Domestic violence is the physical, sexual, psychological and/or emotional abuse and coercive control of a victim by her intimate partner, with the goal of asserting and maintaining power and control over the victim.

The Power & Control Wheel diagram (below) is a particularly helpful tool in understanding how the batterer establishes and maintains power and control over his/her partner.  One of the most blatant or obvious ways is through physical or sexual violence. However there are many other ways one can exert power (such as emotional, financial, verbal abuse, manipulation of children) and these tactics which can be harder to see can be used independently or in combination with the physical violence.


The following are "red flags" to look for in any relationship.  Abusers cannot, will not, and do not change.  No matter how hard the victims tries, nothing they  do will change or "fix" them.  Batterers often pick religious women or "nice girls" because they are easily controlled.  The batterer then uses the clergy or family and friends to manipulate the victim and convince her to return during the cycle of abuse.  Once a victim breaks the cycle and leaves the relationship, she is most at risk for homicide. 

1. PUSHES FOR QUICK INVOLVEMENT: Comes on strong, claiming, "I've never felt loved like this by anyone." Pressures the new partner for an exclusive commitment almost immediately.

2. JEALOUS: Excessively possessive; calls constantly or visits unexpectedly. Prevents you from going to work because "you might meet someone"; checks the mileage on your car.

3. CONTROLLING: Interrogates you intensely (especially if you are late) about whom you talked to and where you were; keeps all the money; insists you ask permission to go anywhere or do anything.

4. UNREALISTIC EXPECTATIONS: Expects you to be the perfect mate and meet his or her every need.

5. ISOLATION: Tries to cut you off from family and friends; accuses people who support you of "causing trouble." May deprive you of a phone or car, or try to prevent you from holding a job.

6. BLAMES OTHERS FOR PROBLEMS OR MISTAKES: It's always someone else's fault if something goes wrong.

7. MAKES OTHERS RESPONSIBLE FOR HIS OR HER FEELINGS: Says, "You make me angry," instead of, "I am angry," or says, "You're hurting me by not doing what I tell you."

8. HYPERSENSITIVITY: Is easily insulted, claiming hurt feelings when he or she is really mad. Rants about the injustice of things that are just part of life.

9. CRUELTY TO ANIMALS OR CHILDREN: Kills or punishes animals brutally. May expect children to do things far beyond their ability (whips a 3-year-old for wetting a diaper) or teases them until they cry. Sixty-five percent of abusers who beat their partner will also abuse children.

10. "PLAYFUL" USE OF FORCE DURING SEX: Enjoys throwing you down or holding you down against your will during sex; finds the idea of rape exciting.

11. VERBAL ABUSE: Constantly criticizes or says blatantly cruel things; degrades, curses, calls you ugly names. This may involve sleep deprivation, waking you with relentless verbal abuse.

12. RIGID GENDER ROLES: Expects you to serve, obey, remain at home.

13. SUDDEN MOOD SWINGS: Switches from sweet to violent in minutes.

14. PAST BATTERING: Admits to hitting a mate in the past, but says the person "made" him (or her) do it.

15. THREATS OF VIOLENCE: Says things like, "I'll break your neck" or "I'll kill you, " then dismisses them with, "Everybody talks that way" or "I didn't really mean it."