Domestic Violence

What is domestic violence?

Domestic violence is a pattern of coercive behavior used by one person in order to maintain power and control in an intimate relationship. Domestic violence includes actual or threatened physical, sexual, psychological or economic abuse. It occurs between persons who are current or former sexual, intimate partners or who live in the same household, regardless of sexual orientation. Victims and abusers come from all age groups and social classes. Ninety-five percent of victims of domestic violence are women.

About Domestic Violence

Domestic violence is not physical violence alone. Domestic violence is any behavior the purpose of which is to gain power and control over a spouse, partner, girl/boyfriend or intimate family member. Abuse is a learned behavior; it is not caused by anger, mental problems, drugs or alcohol, or other common excuses.

Types of Domestic Violence

When the general public thinks about domestic violence, they usually think in terms of physical assault that results in visible injuries to the victim. This is only one type of abuse. There are several categories of abusive behavior, each of which has its own devastating consequences. Lethality involved with physical abuse may place the victim at higher risk, but the long term destruction of personhood that accompanies the other forms of abuse is significant and cannot be minimized.

Please explore the following sections to learn more about how to identify domestic violence.

Types of Abuse:

  • Control
  • Physical Abuse
  • Sexual Abuse
  • Emotional Abuse & Intimidation
  • Isolation
  • Verbal Abuse: Coercion, Threats, & Blame
  • Economic Abuse

Control Controlling behavior is a way for the batterer to maintain his/her dominance over the victim. Controlling behavior, the belief that he/she is justified in the controlling behavior, and the resultant abuse is the core issue in abuse of victims. It is often subtle, almost always insidious, and pervasive. This may include but is not limited to:

  • Checking the mileage on the odometer following his/her use of the car.
  • Monitoring phone calls, using caller ID or other number monitoring devises, not allowing them to make or receive phone calls.
  • Not allowing them freedom of choice in terms of clothing styles, makeup or hairstyle.
  • Calling or coming home unexpectedly to check up on him/her. This may initially start as what appears to be a loving gesture, but becomes a sign of jealousy or possessiveness.
  • Invading their privacy by not allowing them time and space of their own.
  • Forcing or encouraging his/her dependency by making them believe that they are incapable of surviving or performing simple tasks without the batterer or on their own.
  • Using the children to control the other parent by using the children as spies, threatening to kill, hurt or kidnap the children, physical and/or sexual abuse of the children, and threats to call Child Protective Services if the other parent leaves the relationship.

Physical Abuse Physical abuse is any physically aggressive behavior, withholding of physical needs, indirect physically harmful behavior, or threat of physical abuse. This may include but is not limited to:

  • Hitting, kicking, biting, slapping, shaking, pushing, pulling, punching, choking, beating, scratching, pinching, pulling hair, stabbing, shooting, drowning, burning, hitting with an object, threatening with a weapon, or threatening to physically assault.
  • Withholding of physical needs including interruption of sleep or meals, denying money, food, transportation, or help if sick or injured, locking victim into or out of the house, refusing to give or rationing necessities.
  • Abusing, injuring, or threatening to injure others like children, pets, or special property.
  • Forcible physical restraint against another person's will, being trapped in a room or having the exit blocked, being held down.
  • The batterer hitting or kicking walls, doors, or other inanimate objects during an argument, throwing things in anger,destruction of property.
  • Holding the victim hostage.

Sexual Abuse Sexual abuse is using sex in an exploitative fashion or forcing sex on another person. Having consented to sexual activity in the past does not indicate current consent. Sexual abuse may involve both verbal and physical behavior. This may include, but is not limited to:

  • Using force, coercion, guilt, or manipulation or not considering the victim’s desire to have sex. This may include making them have sex with others, have unwanted sexual experiences, or be involuntarily involved in prostitution.
  • Exploiting a victim who is unable to make an informed decision about involvement in sexual activity because of being asleep, intoxicated, drugged, disabled, too young, too old, or dependent upon or afraid of the perpetrator.
  • Laughing or making fun of another’s sexuality or body, making offensive statements, insulting, or name-calling in relation to the victim’s sexual preferences/behavior.
  • Making contact with the victim in any nonconsensual way, including unwanted penetration (oral, anal or vaginal) or touching (stroking, kissing, licking, sucking or using objects) on any part of the victim’s body.
  • Exhibiting excessive jealousy resulting in false accusations of infidelity and controlling behaviors to limit the victim’s contact with the outside world.
  • Having affairs with other people and using that information to taunt the victim.
  • Withholding sex from the victim as a control mechanism.

Emotional Abuse & Intimidation Emotional abuse is any behavior that exploits anther’s vulnerability, insecurity, or character. Such behaviors include continuous degradation, intimidation, manipulation, brainwashing, or control of another to the detriment of the individual. This may include but is not limited to:

  • Insulting or criticizing to undermine the victim’s self-confidence. This includes public humiliation, as well as actual or threatened rejection.
  • Threatening or accusing, either directly or indirectly, with intention to cause emotional or physical harm or loss. For instance, threatening to kill the victim or himself, or both.
  • Using reality distorting statements or behaviors that create confusion and insecurity in the victim like saying one thing and doing another, stating untrue facts as truth, and neglecting to follow through on stated intentions. This can include denying the abuse occurred and/or telling the victim they are making up the abuse.
  • Consistently disregarding, ignoring, or neglecting the victim’s requests and needs.
  • Using actions, statements or gestures that attack the victim’s self-esteem and self-worth with the intention to humiliate.
  • Telling the victim that they are mentally unstable or incompetent.
  • Forcing the victim to take drugs or alcohol.
  • Not allowing the victim to practice religious beliefs, isolating them from the religious community, or using religion as an excuse for abuse.
  • Using any form of coercion or manipulation which is disempowering to the victim.

Isolation Isolation is a form of abuse often closely connected to controlling behaviors. It is not an isolated behavior, but the outcome of many kinds of abusive behaviors. By keeping the victim from seeing who they want to see, doing what they want to do, setting and meeting goals, and controlling how they think and feel, the abuser is isolating them from the resources (personal and public) which may help them  leave the relationship. By keeping the victim socially isolated the batterer is keeping them from contact with the world which might not reinforce the abuser's perceptions and beliefs. Isolation often begins as an expression of their love for the victim with statements like, "if you really loved me you would want to spend time with me, not your family."  As it progresses, the isolation expands, limiting or excluding the victim's  contact with anyone but the batterer. Eventually, they are left totally alone and without the internal and external resources to change their life.
Some victims isolate themselves from existing resources and support systems because of the shame of bruises or other injuries, the abuser's behavior in public, or the abuser's treatment of friends or family. Self-isolation may also develop from fear of public humiliation or from fear of harm to themselves or others. The victim may also feel guilty for the abuser’s behavior, the condition of the relationship, or a myriad of other reasons, depending on the messages received from the abuser.

Verbal Abuse: Coercion, Threats, & Blame Verbal abuse is any abusive language used to denigrate, embarrass or threaten the victim. This may include but is not limited to:

  • Threatening to hurt or kill the victim or their children, family, pets, property or reputation.
  • Name calling (‘ugly’, ‘bitch’, ‘whore’, or ‘stupid’)
  • Telling victim that they are unattractive or undesirable.
  • Yelling, screaming, rampaging, terrorizing or refusing to talk

Economic Abuse Financial abuse is a way to control the victim through manipulation of economic resources.
This may include, but is not limited to:

  • Controlling the family income and either not allowing the victim access to money or rigidly limiting access to family funds. This may also include keeping financial secrets or hidden accounts, putting the victim on an allowance or allowing no say in how money is spent, or making the victim turn their paycheck over to the abuser. Causing the victim to lose a job or preventing them from taking a job. The abuser can make a victim lose their job by making him/her late for work, refusing to provide transportation to work, or by calling/harassing/calling him/her at work.
  • Spending money for necessities (food, rent, utilities) on nonessential items (drugs, alcohol, stereo equipment, hobbies.)

WV Licensed Domestic Violence Programs:

Beckley - 304-255-2559
Charleston - 304-340-3549
Elkins - 304-636-8433
Fairmont - 304-367-1100
Huntington - 304-529-2382
Keyser - 304-788-6061
Lewisburg - 304-645-6334
Martinsburg - 304-263-8292
Morgantown - 304-292-5100
Parkersburg - 304-428-2333
Welch - 304-436-8117
Wheeling - 304-232-2748
Williamson - 304-235-6121