Domestic Violence/Intimate Partner Abuse

The term “domestic violence” can be more accurately termed as “intimate partner abuse” for two reasons. First, “domestic” implies that the violence takes place in the home. Whereas, the violence can take place anywhere, and the partners do not need to be living together for there to be an abusive relationship. Second, “violence” usually means physical abuse, but there are four other types of abuse commonly employed by abusers, Sexual Abuse, Emotional Abuse, Financial Abuse and Identity Abuse. For these reasons, the term “intimate partner abuse” is a more inclusive and accurate term.

A Definition

GMDVP’s definition of intimate partner abuse is:

An intentional (consciously or subconsciously) and methodical pattern of abusive tactics used to gain power and to exert control over the partner in order to meet the abuser’s needs.

Each element of this definition is important in understanding intimate partner abuse:

Intentional: The abuser consciously or subconsciously deliberately sets out to use abusive tactics to achieve his/her ends. The abuser chooses to abuse and he/she can choose to stop abusing at any time.

Methodical: The abuser systematically uses a series of abusive tactics to gain power over the partner and to control him.

Pattern: The abused partner often at first sees the abusive tactics as isolated and unrelated incidents, but they are really a series of related acts that form a pattern of behaviors.

Tactics: The abuser uses a variety of tactics to gain power and to control his/her partner.

Power: The abuser aims to acquire and employ power in the relationship. For example, the abuser may use force or threats of physical harm to intimidate his/her partner, thereby gaining physical and emotional power. Or the abuser may prohibit the partner from working, making the partner financially dependent on the abuser, and thereby gaining financial power.

Control: With sufficient power, the abuser can control his/her partner – forcing or coercing him to do as the abuser wishes. For example, with power, the abuser controls the decision-making for the relationship, controls who has social contact with the partner or determines the sexual practices of the partner.

Needs: The abuser’s ultimate goal is to get his/her emotional and physical needs met and he/she aims to selfishly make use of his/her partner to meet those needs. Most abusers are afraid their needs will not be fulfilled through a normal healthy relationship. Fear drives them to use abuse to ensure that their needs will be met.

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