bad parent and blaming that spouse for the family’s problems.
- using his maleness or her femaleness as a privilege over the spouse.
Domestic violence can be any behavior that attempts to manipulate, control, or exert power over a spouse.