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What is abuse?

Who are the abusers?

Who are the victims?

Warning Signs

Common Myths & Whay They Are Wrong


What is abuse?

—Many people who are being abused do not see themselves as victims. Also, abusers do not see themselves as being abusive. People often think of domestic violence as physical violence, such as hitting. However, domestic violence takes other forms, such as psychological, emotional, or sexual abuse.
—Domestic violence is about one person in a relationship using a pattern of behaviors to control the other person. It can happen to people who are married or not married; heterosexual, gay, or lesbian; living together, separated, or dating.
**If your partner repeatedly uses one or more of the following to control you:

  • -pushing, hitting, slapping, choking, kicking, or biting
  • -threatening you, your children, other family members or pets
  • -threatening suicide to get you to do something
  • -using or threatening to use a weapon against you
  • -keeping or taking your paycheck
  • -puts you down or makes you feel bad
  • -forcing you to have sex or to do sexual acts you do not want or like
  • -keeping you from seeing your friends, family or from going to work

Remember threatened or actual physical violence may be illegal. Consider calling the police for help.

Who are the abusers?

—Abusers are not easy to spot. There is no 'typical' abuser. In public, they may appear friendly and loving to their partner and family. They often only abuse behind closed doors. They also try to hide the abuse by causing injuries that can be hidden and do not need a doctor.
—Abuse is not an accident. It does not happen because someone was stressed-out, drinking, or using drugs. Abuse is an intentional act that one person uses in a relationship to control the other. Abusers have learned to abuse so that they can get what they want. The abuse may be physical, sexual, emotional, and psychological.
—Abusers often have low self-esteem. They do not take responsibility for their actions. They may even blame the victim for causing the violence. In most cases, men abuse female victims. It is important to remember that women can also be abusers and men can be victims.

Who are the victims?

ANYONE CAN BE A VICTIM! Victims can be of any age, sex, race, culture, religion, education, employment or marital status. Although both men and women can be abused, most victims are women. Children in homes where there is domestic violence are more likely to be abused and/or neglected. Most children in these homes know about the violence. Even if a child is not physically harmed, they may have emotional and behavior problems.

If you are a person of color ...

You may be afraid of prejudice. You may be afraid of being blamed for going out of your community for help.

If you are a lesbian, gay, or transgendered person ...

You may be afraid of having people know about your sexual orientation.

If you are physically or mentally challenged or elderly ...

You may depend on your abuser to care for you. You may not have other people to help you.

If you are a male victim of abuse ...

You may be ashamed and scared that no one will believe you.

If you are from another county ...

You may be afraid of being deported.

If your religion makes it hard to get help ...

You may feel like you have to stay and not break up the family.

If you are a teen ...

You could be a victim of abuse, or at risk if you are dating someone who:
—is very jealous and/or spies on you
—will not let you break off the relationship
—hurts you in any way, is violent, or brags about hurting other people
—puts you down or makes you feel bad
—forces you to have sex or makes you afraid to say no to sex
—abuses drugs or alcohol; pressures you to use drugs or alcohol
—has a history of bad relationships and blames it on others
It is hard for teens to leave their abuser if they go to the same school. They cannot hide. Gay and lesbian teens are very isolated. They can be scared they may have to reveal their sexual orientation.
If you think you are being abused, think about getting help. If your family or friends warn you about the person you are dating, think about getting help. Tell friends, family members or anybody you can trust. Call a resource listed in this book. There is help for you. You do not have to suffer in silence.

If you are a child in a violent home ...

—Most children in these homes know about the violence. Parents may think children do not know about the violence, but most of the time they do. Children often know what happened. They can feel helpless, scared and upset. They may also feel like the violence is their fault.
—Violence in the home is dangerous for children. Children live with scary noises, yelling and hitting. They are afraid for their parents and themselves. Children feel bad that they cannot stop the abuse. If they try to stop the fight, they can be hurt. They can also be hurt by things that are thrown or weapons that are used. Children are harmed just by seeing and hearing the violence.
—Children in violent homes may not get the care they need. A parent who is being abused may be in too much pain to take good care of their child.
—Children who live in violent homes can have many problems. They can have trouble sleeping. They can have trouble in school and getting along with others. They often feel sad and scared all the time. They may grow up feeling bad about themselves. These problems do not go away on their own. They can be there even as the child gets older.
—There is help for children in violent homes. Call a resource listed in this book to talk to someone. This can also help if you grew up in a violent home.

If you are being stalked ...

Stalking is repeated harassment that makes you feel scared or upset. A stalker can be someone you know or a stranger. They often bother people by giving them attention they do not want. This can be unwanted phone calls or gifts, or following people by going to where they work or live. It can also be threats to you or your family.
People may think stalking is not dangerous because no one has been physically hurt. Stalking is serious. It is against the law. It often turns to physical violence.
There is help. Find out how to get a Personal Protection Order (PPO). You can also tell the police. You can make a case by keeping track of what the stalker does by:
—telling the police every time the stalker makes contact with you
—keeping a book with you at all times so that you can write down the stalkers contacts
—saving phone messages from the stalker
—saving letters and gifts from the stalker
—writing down information about the stalker, like the way they look, kind of car they drive and license plate number

Warning Signs

Many of the signs women are taught to Interpret as caring, attentive, and romantic are actually early warning signs for future abuse. Some examples Include:


Constantly asks you where you are going, who you are with, etc.


Insists that you spend all or most of your time together, cutting you off from friends and family.


Accuses you of flirting/having sexual relationships with others; monitors your clothing/make-up.


Displays extreme anger when things do not go his way; attempts to make all of your decisions.


Secretive about past relationships; refers to women with negative remarks, etc.

Additional Warning Signs

1. Was or is abused by a parent.
2. Grew up in a home where an adult was abused by another adult.
3. Gets very serious with boyfriends/girlfriends very quickly – saying “I love you” very early in the relationship, wanting to move in together or get engaged after only a few months, or pressuring partner for a serious commitment.
4. Comes on very strong, is extremely charming and an overly smooth talker.
5. Is extremely jealous.
6. Isolates partner from support systems – wants partner all to themselves, and tries to keep partner from friends, family or outside activities.
7. Attempts to control what partner wears, what she/he does or who she/he sees.
8. Is abusive toward other people, especially mother or sisters if he is a male.
9. Blames others for one’s own misbehavior or failures.
10. Has unrealistic expectations, like expecting partner to meet all of ones needs and be the perfect partner.
11. Is overly sensitive – acts ‘hurt’ when not getting one’s way, takes offense when others disagree with an opinion, gets very upset at small inconveniences that are just a normal part of life.
12. Has ever been cruel to animals.
13. Has ever abused children.
14. Has ever hit a boyfriend or girlfriend in the past.
15. Has ever threatened violence, even if it wasn’t a serious threat.
16. Calls partner names, puts him/her down or curses at him/her.
17. Is extremely moody, and switches quickly from being very nice to exploding in anger.
18. If a male, believes women are inferior to men and should obey them.
19. Is intimidating, for example using threatening body language, punching walls or breaking objects.
20. Holds partner against his/her will to keep him/her from walking away or leaving the room.

Common Myths and Why They are Wrong

Domestic violence is not a problem in my community.

—Michigan State Police records from 1997 show that a woman is killed by a partner or former partner about once a week in Michigan.
—In 1998, the Michigan State Police reported more than 5,000 victims of domestic violence in Oakland County.

Domestic violence only happens to poor women and women of color.

—Domestic violence happens in all kinds of families and relationships.
—Persons of any class, culture, religion, sexual orientation, marital status, age, and sex can be victims or perpetrators of domestic violence.

Some people deserve to be hit.

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

Alcohol, drug abuse, stress, and mental illness cause domestic violence.

—Alcohol use, drug use, and stress do not cause domestic violence; they may go along with domestic violence, but they do not cause the violence. Abusers often say they use these excuses for their violence. (Michigan Judicial Institute, Domestic Violence Benchbook, 1998, p. 1.6 - 1.7)
—Generally, domestic violence happens when an abuser has learned and chooses to abuse. (Michigan Judicial Institute, Domestic Violence Benchbook, 1998, p. 1 - 5)
—Domestic violence is rarely caused by mental illness, but it is often used as an excuse for domestic violence. (Michigan Judicial Institute, Domestic Violence Benchbook, 1998, p. 1 - 8)

Domestic violence is a personal problem between a husband and a wife.

—Domestic violence affects everyone.
—About 1 in 3 American women have been physically or sexually abused by a husband or boyfriend at some point in their lives. (Commonwealth Fund, Health Concerns Across a Woman's Lifespan: the Commonwealth Fund 1998 Survey of Women's Health, 1999)
—In 1996, 30% of all female murder victims were killed by their husbands or boyfriends. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 1997)
—40% to 60% of men who abuse women also abuse children. (American Psychological Association, Violence and the Family, 1996)

If it were that bad, she would just leave.

—There are many reasons why women may not leave. Not leaving does not mean that the situation is okay or that the victim want to be abused.
—Leaving can be dangerous. The most dangerous time for a woman who is being abused is when she tries to leave. (United States Department of Justice, National Crime Victim Survey, 1995)


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