What is domestic violence?

Domestic violence is physical, sexual, verbal, emotional, and/or financial abuse between present or former intimate partners. It is a pattern of coercive behaviors used to attain power and control over another person. The violence may not happen often, but it is a constant terrorizing factor. While each situation is different, without intervention the violence escalates over time. Domestic violence includes teen dating violence and elder abuse. Teen dating violence is a pattern of behaviors used to gain power and control over a dating partner. Elder abuse may include verbal, emotional, financial, and/or physical abuse by a partner, family member, caretaker, or friend.

You have the right to live free from:


Cycle of domestic violence

There are typically three stages that occur to complete a cycle in a violent relationship. These stages may be different for each individual.

Love, Hope, and Fear diagram
Tension Building Stage
Consists of criticism, yelling, swearing, using angry gestures, coercion, threats, blaming
Abuse Stage
Consists of physical and sexual attacks, threats, and intimidation
Honeymoon Stage
Consists of apologies, promises to change, gifts

Three dynamics keep the cycle going and make it very hard to end a violent relationship. They include love, hope, and fear.

You love your partner and the relationship has its good points.

You hope the behavior will change because the relationship did not start out like this.

You fear your partner will follow through with threats s/he has made against you or your loved ones.

Domestic violence is about behaviors that form a pattern of violence. These behaviors are listed on the Power & Control Wheel. You may find this list of behaviors helpful in identifying types of abuse.


What are my options?


Additional resources