Despite the image of some big scary person losing total control and beating their partner, domestic violence is actually not due to an abuser’s loss of control. In fact, it’s a deliberate choice an abuser makes in order to gain control over his / her partner.
As a general rule, domestic abuse or intimate partner violence as it’s now frequently called, happens when one person in an intimate relationship tries to control and dominate another person. Often, an abuser will use intimidation to gain power over their partner. They may threaten and / or physically hurt others as a means of manipulation and control.
The following are a list of tactics that an abusive person may use in order to gain control over another person.
Dominance – abusive individuals need to feel in control of the relationship and will often make attempts to dominate their partner through making decisions for them and for family members. They may tell them what to do, how to act, what to say, and they often expect their partners to be obedient and submissive.
Humiliation – An abuser will go out of his / her way to make a person feel badly about themselves or that there is something wrong with them. Insults, name-calling, public put-downs are all geared to keep their partner believing that they are powerless to leave.
Isolation – An abusive partner will try to cut off their partner from family, friends and other social outlets. Many abused partners have felt like they needed to quit school and / or work in order to keep their abusers happy. Many abused individuals have to ask permission before they are allowed to do anything or go anywhere.
Threats – Abusers will often use threats in order to keep their abused partner from leaving and / or from calling for help. They may threaten to hurt their partners, family members, children, pets and even themselves.
Intimidation – Abusers often use a variety of intimidation tactics in order to scare their partners into submission. This could include smashing or breaking things, putting weapons out on display, looks and gestures meant to scare others, taking things away as punishment and any other gesture that insinuates violence if the abused person doesn’t obey.
Denial and blame – An abusive person is often very good at blaming everyone else for their behaviour. They may blame their bad upbringing, their childhood, their friends, their own children, their boss, their neighbourhood and often the abused person themselves for making them become angry and making the abuse happen. They will often deny the abuse and / or minimize it, saying it was justified.
When these behaviours form a pattern, the relationship is abusive. Many people will live in an abusive relationship for years because they don’t feel like they have any other choice.
For more information, please contact your local victim services or women’s shelter for information, support and assistance.