Suzannah's Voice

Five Types of Domestic Violence


by Suzannah Gilman

When a woman hasn’t been the victim of physical abuse by her partner, odds are she doesn’t think she’s a victim of domestic violence (DV).  But the common misconception that a woman has to be beaten or she’s not a victim of domestic violence is not true.  Physical abuse is only one type of DV.  Other types of DV, or domestic abuse, are psychological abuse, emotional abuse, economic abuse, and sexual abuse. Maybe if we dropped the term “domestic violence” and used “domestic abuse” instead, the misunderstanding wouldn’t be so common.  Other women don’t think of themselves as being victims of DV because they have internalized the abuse.  That means they have consciously or subconsciously adopted the belief and have accepted that the abusive behavior is normal, so they don’t think they are being abused.  

Power and Control Wheel

Click to open a larger, easier to read image.

The United States Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women defines domestic violence as “a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner.” DV includes actions by an abuser toward someone he dates or dated, lives with or has lived with, is married to, has or had an intimate relationship with, or has a child with. Though I am looking at domestic violence through the lens of a male abusing a female, DV can occur between two people of any sexual orientation or gender, and there are male victims of DV.

As an attorney, I represented victims of DV under a grant from the Office on Violence Against Women. When women spoke to me across my desk in preparation for a court appearance to secure an injunction for protection, commonly called a restraining order, those who suffered physical abuse often detailed other types of DV that many of them didn’t think of as abuse. But a woman doesn’t have to be physically abused to obtain a restraining order, and I represented many such women as well.  A victim is commonly subjected to several if not all of these types of abuse.

This post is an overview of types of abusive behavior that are domestic violence. If you are a victim or think you may be a victim and don’t have the time, patience, or emotional energy to read it, click on the Power and Control Wheel for a condensed explanation of the behaviors of an abuser.  


Each type of abuse consists of one, all, or any number of the behaviors described below.

Psychological Abuse

Humiliating the victim, controlling what she can or can’t do, withholding information from her, deliberately making her feel diminished or embarrassed, isolating her from friends or family, demeaning her in public, stalking her, convincing her she is crazy, and undermining her confidence and/or sense of self worth.  Source


Emotional Abuse

Calling the victim names and putting her down, yelling and screaming at her, embarrassing her in public, keeping her from seeing friends or family, telling her what to do and wear, damaging her property, using online communities or cell phones to control, intimidate or humiliate her, blaming her actions for his abusive behavior, accusing her of cheating and being jealous of her outside relationships, stalking her, threatening to commit suicide to keep her from leaving him, threatening to harm her, her pet, or people she cares about, threatening to expose her secrets such as sexual activity or immigration status, starting rumors about her, and threatening to have her children taken away.  Source


Economic Abuse

Keeping the victim from getting a job, harassing her at work, making her quit her job, trying to get her fired or getting her fired, acquiring debt in her name without her consent, forcing her to acquire debt in her name, refinancing a home or car loan without her consent, controlling when and how she can access cash or credit cards, forcing her to give him money or credit cards, and controlling her bank account or theirs and her access to it.  Source


Sexual Abuse

Unwanted kissing or touching, unwanted rough or violent sexual activity, rape or attempted rape, refusing to use a condom, refusing to let the victim use birth control, sexual contact while the victim is drugged or drunk or unconscious and unable to consent, threatening her into unwanted sexual activity, and using sexual insults toward her.  Source


Physical Abuse

Scratching, punching, biting, strangling, or kicking the victim, throwing something at her, pulling her hair, pushing or pulling her, grabbing her clothing, using a weapon against her, smacking her bottom, forcing her to have sex or perform a sexual act, grabbing her face to make her look at him, grabbing her to prevent her from leaving, or forcing her to go somewhere.  Source

A woman who does not suffer visible injuries

sometimes does not receive the support she deserves

when she decides to leave her abuser.

Abuse Stories in the News

When Nigella Lawson, the well-known British journalist and TV chef, was photographed with her husband grabbing her throat while dining outdoors at a restaurant, the public outcry was huge. I’m sure I wasn’t alone in immediately thinking, If he does that to her in public, what does he do in private? The incident spurred an acrimonious divorce. I’d expect nothing less than a very difficult divorce when a domestic abuser is involved. But Lawson did divorce him to get free. Many women don’t divorce their abusers, and many others endure the abuse for years, sometimes decades, before having the wherewithal to leave an abuser.

But the types of abuse that aren’t visible, such as emotional abuse, can be far more harmful and enduring.  Some survive those abuses intact. Mariah Carey said in 2009, a dozen years after her divorce from Tommy Mottola, Chairman CEO of Sony Music, who signed her to Sony and then ran her career, that he emotionally abused her and that he completely controlled her. (Mottola brags about his abuse of Carey in his 2013 memoir, Hitmaker.  He is proud of the abuse and says it was part of what caused her success.) Carey, too, was strong enough to get out of an abusive relationship and thrive.

In my experience, a woman who does not suffer visible injuries sometimes does not receive the support she deserves when she decides to leave her abuser. In those cases, there are those who tell her she’s being unreasonable or too sensitive, that she shouldn’t break up her family, that sticking it out with her partner is part of marriage, and that she’s not really being abused. None of that is true. But when a woman is a victim of physical abuse, immediate support springs up from all over—and Nigella Lawson’s experience is a prime example.


Another common misconception about DV is that

it only affects women who are economically disadvantaged.


Domestic Violence Can Affect Anyone

I used Nigella Lawson and Mariah Carey as examples because of another common misconception about DV: That it’s a social issue for those who are economically disadvantaged. The truth is, wealthy women, educated women, and privileged women are also victims. DV knows no boundaries. Maybe the misconception exists because the better off a woman is, the less likely she is to come forward and admit that she’s a victim, and the more likely she is to cover it up. Many don’t want the shame and embarrassment, which no woman wants, but an advantaged woman might feel the need to protect her image for reasons that an economically-disadvantaged woman might not.


The Power and Control Wheel

The Power and Control Wheel is used in DV education because it tells so much in so few words. If the wheel is the only thing a reader of this posts reads, I’ll still be satisfied. By looking at the wheel for only a couple of minutes, an abused woman—or someone who knows her well—can identify the types of abuse she suffers. And many women identify for the first time or begin to identify, because understanding DV is a process, that what they endure is abuse, not just a man behaving badly toward them.


How to Get Help if You Are a Victim of Abuse


It is recommended that you protect yourself by clearing your browser history so your abuser does not learn that you are becoming educated about domestic violence because woman is most in danger when she is leaving her abuser or when he is afraid she will leave him.  If your abuser is computer savvy, he still could find out which websites you’ve visited. If you think he might be savvy enough to find out, use a public computer at your local library or get help right away.

You can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline anonymously 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) and speak with a victims’ advocate. As with computers, use someone else’s phone to ensure your safety. You can also chat with a victims advocate through their website.


Other Places You Can Get Immediate Help:

Your state coalition against domestic violence, which you can find here.  State Coalition Search

Or your local domestic violence shelter, which you can find here. Domestic Shelter Search 


The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence is an excellent resource for:

Learning more about DV

Developing a plan to keep yourself safe

Finding other organizations you can call for help

34 replies »

  1. Domestic violence or abuse by either of the partner is what I hate and most of the people detest or speak against. Still it continues. I was really unaware that it prevails in West too. I was under the impression that it is a problem of only the East.
    The exhaustive post is by an advocate. So I appeal to her to do everything to eradicate this social/domestic evil.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Domestic abuse knows no boundaries. Some of it exists because of established cultural and societal roles– that the man is the boss and the woman must serve and obey him. In the West, we are changing those roles, but there are still many who adhere to them. But there is still abuse, and it’s for a different reason. It’s because a partner, usually a man, wants to have power and control over the other. My theory is that this is because he feels inferior, not good enough, so he tries to transfer that to the woman. When he has finally broken her down and made her feel inferior and worthless, he then feels superior to her. Also, abusers are bullies. They are cowards. Some courts in the U.S. order men who have committed acts of domestic violence or abuse to complete a program for anger management. Anger management is not the problem. If it were the problem, he would be treating other people that way, but he’s not. He’s managing his anger very well, directing it only at her.

      I wish I could eradicate domestic violence. The U.S. government is working hard to combat and reduce it. When our Vice President, Joseph Biden, was a senator, he drafted a bill that became law, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Among other things, it established the Dept. of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women, which functions in so many ways I cannot list them all here.

      In the U.S. we also have a host of coalitions and organizations dedicated to serving victims of domestic violence, educate people on it, work on legislation to combat it, and try to end it. I’m sure that in every mission statement, they say their purpose is to end it. That’s a nice thought.

      But the truth is, domestic violence will never be eradicated. All we can do is fight it.

      Education is the first step. Teaching teens which behaviors are acceptable and not acceptable is crucial, I believe. If I had my way, all children who attend public schools would be taught about domestic violence when they are taught sex ed. Dating violence is a major problem, and it occurs among middle and high school students. I think the Power and Control Wheel should be posted in the girls’ restrooms in schools.

      Another step is that parents must talk with their children about this issue, as we must with many other issues, including drugs and sex. I raised three sons, and I taught them which behaviors were acceptable. We had someone close to us who was abusive to his partner, and my sons saw how wrong it was. That opened up opportunities for us to discuss the subject as well.

      I think that starting with young people is crucial because some DV is due to learned behaviors and we can greatly reduce DV over time by stopping it before it starts. Some courts also order victims of DV to go to counseling. I think that if the couple has children, they should go to counseling also. Children are hurt emotionally by being in a household where abuse occurs, even if the abuse is not directed toward them. It is common for male children to grow up to be abusers. Again, we must stop DV before it starts by getting these young men’s minds straight before they follow in their fathers’ footsteps.


      • I see your education is proactive and your writing skills have greatly improved since the Christmas letters you would send out. In fact I came across one of those letters just the other day it brought back some nice memories of when our kids were in elementary school. I enjoyed your piece on domestic abuse its been a problem since the beginning of humans. I think you hit the nail on the head when you stated that the abuser is insecure and uses the victim to reinforce their need to feel superior or dominant.there are many factors involved in the whys and hows this abuse occurs perhaps its a direct correlation to the way society has been and is depicted through the media including movies,TV,music,music videos and of course the all too depraved internet. With people and groups such as yours I hope we can narrow the gap between the abused and the abusers.

        P.S. I figured you’d be an entertainment lawyer by now,anyway your putting your knowledge and personality to good work and that’s what counts. I hope your and the rest of the family are well.

        Sing-cerely Tom Moore


    • Thanks Ms Gilman. You and the readers/commentators might noted that education sans spiritualism in the name of secularism has led to “Crisis of Character.” This education makes one literate but never makes human. Law may be a deterrent but can never be reformative.
      Reformation comes through education monitored by the family, the society and academic institutions.

      Kindly read my story “God’s Dilemma” which is posted today.


  2. Domestic violence is sad ongoing process of kids that was raised by women that is beaten by a drunk father or a violent boyfriend. Women fail to speak up in many cases because of fear more violent or another place to go to.


  3. I totally agree and unfortunately Domestic Violence is not just in the US but is spread all around the world. Women are not the only victims of domestic violence but men and even animals are being violated too. Anyone who is being abuse should call 911 or 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)!


  4. Incredible!
    I just started blogging last week, and it is a pleasure that I came across your blog.
    It definitely inspired me to publish my first article.
    Thank you 🙂


  5. Fantastic article! I recently (within the last few years) escaped the cycle of abuse and low self-esteem. Despite it taking me twenty years of suffering every manner of abuse coupled with homelessness, I am one of the lucky ones. Many others never survive it.


    Tempted by promises of love
    I went willingly to your bed
    Unaware that your words were lies
    And that I was being mislead

    I was starving for affection
    And was so naïve in my youth
    Believed the lies spilt by your tongue
    As if they were the gospel truth

    The first time that you blacked my eye
    You made a liar out of me
    I covered up your abuses
    So that nobody else could see

    And then I quickly forgave you
    When you apologized that night
    You said you would do anything
    You had to do to make it right

    The next few times went the same way
    You’d say “sorry” and I would cry
    You’d tell me it was my own fault
    When I’d ask you to tell me why

    You convinced me I was worthless
    Who else could love someone like me?
    Erased any inclination
    I might have had on getting free

    Then from there the beatings worsened
    As your temper remained unchecked
    You’d hit and hurl insults
    Until I lost all self respect

    As all my self-esteem faded
    Your power over me would grow
    Still I defended the doctrine
    You reinforced with every blow

    I thought the abuse was better
    Than being unloved and alone
    And the hell I knew was better
    Than any hell that was unknown

    But I’ve finally learned my lesson
    With the last beating that you gave
    You will never hurt me again
    Today they laid me in my grave

    Last Modified: July 20, 2012 at 01:41 am
    © ThePoetDarkling – all rights reserved

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Reblogged this on Life Lessons and commented:
    It a very painful experience when you dont tell anyone and suffer in silence… I did for many years and finally had to let go and express my deep rooted pain.


  7. Wow, Suzannah – excellent piece! This is a great summation of domestic violence – which takes total control over its victims. Seemingly banal discourses and actions are, in the final analysis, an attempt to maintain control.

    A recent piece of mine will likely be of interest to you – as it also addresses domestic violence:

    Liked by 1 person

  8. My ex was a female and I suffered through horrible emotional abuse, mental abuse, and it ended physical. Having to go to court was the finale break for me. Although she and I did not date for a long time? Having to go through such hardship was a battle. I dont wish it upon my enemies ever but there is a way out. Might take a long time or it might take self awareness.. I just hope anyone going through it? Speaks up and seeks help.


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