Definitions of domestic violence

The use of the concepts “domestic violence” and “violence in intimate relationships” is quite liberal in that both are used interchangeably in general speech and often in a broader context. In this review we will use the word domestic violence. There is not difference between the two terms as they are being defined here.

Domestic violence is a type of violence perpetrated by an individual close, related or intimate to the survivor. The perpetrator can be a partner, a child, parent, father to the survivors child, sibling or guardian.

“A partner” can be current or ex-husband/wife, boyfriend/girlfriend or co-habitat. Perpetrator and survivor do not have to be living together or be married for the violence to be categorized as domestic violence.

Domestic violence does not have to happen at survivors or perpetrator’s house in order to be categorized as domestic violence.

What makes domestic violence so difficult to handle for the survivor is that the survivor is related to the perpetrator through personal and intimate relation, which makes the violence even more painful for the survivor as well as difficult situation to get out of. Domestic violence is defined as gendered violence, which is when violence is used against a person because of their gender or violence where majority of survivors is of a certain gender.


Different form and manifestations of violence.

Domestic violence can be varied and in each case there is often more than one type of violence involved. The violence can be physical, psychological, sexual, financial and digital as well as various forms and types of behaviour involving threats, control and/or coercion. The form and beginning of the violence can often be described as a certain circle of violence, where the tension in the relationship escalates and ends with some kind of a bomb, then come the honeymoon days and everything becomes perfect again. Then, the tension starts building up again, there is the bomb, there are the honeymoon days and the circle continues.

Note that the following summary is only an example of the many various descriptions, examples and various forms of consequences of domestic violence. The summary is not complete and only intended to give an idea of the types of violence and its consequences. It is common that forms of violence overlap, for an example, physical violence is also a form of psychological violence. Sexual violence is often physical as well, but can involve forcing someone to watch pornographic images or videos, verbal sexual harassment or speaking in an inappropriate sexual manner.


1. Physical violence

Physical violence is when physical force is used against another person, whether it leads to physical harm or not. Physical violence is also when someone restrains another persons needs. It is common that physical violence follows a period of psychological violence, however that is not always the case. An example of physical domestic violence is when your partner:

  • Holds you hostage
  • Prevents you from nourishing yourself
  • Prevents you from getting a proper sleep
  • Injures you with at knife, belt, gun or an object.
  • Prevents you from taking necessary medicine
  • Kicks/ punches objects, throws around or damages objects
  • Prevents you from coming and going when you want
  • Hits, punches, beats, scratches, bites, headbutts, punches, kicks, rips your hair, shoves, burns, drowns, suffocates your or chokes you.

The consequences can vary in severity. The most serious consequence of physical violence is when an individual kills their partner.


2. Psychological violence

Psychological (mental) violence can be in the form of words or body language. The communication is often characterized by humiliation and is most often the other person way to control or gain power of his partner. An example of psychological domestic violence can be if your partner:

  • Screams at you
  • Calls you bad names
  • Belittles you
  • Threatens or intimidates you
  • Tells you that you are insane or mentally ill
  • Blames you for his behaviour and feelings
  • Isolates you from friends and family
  • Does not trust you to make decisions
  • Makes you feel like you are stuck in the relationship
  • Does not trust you around the opposite sex
  • Tracks your whereabouts – has control of you
  • Implies the use of violence
  • Criticizes you and/or belittles your work or achievements
  • Makes you feel you really need your partner
  • Is insulting and hurtful when under the influence of substance/alcohol
  • Uses alcohol/substances as an excuse to be insulting and hurt you
  • Harasses you constantly for an example with messages, phone calls and/or visits.
  • Is going to “make you pay for it” – such as by forbidding you to seek help or assistance after a fight
  • Humiliates you and makes fun of you no matter if you are in public, in front of friends/family or when there are just the two of you

The consequences of psychological violence is often more difficult to get rid of, compared to the consequences of physical violence. Psychological violence does not leave visible injuries and that is one of the reasons it is difficult to spot and handle.


3. Sexual violence

Sexual violence can be in the form of unsolicited penetration (vaginal, rectal and/or oral) or physical contact (touching, kissing, licking, sucking and/or using objects) on any part of the body. The violence can be in the form of:

  • Sexual attack; such as forcing to have some kind of sexual intercourse, with or without a condom
  • Sexual harassment; can be both psychological and physical harassment of a sexual orientation.

An example of sexual domestic violence is if your partner:

  • Forces you into prostitution
  • Demands sexual acts which you do not like and/or do not want
  • Forces you to have sex with (many) others
  • Uses physical force, power, conscience or distress to have sex with you.

It is considered sexual violence if one party decides to have sex with their partner if the partner is drunk under the influence of drugs, asleep, afraid to refuse participation in sex, too old, too young or is dependent on the person alleging sexual relations.

The consequences can occur immediately but also later, and can be physical, mental and/or social. Women exposed to sexual abuse are more susceptible to becoming infected with sexually transmitted diseases, are more likely to have gynecological problems (such as infection, irritation, pain) and are more likely to become pregnant against their will, than women who do not live in such violence. Survivors of sexual violence are also more likely to have symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression. Furthermore, they are more likely to feel shame, guilt, anger, fear, isolation and low self-esteem than those who have not been subjected to sexual violence.


4. Financial violence

Financial abuse is a way to control your partner through finance/money. An example of financial domestic violence can be if your partner:

  • Prohibits you to work
  • Takes your salaries of you
  • Dispenses you money
  • Records debts on you and property on him/herself
  • Prevents you from choosing a career
  • Destroys your personal belongings on purpose
  • Keeps information about financial position from you
  • Uses mutual money/property on unnecessary goods such as drugs/alcohol or own hobbies without speaking to you.

The consequences may be the survivor becomes isolated, looses his/her independence and thinks it is difficult to leave the perpetrator as the survivor has now become financially dependent on him.


5. Digital violence

Digital violence is when violence is applied using techniques, such as sending messages through social media, phone or e-mail.

Examples of digital domestic violence is if your partner:

  • Logs in on social media in your name
  • Control whom you can be friends with and whom not, for an example on Facebook
  • Has information on your location, for an example through your phone
  • Controls whom you are allowed to contact and talk to on social media and on the phone
  • Pushes you to send him/her nude/sexual photos or videos of you
  • Looks through your phone on a regular basis,, views photos, messages and call history
  • Sends you nude/sexual photos/videos of him/herself against your will
  • Constantly sends messages through phone/social media and /or calls you constantly
  • Threatens to speak badly about you or spread rumours of you through the phone or social media
  • Demands your passwords to be able to login to your bank account or social media accounts
  • Threatens to spread publicly nude/sexual photos or videos of you or send such material to relatives, friends or work colleges.

The consequences can be of various types, apart from the constant threats of harassment, survivors often experience fear, anger, anxiety, depression, threat and that they are not in control of their own lives. Studies also show that survivors feel they do not have any privacy, are more likely to isolate themselves, be ashamed of the situation, feel like it is their fault and experience helplessness, compared to people who do not live in this violence.