Domestic violence is generally defined as any act or pattern of abuse that one person uses to control another. Actions intended to manipulate, isolate or humiliate another person can be considered domestic abuse even if there is no physical harm done to that person. For instance, an individual may attempt to control his or her partner by withholding access to that partner's bank account or by refusing to allow that person to work.
Emotional abuse involves any instance where a spouse or partner will threaten to hurt him or herself to control the other spouse or partner. It can also be threats of harm to family members or pets to gain emotional control over a person. Destruction of property may also be used as a controlling tactic. Isolating a spouse or partner from friends or loved ones may also constitute abuse without causing physical harm.
Physical abuse occurs when a partner is hit, slapped or otherwise physically harmed. After violence has occurred, an abuser may ask that his or her partner take drugs or consume alcohol. Physical abuse of a sexual nature may occur or sexual favors may be requested after physical abuse has occurred. Treating a partner in a sexually demeaning way may be considered abuse if the other person does not willingly consent to the activity.
Those who have been the victim of domestic violence may wish to seek help immediately. A family law attorney may be able to help a victim get a protective order or to help enforce an order if one already exists. If a domestic violence victim has children with his or her abuser, the abuser may be ordered to pay child support as the child's legal parent and to have no further contact with the child.
Source: U.S. Department of Justice, "Domestic Violence", July 23, 2014