Domestic violence is a pattern of behavior used to gain or maintain power and control over an intimate partner. Domestic violence can happen to anyone regardless of gender, ethnicity, age, education, religion, class, disability status, sexual orientation, or other characteristics. It can happen among couples who are married, living together, or dating.

Abuse can take many forms and often begins with the abuser exerting control over certain parts of their partner’s life. The abuse then progresses in frequency and intensity.

Forms of abuse

  • Physical: Any forceful or violent behavior
  • Emotional: Any abuse that attacks someone’s self-esteem and definitions of who they are
  • Economic: The use of finances to control or limit a partner
  • Psychological: Any abuse with the threat of violence, including fear, pain, and degradation

Many survivors and families realize after physical abuse begins that emotional, economic, or psychological abuse were present during the early stages of the relationship.

People tend to recognize domestic violence as the physical act of a male spouse or partner physically harming a wife or girlfriend. However, power and control issues are prevalent in all types of relationships, and can include female abuse of a partner. Teen dating violence; violence within gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender relationships; violence against people with disabilities; and violence against Deaf people of all identities are often overlooked.

The term “domestic violence” is often referred to as “intimate partner violence.” All forms of intimate partner violence (IPV) can be traumatic.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

  • Over one in four women and one in seven men in the U.S. have experienced severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime.
  • Among the consequences of IPV are severe physical and reproductive health problems, psychological conditions, negative health behaviors, (i.e., engaging in high-risk sexual behaviors, using harmful substances, unhealthy diet-related behaviors and overuse of health services) and social consequences.
  • Nationally, victims of severe IPV lose nearly 8 million days of paid work — the equivalent of more than 32,000 full-time jobs — and almost 5.6 million days of household productivity each year.
  • According to TCFV, 228 Texans were killed by an intimate partner in 2020.
  • Data from U.S. crime reports suggest that 16% (about one in six) of murder victims are killed by an intimate partner, and over 40% of female homicide victims are killed by an intimate partner.
  • According to the nonprofit organization Everytown for Gun Safety, of the 156 mass shootings that occurred in the United States between 2009 and 2016, 54% were related to domestic or family violence.

The reality of domestic violence

REALITY: No one deserves to be abused. The only person responsible for the abuse is the abuser. Physical violence, even among family members, is wrong and against the law.

REALITY: There are many reasons why a person may not leave their abusive partner, including fear for themselves, their children, and even their pets. Not leaving does not mean that the situation is okay or that the victim wants to be abused. The most dangerous time for a person who is being abused is when they try to leave or after they have done so.

REALITY: Although many abusive partners abuse alcohol and/or drugs, this is not the underlying cause of the abuse. Many abusive partners use alcohol and/or drugs as tools to assist in violent acts and then use the substance as an excuse to explain their violence.

REALITY: Abusive partners are in control of their actions: they choose to be violent to their partner and hurt them in ways they might never hurt someone else. Their violence is about control over that person. They may otherwise present as peaceful and “charming” people in other relationships (friends, family, workplace, place of worship, etc.).

REALITY: Domestic violence is not a personal problem; in fact, it affects everyone, from the children and family of those directly affected to friends and community members.

Warning signs of domestic violence

Do you…

  • Feel afraid of your partner much of the time?
  • Hear your partner saying you can’t do anything right?
  • Get embarrassed by your partner’s behavior toward you?
  • Believe that you deserve to be hurt or mistreated?
  • Avoid topics or situations out of fear of angering your partner?

Abusive behaviors — when a loved one or caretaker…

  • Humiliates, criticizes, or yells at you
  • Blames you for their behavior
  • Threatens to hurt you, your kids, or pets
  • Makes you engage in sexual acts against your will
  • Doesn’t respect your choice to use birth control
  • Acts jealous and possessive
  • Keeps you from seeing friends and family
  • Threatens to “out” you to family or co-workers
  • Limits your access to money, necessities, and personal documents
  • Withholds medication and limits your access to healthcare
  • Constantly checks up on you (in person, phone/text, through social media)
  • Posts inappropriate or sexually explicit messages on your website/blog
  • Damages, breaks, or steals technology that you need to assist with daily living or to do your schoolwork or job
  • Installs spyware or other computer software to monitor your online activity
  • Threatens to kill or hurt him/herself if you leave

Concerned about a friend or loved one? Do they…

  • Have frequent injuries resulting from “accidents?”
  • Frequently and suddenly miss work or school or cancel plans?
  • Receive a lot of calls/texts from their partner?
  • Fear their partner, or refer to a partner’s rages or behavior?
  • Tend to have trouble saying no to anything that their partner asks for?
  • Isolate from friends and family?

If you are concerned about how you are being treated in your relationship, you can learn more about how SAFE can help.


National Domestic Violence Hotline —

Texas Council on Family Violence —

Forge Forward —

Futures without Violence —

If you are unsure if you or someone you know is in a violent or controlling relationship, contact SAFEline by calling 512.267.SAFE (7233), texting 737.888.7233, or chatting at