Types of Domestic Abuse and Subtle Forms of Maintaining Power & Control

Domestic Abuse and Subtle Forms of Maintaining Power & ControlDomestic abuse, also known as domestic violence, intimate partner violence (IPV), dating abuse, or relationship abuse is defined as “a pattern of behaviors used by one partner to maintain power and control over another partner in an intimate relationship”. Types of abuse can include physical violence, sexual violence, stalking, psychological harm through emotional or verbal abuse, financial abuse, and digital abuse.

While physical assault and sexual violence may be some of the more obvious types of abuse, let’s look at some more subtle forms of abuse within intimate relationships within several scenarios.

Scenario #1:

Themes: checking, stalking, and intimidation

Your partner recently bought you a brand-new cell phone (or laptop) but lately, you have a feeling as if you are being watched. Your partner is constantly checking in with you during the day on your new device, demanding why it took so long to respond. They seem to recall details of your personal conversations that you did not share, actively monitor all your social media activity, and just “happen to be” in the same physical location when you are somewhere other than work or home which is starting to intimidate you.

Scenario #2

Themes: sexual-coercion, exploiting w/ drugs/ alcohol, gaslighting

Your partner is expecting sex even though you are not in the mood, pressuring you to engage in a certain sex act in which you are not comfortable, questioning your love, and making comments that they could get their needs met with someone else. They respond in anger and attempt to make you feel guilty, accusing you of not being committed to the relationship. You agree to move on. Your partner gives you multiple drinks to “loosen up” and have a good time. You wake up the next morning to find out that they got what they wanted despite a lack of consent. Your partner tells you that “you are overreacting”, and that “it’s your fault for drinking too much”.

Scenario #3

Themes: Control of resources, emotional abuse, creating dependency, checking

You are at home caring for the kids while your partner is at work. They have complete access to the car and finances. You are allocated an allowance each week and are not allowed to spend any money or go anywhere without permission. When you use the car, your mileage is tracked. You have wanted a part-time job, but your partner tells you that they will take care of you and that your place is at home—that you will never go far due to lack of education, physical appearance, and/ or mental instability and that no one would want to hire you. You feel that the relationship has created an unhealthy dependency.

These scenarios highlight several forms of abuse that are unfortunately quite common. According to a January 2020 article published in the Journal of Family Violence, 62-72% of women have been stalked and 60-63% have experienced technology-based abuse from an intimate partner. While this study especially looked at women, intimate partner violence occurs in all genders.

In “technology-enabled coercive control” domestic-abusers-can-control-your-devices to keep track of their interactions and whereabouts. Be aware of patterns of behaviors that are used by a partner to maintain power and control.

You may be surprised to know that behaviors in your relationship such as repeated attempts for sex after setting a boundary/ declining consent, making sudden moves such as removing clothing with the expectation of sex, and pressuring for sex are things to look out for with how-to-spot-sexual-coercion. Furthermore, unhealthy relational dynamics can create dependency and feed into an unhealthy cycle of abuse.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline (800-799-SAFE) 1-800-799-7233 is available 24/7 for free, confidential support.

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