Help for Friends and Family

What is Domestic Violence?

Domestic violence can happen to anyone regardless of race, age, sexual orientation, religion, or gender. Domestic violence affects people of all socioeconomic backgrounds and education levels. Domestic violence occurs in both opposite-sex and same-sex relationships and can happen to intimate partners who are married, living together, or dating.

Types of Domestic Violence

Types of domestic violence include physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, economic abuse and psychological abuse.

Physical Abuse: Hitting, slapping, shoving, grabbing, pinching, biting, hair pulling, etc are types of physical abuse. This type of abuse also includes denying a partner medical care or forcing alcohol and/or drug use upon him or her.

Sexual Abuse: Coercing or attempting to coerce any sexual contact or behavior without consent. Sexual abuse includes, but is certainly not limited to, marital rape, attacks on sexual parts of the body, forcing sex after physical violence has occurred, or treating one in a sexually demeaning manner.

Emotional Abuse: Undermining an individual's sense of self-worth and/or self-esteem is abusive. This may include, but is not limited to constant criticism, diminishing one's abilities, name-calling, or damaging one's relationship with his or her children.

Economic Abuse: Is defined as making or attempting to make an individual financially dependent by maintaining total control over financial resources, withholding one's access to money, or forbidding one's attendance at school or employment.

Psychological Abuse: Elements of psychological abuse include - but are not limited to - causing fear by intimidation; threatening physical harm to self, partner, children, or partner's family or friends; destruction of pets and property; and forcing isolation from family, friends, or school and/or work.

Domestic violence not only affects those who are abused, but also has a substantial effect on family members, friends, co-workers, other witnesses, and the community at large. Children, who grow up witnessing domestic violence, are among those seriously affected by this crime. Frequent exposure to violence in the home not only predisposes children to numerous social and physical problems, but also teaches them that violence is a normal way of life - therefore, increasing their risk of becoming society's next generation of victims and abusers.

Sources: National Domestic Violence Hotline, National Center for Victims of Crime, and

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Tips for Supporting a Friend or Family Member
  • Acknowledge that they are in a very difficult and scary situation, be supportive and listen
  • Be non-judgmental
  • If they end the relationship, continue to be supportive of them
  • Support battered victims in their efforts to end the violence in their lives. Don't blame them for the abuse
  • Encourage them to participate in activities outside of the relationship with friends and family
  • Help them develop a safety plan
  • If you witness an assault in progress, call the police
  • Encourage them to talk to people who can provide help and guidance
  • Remember that you cannot “rescue” them

Tips for Abusive Partners

If you are an abuser, and you want to change, here are some actions you can take:

  • Admit fully to what you have done
  • Stop making excuses for your behavior
  • Stop blaming your partner for your actions
  • Make amends
  • Accept responsibility (recognizing that abuse is a choice)
  • Identify your patterns of controlling behavior, admit they are wrong
  • Identify the attitudes that drive your abuse
  • Accept that overcoming abusiveness will be a decades-long process, do not declare yourself "cured"
  • Do not say, “so now it’s your turn to do your work”, not using change as a bargaining chip
  • Do not demand credit for improvements you have made
  • Do not treat improvements as chips or vouchers to be spent on occasional acts of abuse (e.g. “I haven’t done anything like this in a long time, so why are you making such a big deal about it?”)
  • Develop respectful, kind, supportive behaviors
  • Carry your weight in your relationship
  • Share power
  • Change how you act in highly heated conflicts
  • Change how your respond to your partner’s (or former partner’s) anger and grievances
  • Change your parenting
  • Change your treatment of your partner as a parent
  • Change your attitudes towards female/male in general
  • Accept the consequences of your actions (including not feeling sorry for yourself about those consequences, and not blaming your partnr or the children)