Domestic Violence Isn't Just Physical Abuse: Know the Signs


There’s a great misconception that domestic violence relates specifically to physical abuse. It’s one of the reasons that abuse goes undetected, unreported, and untreated in so many relationships.

Domestic Violence (DV) also known as Intimate Partner Violence (IPV), is defined by the National Domestic Violence Hotline as “a pattern of behaviors used by one partner to maintain power and control over another partner in an intimate relationship.”

That means that any method one partner uses to exert control over the other, regardless of how often it occurs, falls under the heading of domestic violence.

Types of Abuse

This list isn’t all inclusive, but here are some examples of the various types of domestic violence behaviors:

  • Physical- Includes physical harm of all kinds, including punching, slapping, kicking, pulling hair, choking, and biting. Also includes restraining or abandoning a partner, forcing use of substances, restricting sleeping or eating, or prohibiting a partner from seeking proper care.

  • Sexual- Demands partner engage in sexual acts or behaviors. Can include forcing a partner to dress in a sexual way or watch pornography.

  • Mental/Emotional/Verbal- Name calling, put downs, stalking, isolation, lying, accusations, threats, destruction of property, blaming, bullying, humiliating, cheating, denying your feelings, “forgetting,” or other acts of intimidation designed to terrorize the partner or make the partner feel crazy. Behaving in ways that exhibit jealousy, withhold affection, or restrict the lifestyle of the partner. Using children to manipulate the partner.

  • Spiritual- Harasses partner for religious beliefs, prevents partner from worshipping, uses religious beliefs to shame or belittle partner, or exposing children to content/information partner has not agreed upon.

  • Financial- Includes denying access to money, not providing partner money (especially for necessities), not paying bills, maxing out credit cards, damaging partner’s credit score, stealing, using money for purposes other than intended, refusing to contribute, and fraudulent fiscal management.

How Christians Should Handle Domestic Violence

Have any of these behaviors happened to you? Someone you know? Find a safe person to speak to in your church, or call the National Domestic Violence Hotline. You need to learn about what is happening to you, and how to properly handle it, but speaking up is the first step to tackling domestic violence.

Domestic violence is sin. It is oppression. Ephesians 5:11 says “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.” The Bible is clear that we are to address a partner who is habitually sinning. But you shouldn’t go it alone- Jesus describes the process for finding partnership and addressing these kinds of situations in Matthew 18.

Speaking up is an act of love, not retaliation. The abuser’s sin separates him from right relationship with you, God, your children, and your community. Create a support team who can help you discern the proper steps, while taking necessary measures to keep you and your children as safe as possible. Our prayers are with you.