Abuse comes in many forms

By Abby Morris
Star Staff
amorris@starhq.com
Editor's Note: October is Domestic Violence Awareness month. This is the fourth part of a series on domestic violence.
When many people think of domestic violence, the image is of a man or woman physically assaulting their spouse or significant other, but often times, the abuse can take a much subtler form.
Domestic violence is described in Tennessee law as occurring when a person causes or attempts to cause bodily injury, fear of bodily injury, interference with personal liberty or property crimes. This can include stalking, harassment, false imprisonment, theft or vandalism.
In order for it to be considered domestic violence, the victim and perpetrator must have some kind of relationship connection. According to state law those relationships include people who are legally married, formerly married, have a child in common, living together, related by blood or marriage, are in a dating relationship or a homosexual relationship.

Are you in an abusive relationship?

Does your partner:
* Embarrass you with bad names and put-downs?
* Look at you or act in ways that scare you?
* Control what you do, who you see or talk to, or where you go?
* Stop you from seeing or talking to friends or family?
* Take your money or Social Security, make you ask for money, or refuse to give you money?
* Make all the decisions?
* Tell you you're a bad parent or threaten to take away or hurt your children?
* Act like the abuse is no big deal, it's your fault, or even deny doing it?
* Destroy your property or threaten to kill your pets?
* Intimidate you with guns, knives, or other weapons?
* Shove you, slap you, or hit you?
* Force you to drop charges?
* Threaten to commit suicide?
* Threaten to kill you?

If you checked even one, you may be in an abusive relationship.

* Quiz supplied by the Tennessee Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic violence.

But apart from the legal aspects of domestic violence, many other things can be abusive to a person. Mental and verbal abuse are also forms of domestic violence. "Domestic violence is all about power and control and perpetrators will do whatever they can to maintain that power and control," said Kathy England-Walsh, executive director of the Tennessee Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence. "There are just all kinds of hideous acts of violence that people don't know about because they are so horrible to talk about and it is all a part of that control."
One of the worst forms of domestic violence occurs when sexual assault occurs as part of the abuse. "Many people do not know about spousal rape. They think 'How can a man rape his wife?,'" England-Walsh said.
As part of the control factor, a domestic violence perpetrator uses many forms of the abuse of power to keep his or her victim under their control.
A perpetrator may use coercion or threats to control his or her victim by threatening to hurt the victim or someone the victim loves, to commit suicide or to report the victim to report the victim to governmental agencies as a bad parent or as having participated in illegal activities, according to information from the Domestic Abuse Intervention Project.
Intimidation is another tactic often used by perpetrators. The abuser will intimidate the victim with looks or gestures, abusing pets, breaking things or carrying out previous threats.
Some abusers use emotional or mental abuse to hurt their victims by publicly insulting the victim, making the victim feel bad about themselves, making the victim believe that he or she is crazy, playing mind games, humiliating the victim or making the victim feel guilty for the abuse.
Isolation is another way perpetrators control their victims by controlling who he or she has contact with and where he or she can go or do.
Another form of abuse used by perpetrators of domestic violence is economic abuse. A perpetrator may prevent their victim from getting or keeping a job, refuse to give the victim money or taking money away from the victim and make the victim financially dependent on the perpetrator.
"There are several kinds of fear and he uses that fear against her," England-Walsh said, adding that many victims state they fear not being able to survive on their own, financially or otherwise, due to the dependence of the victim on the perpetrators which was created by the abuser through many forms of control.