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What Is Domestic Violence and Abuse and Who Are Its Victims?

We all know those couples who seem to have a perfect life together — a loving relationship with one another, happy and healthy children, satisfying careers, and financial stability.

But we never really know what happens behind closed doors, which means that we never really know what the problems are in someone else's private life.

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Domestic violence and abuse is often hidden

Domestic violence and emotional abuse and psychological abuse are serious issues in our society, but so often it goes unnoticed by the friends and family of those suffering in abusive relationships.

Fear and shame often make individuals feel they must hide the abuse they suffer.

1. What is Considered Domestic Violence and Abuse?

The U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics defines domestic violence as “any harm inflicted by intimate partners, immediate family members, or other relatives.”

Domestic violence is inflicted by those who are living in close quarters with the victim, making it especially easy to hide from outside parties.

Without some sort of intervention, domestic violence and abuse can last for months or years.

Physical and Sexual Assault

When people think of abuse, they often think of physical forms first. Physical abuse is arguably the easiest to identify, as it can leave physical marks on the victim’s body (bruises, burns, etc.).

Physical abuse includes hitting, punching, kicking, choking, hair-pulling, burning, and any other physical acts intended to harm.

Sexual abuse can leave physical marks as well, but can be harder to identify. It includes any type of unwanted and nonconsensual sexual contact.

Emotional and Psychological Abuse

Emotional and psychological abuse is meant to control the victim without using any physical contact. Actions, communications, and interactions, can be used and take different forms, such as isolation, manipulation, slander, blame, intimidation, and mind games.

Financial Abuse

Financial abuse is not spoken about as often as other forms of abuse, but it can be just as serious. In this case, the perpetrator denies adequate access of finances to the victim and thus controls their ability to gain independence.

2. Who is Susceptible?

Just as there is a wide range of abusive behaviors that can be used, there is a wide range of potential victims.

Some demographics may be more susceptible to abuse than others, but anyone can become a victim of domestic violence or abusive relationships.


A person can be a victim of domestic violence or abusive relationships regardless of gender. Roughly 1 of 4 women and 1 of 7 men will be a victim of domestic violence at some time throughout their lives — that is 35.6% of women and 28.5% of men!

Statistically speaking, 12.3% of female rape victims experience their first rape before they reach the age of 10, with 42.2% having gone through their first rape before reaching legal adulthood and 79.6% before the age of 25.

Male victims are also more susceptible at an early age, with 27.8% having experienced their first rape before the age of 10. One in 3 women and 1 in 10 men report long-term consequences of their abusive past.


It seems that being young makes a person more likely to be abused, regardless of the type of abuse. Of the total number of sexual and physical abuse victims, over half started experiencing the abuse before reaching 25 years old.

The years between ages 11 and 17 seem to be the most common years of abuse, with 22.4% of female victims and 15% of male victims reporting that age span as time their first abuse took place. The largest number of intimate partner violence victims lies in the bracket of 18 to 24 years old.

Although the number of young victims of violence and abuse within relationships is overwhelming, there are many people who are in later stages of life who experience abuse from their loved ones.

Elder abuse is common in North America and typically happens with a son/son-in-law or daughter/daughter-in-law abusing their elderly parent/parent-in-law.

Race and Location

Violence and abuse do not discriminate based on race, just as they do not discriminate by age or gender every race has a statistic for abuse and violence.

For example, female rape occurs as follows: 13.6% are Hispanic, 20.5% are white, 21.2% are black, and 27.5% are American Indian/Alaska natives.

In the United States, it is estimated that 21,840,000 women will be a victim of rape at some point throughout their lifetime. 53,174,000 women and 25,130,000 men are estimated to be victims of other acts of sexual violence.

3. How Do You Identifying Domestic Violence and Abuse in Relationships?

It can be hard to know for sure whether or not a person you suspect of being abused in their home is actually a victim. Being able to identify the signs of domestic violence and an abusive relationships can make all the difference in a victim’s life, sometimes literally.

In addition to noticing physical marks on the victim’s body, such as burns, bruises, and cuts. The victim might casually mention suspected internal injuries or recent hospital visits. Paying close attention to the details brought up in conversation can help you pick up on hints that he or she might be dropping in a subtle attempt to get help.

For others signs of abuse, such as emotional or psychological, the victim might mention not being able to access finances or normal resources, take part in extracurricular activities, or even see their children.

The victim of abuse may confide in you, saying that he or she is afraid or uncomfortable around their partner, or they might be afraid to talk to you at all when it comes to certain topics of discussion.

Are you the victim of Emotional Abuse? Find out!

Click - Emotional Abuse Test

4. How Do You End the Cycle of Domestic Violence and Abuse?

Abuse within a relationship often comes in the form of cycles: abuse, remorse, repentance, reconciliation, trust, and back to abuse.

The victim of intimate abuse often feels that the abuser truly feels remorse for their abusive behavior and clings to that hope until the abuse starts again. The hope of the victim only allows the abuser to continue their abuse.

Attempting to remove oneself from an abusive relationship can make the victim more vulnerable than if he or she were to stay.

If you are in an abusive relationship and trying to get out, keep those who really do care about you close and allow them to help you. If there is any possibility of violence, you are best to ask for police support in creating a separation between you and your abuser.

If someone you know is the leaving victim, make sure that you make yourself available to them and that they know they can count on you for help and support.

Tragically, many people have died at the hands of their abusers. Safety must always be the number one consideration when leaving an abusive relationship.

Even after getting out of an abusive or violent relationship, the victim still might return to it for various reasons. This is another reason why having a strong support system is essential when recovering from an abusive relationship.

Professionals, clergy, lawyers, and close friends and family can help keep the victim safe and work towards stopping the abuse, and emotional and psychological healing.

Learn more.Purchase this professional guide on how to free yourself from emotional abuse.

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There are several best self-help books in our bookstore dealing with emotional abuse. Learn more about the books that can free you from abuse.

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Topics: What is a toxic relationship, Signs of emotional abuse, Signs of verbal abuse