Everyone gets angry from time to time. Anger and arguments are normal parts of healthy relationships. But anger that leads to threats, hitting, or hurting someone is not normal or healthy. This is a form of abuse. Physical, verbal, or sexual abuse is not okay in any relationship. When it occurs between spouses or partners or in a dating relationship, it is called domestic abuse.
Domestic abuse is also called intimate partner violence or domestic violence. It is not the same as an occasional argument. It is a pattern of abuse used by one person to control another.
In addition to violence between intimate partners:
- Teens may experience dating abuse.
- Older adults can be targets of both domestic abuse and elder abuse.
Domestic violence can happen to anyone, at any age, no matter what race or religion people are, no matter what their level of education is or how much money they make. Both men and women experience domestic abuse. It is a common form of violent behavior and is a major problem in the United States.
Signs of abuse
Does your partner:
- Embarrass you with put-downs?
- Look at you or act in ways that scare you?
- Control what you do, who you see or talk to, or where you go?
- Stop you from seeing your friends or family members?
- Take your money or paychecks, make you ask for money, or refuse to give you money?
- Make all of the decisions?
- Tell you that you're a bad parent or threaten to take away or hurt your children?
- Prevent you from working or going to school?
- Act like the abuse is no big deal or is your fault, or even deny doing it?
- Destroy your property or threaten to kill your pets?
- Intimidate you with guns, knives, or other weapons?
- Shove you, slap you, choke you, or hit you?
- Threaten to kill himself or herself?
- Threaten to kill you?
- Prevent you from using birth control or from protecting yourself from sexually transmitted infections (STIs)/HIV?
If any of these things are happening, you need to get help. It's important to know that you are not alone. The way your partner acts is not your fault. There is no excuse for domestic violence. Help is available.
Domestic abuse and your health
Living in an abusive relationship can cause long-term health problems. Some of these health problems include:
- Physical problems, such as migraine headaches; arthritis; or long-term neck, back, belly, or pelvic pain.
- Mental health problems, such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and alcohol or drug abuse.
Women who are sexually abused by their partners have a greater chance of having sexually transmitted infections, unwanted pregnancies, and other problems.
Violence can get worse during pregnancy. Abused women are more likely to have problems such as low weight gain, anemia, infections, and bleeding during pregnancy. Abuse during this time may increase the baby's risk of low birth weight, premature birth, or death.
How to get help
Abusers often blame the victim for the abuse. They may say "you made me do it." This is not true. People are responsible for their own actions. They may say they are sorry and tell you it will never happen again, even though it already has.
After abuse starts, it usually gets worse if you don't take steps to stop it. If you are in an abusive relationship, ask for help. This may be hard, but know that you are not alone. Your family, friends, fellow church members, employer, doctor, or local police department, hospital, or clinic can help you. These national hotlines can help you find resources in your area. Call:
- The National Domestic Violence Hotline toll-free at 1-800-799-SAFE (1-800-799-7233), or see the website at www.ndvh.org.
- The National Teen Dating Abuse Hotline toll-free at 1-866-331-9474 or (1-866-331-8453 TTY).
- The Childhelp Line toll-free at 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453), or see the website at www.childhelp.org.
Check your symptoms to decide if and when you should see a doctor or get other help.