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What is Domestic Violence?

Domestic violence is the willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, and/or other abusive behavior as part of a systematic pattern of power and control perpetrated by a spouse, partner, parent, sibling, or other member of the household.

Although it’s a crime, domestic violence is common and occurs regardless of age, gender, economic status, race, religion, or education level, and includes physical violence, sexual violence, threats, and emotional abuse.

Domestic abuse and intimate partner violence can take many forms. Some leave physical evidence; others are more subtle, being seen or felt only by the victim. Some involve a combination of abusive tactics. Either way, the abuser is always trying to maintain power and control.

There is an overall misperception that domestic violence is simply physical abuse. And people always blame the women – ‘you must have done something.’

Former Saint Martha’s Resident

There are four main types of abuse:

Physical Abuse

  • Scratches, bites, grabs, or spits at her
  • Shakes, shoves, pushes, restrains, or throws her
  • Twists, slaps, punches, strangles, or burns the victim
  • Throws objects at her
  • Subjects her to reckless driving
  • Acts out physically during an argument, throwing or destroying property
  • Harming or threatening to harm children, pets, or special property
  • Forced physical restraint against her will
  • Locks her in or out of the house
  • Refuses to help when she is sick, injured, or pregnant, or withholds medication and treatment
  • Holding her hostage
  • Withholds food as punishment
  • Withholds money or transportation
  • Abuses her at mealtime, which disrupts eating patterns and can result in malnutrition
  • Abuses her at night, which disrupts sleeping patterns and can result in sleep deprivation
  • Attacks her with weapons or kills her.

Sexual Abuse

  • Is excessively jealous and angry, falsely accusing her of infidelity, isolating and controlling her
  • Withholds sex and affection as punishment
  • Calls her sexual names like “whore” and “frigid”
  • Mocks or ridicules her sexuality or body
  • Uses force, coercion, guilt, manipulation, or threats to have sex
  • Insists that she dress in a more sexual way than she wants
  • Physically forces sex or is sexually violent
  • Coerces her into sexual acts that she is uncomfortable with, such as sex with a third party, physically painful sex, sexual activity she finds offensive or degrading

Emotional or Psychological Abuse

  • Breaks promises, doesn’t follow through on agreements, or doesn’t take fair share of responsibility
  • Isolates her from others
  • Calls her names like “ugly”, “bitch”, or “stupid”
  • Verbally attacks and humiliates her in private or public
  • Attacks her vulnerabilities such as her physical appearance, educational level, skills as a parent, religious and cultural beliefs, or language abilities
  • Plays mind games, such as when he denies requests he has made previously or when he undercuts her sense of reality
  • Ignores her feelings
  • Ridicules or insults women as a group
  • Withholds approval, appreciation or affection as punishment
  • Regularly threatens to leave or tells her to leave
  • Harasses her about affairs he imagines her to be having
  • Stalks her physically
  • Stalks or monitors her phone use or online communications, hacking into email, social media, tracking her location, demanding passwords
  • Always claims to be right
  • Unfaithful after committing to monogamy
  • Threatens to kidnap children if she leaves
  • Threatens to harm pets if she leaves
  • Threatens to harm others or himself if she leaves

Economic Abuse

  • Controls all the money
  • Doesn’t let her work outside the home or sabotages her attempts to work or go to school
  • Destroys important financial or legal documents
  • Refuses to work and makes her support the family
  • Ruins her credit rating
  • Keeps financial secrets or hidden accounts
  • Causes her to lose her job
  • Spends money for necessities (food, rent, utilities) on nonessential items (drugs, alcohol, hobbies)

If you have experienced any of these forms of abuse, know that you are worthy of love and deserve better. You are not alone. We are here to support you and can get you the help you need. To speak to an advocate at the drop-in center, call (314) 487-2062 or through our 24/7 hotline (314) 533-1313.

Saint Martha’s serves women and children who are impacted by domestic violence by providing shelter and resources.
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