What is Domestic Violence?

What is Domestic Violence?

Domestic Violence, also referred to as Domestic Abuse, is a pattern of coercive behavior in which one person attempts to control another through threats or actual use of physical violence, sexual assault, and verbal or psychological abuse. Many victims of abuse do not recognize that they are abused. Anyone can be a victim of abuse, no matter their race, age, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, education, or income level.

Have you worked with a Safe Voices advocate recently? Survivors are invited to share anonymous feedback about their experience. We use this feedback to improve our practice and to learn from those we have worked with. 

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Who is Affected by Domestic Abuse?

Anyone can be a victim of abuse, no matter their race, age, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, education, or income level. Everyone deserves to be safe in their relationship.


What does abuse look like?

People who abuse their partners are seeking control over them. The tactics used to maintain that control may take many forms and include but are not limited to:

Physical Violence - Every year, over 7,000 Maine women are physically or sexually assaulted by an intimate partner, and over half of them (57%) are physically injured as a result of the violence. (Maine CDC, 2008)

Threats - This may include anything from threats of physical violence to threats to report a parent to Child Protective Services to threats to commit suicide. The intention is to make the victim too fearful to leave.

Intimidation - Certain looks, phrases, or gestures may be used to scare someone into compliance.

Isolation - An abuser will often try to prevent their partner from having contact with friends, family, and other social supports. By isolating their partner, they make them more dependent on them.

Financial - The abuser will frequently control all financial assets. They may prevent their partner from working outside of the home or may control their partner’s income by giving them an allowance and/or preventing them access to credit cards and bank accounts.

Using Children - The abuser may threaten their partner that they'll lose custody of any shared children if they leave, may threaten to harm or take the children, or may try to manipulate the children to take sides against the abused parent.

Minimizing, Denying, and Blaming - Abusers frequently try to avoid accountability for their actions by minimizing the abuse or turning it around on their partner, e.g. "It wasn't that bad," "I wouldn't have hit you if you'd just been quiet," or "I only did what I did because you pushed my buttons."

    Whether the victim is a man or a woman, the definition of domestic abuse is the same. Being abused by an intimate partner can be scary and confusing. The feelings that result will be similar, regardless of gender. Victims can experience feelings of shame, isolation, and are often afraid that no one will believe them or do anything to resolve the situation if they report being abused.

    If you are a man experiencing domestic abuse it is important to remember that being assaulted by someone you are in a relationship with is just as much a crime as being assaulted by a stranger. There is dedicated support available for men who are being abused.






    Power & Control Wheel Developed by Domestic Abuse Intervention Programs of Duluth, Minnesota.




    Red Flags - Does your partner:

    • Call or text you all the time
    • Tell you who you can and can't see
    • Tell you what to wear
    • Call you names
    • Put you down
    • Discourage you from doing things on your own
    • Make you feel guilty for spending time with other people
    • Threaten to hurt you or friends and family
    • Abuse your pets
    • Get jealous when you are in the company of the opposite (or same) sex
    • Try to prevent you from working or going to school
    • Control all of the money that comes in
    • Pressure you to do things that you do not want to do
    • Control your access to transportation, including the family car
    • Show up at your workplace or school and cause a scene in front of other people
    • Repeatedly make promises that the abuse will never happen again
    • Belittle your parenting skills in front of your children
    • Try to turn your children against you
    • Make you feel like everything is your fault when arguments happen
    • Make you feel like you can't do anything right
    • Minimize your feelings and not listen to you
    • Gaslight you by questioning your version or events

    In addition, stalking can be a component of domestic violence. 



    The Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence defines stalking as: “a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear.” All 50 states have some form of stalking statute, but these vary greatly from state to state. To find out the specific laws applying to your area, call your local law enforcement.

    Stalking can be an indicator of increased lethality in an abusive relationship. About 76% of women killed by an intimate partner are stalked prior to the murder. In fact, most people who are stalked know their stalker.

    Stalking can present in several different behaviors, ranging from unwanted electronic communications (such as e-mails and text messages) to leaving things in your doorway.


    Behaviors may include:

    • Following you
    • Threatening you
    • Sending unwanted letters
    • Asking family and friends about you or trying to get information about where you are, work, or live
    • Showing up at your place of employment
    • Constant unwanted phone calls or text messages
    • Moving, obstructing or damaging your personal belongings to leave a sign they have been to your property
    • Using social media such as Facebook, Instagram or Twitter to keep track of your whereabouts Keeping a record of stalking incidents is very important if you wish to take legal action against your stalker.

    If you answered YES to any of these questions or are experiencing any of the stalking behaviors listed above, you can call our confidential, toll-free, 24-hour helpline to speak to an advocate at 1-800-559-2927.


    Our advocates can help you:

    • Recognize the signs of an abusive relationship
    • Provide support and talk to you about resources available in your community
    • Discuss safety planning and your options for protection afforded by the law such as filing a protection from abuse order
    • Explore shelter options if you are unsafe in your current residence