Domestic violence and sexual assault

What is domestic violence?

Domestic violence is the willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault and other abusive behavior as part of a systematic pattern of power and control perpetrated by one intimate partner against another. It includes physical violence, sexual violence, psychological violence and emotional abuse.

The frequency and severity of domestic violence can vary dramatically. However, the one constant component of domestic violence is one partner's consistent efforts to maintain power and control over the other.

Domestic violence can happen to anyone, regardless of race, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, religion, gender, socioeconomic background, education level or any other aspect of diversity.

What does abuse include?

Abuse may begin with easily dismissed or downplayed behaviors such as name-calling, threats, possessiveness, or distrust. Abusers may apologize profusely for their actions or try to convince the abusing person that they do these things out of love or care.

However, violence and control always intensify over time with an abuser, despite the apologies. What may start as something that was first believed to be harmless (e.g., wanting the victim to spend all their time only with them because they love them so much) escalates into extreme control and abuse (e.g., threatening to kill or hurt the victim or others if they speak to family, friends, etc.). 

Know the signs

Power and control wheel

The power and control wheel describes how abusers and batterers do things to gain power and control over another person – usually their intimate partner. Power and control are central to patterns of abusive and violent relationships.

Domestic violence refers to, includes and is also called: intimate partner violence, intimate violence, domestic terrorism and coercive control.

Abuse power control wheel