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  • Writer's pictureApril Hardy

What is Relationship Abuse?

Updated: Mar 1, 2019

The National Domestic Violence Hotline defines Intimate Partner Abuse (aka Domestic Abuse, Relationship Abuse) as: A pattern of behavior used by one partner to maintain power and control over another partner in an intimate relationship.  That definition is very broad and open, which I believe is their point. 

I prefer the term Intimate Partner Violence over Domestic or Relationship Abuse because it is kind of all encompassing, whether you’re dating or married or living together, heterosexual or homosexual, it covers them all. 

These behaviors may cause physical harm, which is what I believed Intimate Partner Violence to be for most of my life.  I believed that physical violence was the only thing that was Domestic Violence and so I didn’t believe that I qualified – because I hadn’t been knocked out or had the crap beaten out of me.  So I didn’t feel like that was me.  Unfortunately it was me.  Hopefully I can give you a basic understanding here.

Not only can their behavior cause physical harm, but it can and does cause FEAR.  Fear, more than physical violence, is what gives a partner control over you.  Physical violence is just one method of causing fear.  Fear is what prevents a partner from doing what they want to do and/or forces them to do what they do not want to do, which is also Intimate Partner Violence (IPV).  IPV can include physical and sexual violence, threats and intimidation, emotional abuse, economic deprivation (aka financial abuse – a type of abuse that I believe is not addressed enough).

On my Information and Resources page I do have a Power and Control Wheel graphic.  I remember looking at that for the first time while I was still a teenager and it was informative to me even then.  It basically lists out some examples of physical violence, coercion and threats, intimidation, stalking, emotional abuse, isolation, minimizing, denying, or blaming, using others, using privilege and oppression, and economic abuse.  It lists out different types of those, gives you a picture, which you can better identify with than just a concept. 


Looks, actions, or gestures that make you afraid ~ smashing things, destroying your property, abusing pets, displaying weapons, punching the walls, sliding their finger across their throat, acting like they’re shooting you with their fingers, shooting you with a BB gun, making threats using technology

Using Emotional Abuse:

Put-downs, name calling, making you feel bad about yourself, making you believe you’re crazy, mind games, humiliating you, making you feel guilty, invalidating your feelings

Using Economic Abuse:

Preventing you from getting or keeping a job, making you ask/beg for money, giving you an allowance, taking your money, not letting you know about or have access to the family income

Using Children:

Making you feel guilty about the children, using the children to relay messages to you, using visitation to harass you, threatening to take the children away, buying the children excessive gifts to manipulate them to prefer the other parent over you, telling the children bad things or lies about you to make them hate you, allowing them to violate your rules during visits just to spite you, threatening to harm or actually harming the children to control your behavior

Minimizing, Denying, Blaming:

Making light of the abuse and not taking your concerns about it seriously, saying the abuse didn’t happen, saying that the abuse was your fault, saying that the abuse was because of their job, alcohol, or anything else besides them,

Using Isolation:

Controlling what you do, controlling who you talk to, cutting off or limiting your technology use and access, tracking/monitoring your whereabouts to prevent you from contacting others, using technology to discredit you personally or professionally, sending damaging or inappropriate messages/emails/social media posts pretending to be you    

Guys Using Male Privilege:

Treating her like a servant, making all of the big decisions, acting like the “master of the castle,” being the one to define men’s and women’s roles  

Have you had tactics used that were not listed above?  Please share them here or email me with them so that I can add them.  I know there are many more!


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