Linda Lewis Griffith

How to recognize domestic violence

Domestic violence is a pattern of willful intimidation or control by one intimate partner over another. It can take different forms, including physical harm, sexual aggression and emotional and psychological abuse. The result is often physical injury, psychological trauma or, in severe cases, death.

Domestic violence is pervasive. According to statistics compiled by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 20 Americans are physically abused by intimate partners every minute, equating to more than 10 million men and women each year. One out of every 3 women and 1 in 4 men have been victims of physical intimate partner violence within their lifetimes. The cost of domestic violence exceeds $8.3 billion per year.

Victims hail from all walks of life and can be any age, ethnicity, profession or culture.

Relationships don’t start out abusive. The NCADV website states that partners frequently begin with actions that can be downplayed, such as name-calling, distrust or jealousy. Abusers may apologize profusely for their behavior. They may blame the victim or say they’re acting out of love for the abused. But the behavior intensifies over time, eventually escalating to extreme control.

There is no typical personality of an abuser. They are generally law-abiding citizens when they are outside of their homes. One study published in the Library of Congress Online Catalog found that 90 percent of domestic violence perpetrators have no criminal record.

However, they do display common characteristics:

▪  They minimize the seriousness of the violence and its effect on the victims and other family members.

▪  They objectify their victims and see them as property or sexual objects.

▪  They have low self-esteem and feel powerless and ineffective.

▪  They blame external factors on their actions, such as stress, a “bad day” or the victims’ behavior.

▪  They are pleasant and charming between episodes of abuse and are often viewed by others as charming.

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Linda Lewis Griffith is a local marriage and family therapist. For information or to contact her, visit

Signs of potential domestic abuse

They include, but aren’t limited to, the following behaviors:

  • Jealousy. While jealousy is often seen as a demonstration of love, it becomes controlling when an abuser calls victims repeatedly throughout the day, drops by unexpectedly or refuses to let victims go to work.
  • Relationship progresses too quickly. Abusers may pressure victims to commit to the relationship before they are ready. They make partners feel guilty for wanting to proceed slowly.
  • Isolation. Abusers sever victims’ ties to outside support and resources. They prevent them from seeing their families. They may block access to vehicles or cellphones.
  • Hypersensitivity. Abusers are easily insulted and overreact to the slightest perceived criticism or threat.
  • Cruelty to animals or children. Abusers often brutally punish animals and are seemingly insensitive to their pain. They may also expect children to perform beyond their emotional or physical capabilities.
  • “Playful” use of force during sex. Perpetrators may restrain partners against their will during sex, act out unpleasant or demeaning fantasies or demand sex when partners are ill or tired.
  • Threats of violence. Abusers may threaten physical harm to their partners or their children or loved ones in an effort to control their behavior.