Domestic Violence

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What is Domestic Violence

Domestic violence is the willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, and/or other abusive behavior. 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 power and control over the abused person or persons.

Who Does Domestic Violence Affect?

Domestic violence affects individuals in every community, regardless of age, economic status, sexual orientation, gender, race, religion or nationality. It is often accompanied by emotionally abusive and controlling behavior. Domestic violence can result in physical injury, psychological trauma, and in severe cases, even death. The devastating physical, emotional, and psychological consequences of domestic violence can cross generations and last a lifetime.

Forms of Domestic Violence

Domestic Violence can take many forms, including physical, emotional, sexual, and economic abuse. Emotional and psychological abuse can often be just as extreme as physical violence. Lack of physical violence does not mean the abuser is any less dangerous to the victim, nor does it mean the victim is any less trapped by the abuse.

To learn more about these forms of abuse, please view the Power and Control Wheel which shows the different ways abusers act, including less easily identifiable patterns of abusive behavior.

DV power and control wheel
Abuse Often Develops and Escalates Over Time
It is not always easy to determine in the early stages of a relationship if one person will become abusive. Domestic violence intensifies over time. Abusers may often seem wonderful and perfect initially, but gradually become more aggressive and controlling. Abuse may begin with behaviors that may easily be dismissed or downplayed, such as name-calling, threats, possessiveness or distrust. Abusers may apologize profusely for their actions or try to convince the person they are abusing that they do these things out of love or care. However, violence and control always intensifies over time with an abuser, despite the apologies. What may start out 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.). 

Some examples of abusive behaviors include, but are not limited to:

  • Telling the victim they can never do anything right
  • Showing jealousy of the victim’s family and friends and time spent away
  • Accusing the victim of cheating 
  • Keeping or discouraging the victim from seeing friends or family members 
  • Embarrassing or shaming the victim with put-downs 
  • Controlling every penny spent in the household 
  • Taking the victim’s money or refusing to give them money for expenses 
  • Looking at or acting in ways that scare the person they are abusing 
  • Controlling who the victim sees, where they go, or what they do 
  • Dictating how the victim dresses, wears their hair, etc. 
  • Stalking the victim or monitoring their victim’s every move (in person or also via the internet and/or other devices such as GPS tracking or the victim’s phone) 
  • Preventing the victim from making their own decisions
  • Telling the victim they are a bad parent or threatening to hurt, kill, or take away their children 
  • Threatening to hurt or kill the victim’s friends, loved ones or pets Intimidating the victim with guns, knives or other weapons 
  • Pressuring the victim to have sex when they don’t want to, or to do things sexually they are not comfortable with 
  • Forcing sex with others 
  • Refusing to use protection when having sex or sabotaging birth control Pressuring or forcing the victim to use drugs or alcohol 
  • Preventing the victim from working or attending school, harassing the victim at either, keeping their victim up all night so they perform badly at their job or in school 
  • Destroying the victim’s property 

Barriers to Leaving Abusive Relationships

Unfair blame is frequently put upon the victim of abuse because of assumptions that victims choose to stay in abusive relationships. The truth is, bringing an end to abuse is not a matter of the victim choosing to leave, it is a matter of the victim being able to safely escape their abuser, the abuser choosing to stop the abuse, or others (e.g., law enforcement, courts) holding the abuser accountable for the abuse they inflict.

Domestic violence does not always end when the victim escapes the abuser, tries to terminate the relationship and/or seeks help. Often, it intensifies because the abuser feels a loss of control over the victim. Abusers frequently continue to stalk, harass, threaten and try to control the victim after the victim escapes. In fact, the victim is often in the most danger directly following the escape of the relationship or when they seek help.


  • One in four women(25%) has experienced domestic violence in her lifetime. 
  • Estimates range from 960,000 incidents of violence against a current or former spouse, boyfriend, or girlfriend to 3 million women who are physically abused by their husband or boyfriend per year. 
  • Women accounted for 85% of the victims of intimate partner violence. 
  • Between 600,000 and 6 million women are victims of domestic violence each year. 
  • Women ages 20-24 are at the greatest risk of nonfatal intimate partner violence. 
  • Between 1993 and 2004 intimate partner violence on average made up 22% of nonfatal intimate partner victimizations against women. 
  • Separated and divorced males and females are at a greater risk of nonfatal intimate partner violence. 
  • Studies show that access to shelter services leads to a 60-70% reduction in incidents and severity of re-assault during the 3-12 month follow-up period compared to women who did not access shelter. Shelter services led to greater reduction in severe re-assault than did seeking court or law enforcement protection, or moving to a new location. Shelter services can assist women with court proceedings such as order of protections against her abuser. Most shelters provide some type of counseling services for the abused and her children. 

What are my options if I’m a victim of domestic violence?

  • Contact a women’s shelter for counselling or emergency housing 
  • Notify the local police department regarding criminal charges 
  • Outpatient therapy programs 
  • Obtain an Ex-parte/Order of Protection from the local county government (Adult Abuse Offices). The Ex-parte/Order of Protection is a court order not allowing the abuser to be around the victim

Resources for Victims:

  • Bridgeway Women’s Center, phone: 636-946-6854 
  • Women’s Safe House, phone: 314-772-4535 
  • St.Martha’s Hall, phone: 314-533-1313 
  • Wienman Center, phone: 314-423-1117 
  • Fortress Outreach, phone: 314-381-4422 
  • Violence Prevention Center of South Western Illinois, phone: 618-235-0892 
  • Alive, phone: 314-993-7080
*For additional counselling referrals or social service agencies, call Victim Services Division of the St. Louis County Prosecutor’s Office at: 314-615-4872.

Additional Sources of Information