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What is Abuse?

No one deserves abuse. Abuse comes in many different forms, and some people experience one specific form of abuse, while others experience multiple and overlapping types of abuse.

When someone is abusive, they have a need for power and control over you. Abusers’ actions are not okay. Sometimes abusers blame their behavior on alcohol, drugs, stress, or on things that you have done. This is wrong.

Our culture has normalized abusive behavior, and many people think it is the victim or survivor’s fault. This is not true. Abusers are responsible for their decisions and their behaviors, not you. When people talk about Domestic Violence (DV), they mean abuse that happens between people who are in an intimate relationship. DV is a pattern of behavior that occurs repeatedly in a cycle, as shown here:

Cycle of Abuse

Different Types of Abuse

  • Emotional

    • Insults, put-downs, talking “down” to you
    • Using your identity/identities to shame you (example: “Your Deaf parents are horrible. They didn’t raise you right. Your English is lousy. You’re so stupid.”)
    • Embarrassing you in public
    • Making threats (verbally, or by using expressions, or by displaying weapons)
    • Ignoring or disrespecting your feelings
    • Being jealous, possessive, and/or controlling
    • Making you feel like you need to constantly defend yourself
    • Spying on you
  • Physical

    • Getting in your face or standing over you
    • Blocking your way out of a hall/door
    • Choking you
    • Punching, slapping, kicking, grabbing, burning, cutting, or biting you
    • Throwing or breaking things
    • Punching walls
    • Pulling your hair 
  • Mental

    • Playing mind games with you
    • Twisting everything around so it seems like it’s all your fault and not theirs
    • Accusing you of doing things that they are doing
    • Lying to you
    • Distorting reality to make you feel like you’re losing your mind
    • Threatening to “out” one of your identities to your family, friends, or work
  • Financial

    • Withholding money from you
    • Taking your income (whether it’s Social Security benefits or paychecks from work)
    • Forcing you to get fired or leave your job
    • Shaming you for how you spend money
    • Not allowing you to work or get an education
    • Putting all the bills/credit cards in your name so that they are never responsible
    • Putting all the assets (house, car, etc.) under their name so that you will be less likely to leave
    • Preventing you from using a vehicle
  • Digital

    • Requiring access to all of your online accounts, including email, instant messaging, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, bank, etc.
    • Checking your email and social media websites without your permission
    • Posting cruel messages about you, or private pictures of you, on social media sites
    • Harassing/stalking you via email, text, or private messages on social media sites
    • Texting you constantly to see where you are, who you’re with, and questioning you all the time
  • Sexual

    • Unwanted sexual attention or touching
    • Vulgar comments to you
    • Pressuring you for sex
    • Having sex with you without your enthusiastic consent (rape) – this includes if you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol
    • Forcing you to have unprotected sex
    • Forcing you to get pregnant or to have an abortion
    • Forcing you to have sex with other people or to watch them have sex with someone else
    • Forcing you to use or participate in pornography

It can be helpful to look at this Power & Control Wheel, and use it as a checklist. If you are experiencing anything that is written on the wheel, it may be a sign that you are in an abusive relationship. Please consider seeking out help from a DOVE advocate, or from other support systems.

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