Domestic violence, also known as intimate partner violence (IPV), is hurtful, repeated and intentional behavior that one person uses to establish and maintain power and control over another in a current or former intimate relationship. Power and control are key elements.
The behavior can manifest as abuse that is physical, verbal, psychological, and/or sexual.
Some of these behaviors include: threats, name-calling, put-downs, isolating from friends and family, withholding money, all types of physical harm, harming pets and children, rape, sexual assault, and destruction of property.
Domestic violence occurs in any intimate partner relationship, including to members of the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning) community. It is also common in teen relationships.
Domestic violence crosses all boundaries and can happen to anyone regardless of their age, gender, race, culture, religion, sexual orientation, ability, socio-economic level, or level of education.
Common Forms of Abuse
- Physical: The abusive partner hits, shoves, slaps, pulls hair, kicks, shakes, strangles (“chokes”) or uses any kind of physical force against the victim. The abusive partner uses a weapon, and/or harms or destroys things held valuable by the victim, including pets, property, or treasured objects.
- Verbal and Psychological: The abusive partner uses insults, put-downs, name- calling or “mind games” to hurt, humiliate, confuse the victim, or make the victim feel guilty or worthless.
- Threats and Coercion: The abusive partner threatens to harm the victim, leave the victim, take the children from the victim, report the victim to CYS or welfare, commit suicide, and/or hurt someone or something loved by the victim in order to control her/him.
- Sexual: The abusive partner may coerce the victim to have sex when she/he doesn’t want to, sexually harass the victim, sexually assault or rape the victim, and/or hurt the victim or force her/him to perform sexual acts against their will.
The abusive partner may cheat, force the victim to view pornography, or force the victim to have sex with other people.
- Social Isolation: The abusive partner controls what the victim can or cannot do, where the victims goes, who she/he sees and talks to, activities, and how the victim dresses.
- Economic: The abusive partner may prevent the victim from working or keeping a job. The abusive partner withholds money for food, health care and other necessities, controls all the finances, makes the victim ask for money or account for every penny spent, and/or wastes money.
- Intimidation: The abusive partner uses looks, gestures or actions that are threatening to the victim.
The abusive partner may use one, several or all of these forms of abuse in any combination to control the victim.
The abuse usually starts out slowly and increases over time, so that the victim may be unaware that it is happening.
The abuse may start as verbal or emotional abuse and become physical. The physical abuse may become so serious that the victim’s health and life are in danger.
Any kind of ongoing abuse may have a serious and negative impact on children in the household, resulting in psychological, emotional and behavioral problems.
Sexual violence occurs any time the violence a person experiences is of a sexual nature. It happens on a continuum from sexual comments and jokes, to sexual harassment, to sexual assault and rape.
Sexual assault or sexual violence often happens within the context of an intimate relationship; most sexual assault victims are assaulted by someone they know or love. A victim may also be raped or sexually assaulted by a stranger.
Definition of sexual assault:
Sexual assault is a crime in Pennsylvania and is defined as a person engaging in sexual intercourse or deviate sexual intercourse with another person without their consent. The defendant may have committed statutory sexual assault if the victim was under 16 years of age, and the defendant is more than four years older than the victim, and they were not married to each other at the time of the offense.
Pennsylvania also has a separate charge titled “indecent assault.” Indecent assault is similar to sexual assault in some ways. It involves indecent contact with the victim, including the victim’s contact with the defendant’s seminal fluid, urine, or feces for the purpose of arousing sexual desire in either the victim or defendant, and it is done without the victim’s consent, forcibly or under threat of force, or performed under some severe incapacity of the victim (i.e. unconsciousness, mental incapacity, intoxication of the victim, youth of the victim).
Definition of rape:
A person commits a felony of the first degree when the person engages in sexual intercourse with a complainant:
- By forcible compulsion.
- By threat of forcible compulsion that would prevent resistance by a person of reasonable resolution.
- Who is unconscious or where the person knows that the complainant is unaware that the sexual intercourse is occurring.
- Where the person has substantially impaired the complainant’s power to appraise or control his or her conduct by administering or employing, with the knowledge of the complainant, drugs, intoxicants, or other means for the purpose of preventing resistance.
Who suffers from a mental disability which renders the complainant incapable of consent.