Domestic violence, also known as intimate partner violence, can happen to anyone, anywhere, at any time regardless of age, gender, race, sexual orientation, or branch of service. Domestic violence is a form of domestic abuse that can range from physical to emotional harm and can have lasting negative health impacts.
Those experiencing domestic violence may hesitate to discuss their circumstances due to fear of retaliation, judgment by others or embarrassment. They may feel trapped, anxious or even blame themselves. Regardless of what the abuser may say to maintain control or exert power over the individual, victims of domestic violence are never at fault for their partner’s behavior and no one deserves to be abused.
Recognizing the signs of domestic violence and knowing the available support resources can be life-saving. This knowledge could help protect you or someone you know.
What is Domestic Violence?
Domestic violence has many forms including psychological or emotional aggression, physical and sexual violence, controlling behaviors (financial control, isolating from friends, etc.) as well as stalking. It can happen between current or former intimate partners including spouses, domestic partners, people that identify as couples, sexual partners or casual dating partners.
Domestic violence is a crime and should never be a part of any relationship. It can take on many forms including:
- Physical violence: Hitting, pushing, grabbing, squeezing, yanking, biting, choking, shaking or slapping
- Sexual violence: Attempted or actual sexual contact without consent
- Threats of violence: Words, gestures or looks to control or frighten
- Stalking: Following, harassing or electronic tracking that causes fear
- Psychological aggression: Using insults or humiliation tactics, name calling, using intimidation to control
What are the Risk Factors and Warning Signs for Domestic Violence?
Risk factors that increase the likelihood of someone committing domestic violence include high levels of stress, financial challenges, substance misuse and difficulty managing anger. Personal and/or family history of domestic violence also increase risk, as can combat or non-combat related traumatic brain injury (TBI), posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression and other psychological health concerns. However, these are never excuses for domestic violence.
Warning signs that a partner may be more likely to commit domestic violence include:
- Isolating a person from friends and family
- Threats of violence
- Physical aggression (like breaking objects or punching walls)
- Unreasonable jealousy
- Controlling behavior (including emotional and/or financial control)
- Cruelty to animals
- Abrupt mood changes
Many underlying health concerns that may lead to domestic violence are treatable. If you notice these behaviors in someone, encourage them to speak with a health care provider if you feel that it is safe to do so.
What Can I Do About Domestic Violence?
Understanding the signs that someone may be in an abusive relationship can help you support them and keep them safe. Signs may include:
- Unexplained physical injuries such as bruises or marks
- Statements or actions that indicate the person is fearful of their partner or trapped in their relationship
- Social isolation, withdrawal from usual activities or increased absences from work without explanation
- Frequent and/or threatening phone calls at work or home
If you notice these or other signs in someone you know, offer your support by sharing the additional resources below. Encourage them to seek help and talk to a health care provider. They can also call the Psychological Health Resource Center at 866-966-1020 to confidentially speak with a trained health resource consultant or use the live chat. If the person is in immediate danger, call 911.
- National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-SAFE (7233)
- Military OneSource at 800-342-9647 to locate a victim advocate in your area
- The Department of Defense (DoD) Child Abuse Safety and Violation Hotline at 800-336-4592 if a child is in danger
- Family Advocacy Program (FAP):
- Domestic Abuse: Military Reporting Options (Military OneSource)
- Intimate Partner Violence (National Institute of Justice)
- Preventing Intimate Partner Violence (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
- DoD Sexual Assault Prevention and Response
“Intimate Partner Violence,” National Center for PTSD.
“Intimate Partner Violence: Risk and Protective Factors for Perpetration,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Niolon, P.H., Kearns, M., Dills, J., Rambo, K., Irving, S., Armstead, T., & Gilbert, L. (2017). Preventing Intimate Partner Violence Across the Lifespan: A Technical Package of Programs, Policies, and Practices [PDF 4.5MB]. Atlanta, GA: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“How to Help Service-Connected Victims of Domestic Abuse,” Military OneSource.