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Domestic violence does not need to be physical

When people hear the words ‘domestic violence,’ many think of physical abuse. However, that term references a variety of abuses, including emotional and sexual.

If you are in a marriage, you may be experiencing domestic violence and not even know it.

Domestic violence definitions

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, in California, domestic violence or abuse refers to actions that cause or attempt to cause bodily harm, sexual assault and actions that do not result in physical harm, such as emotional abuse. Domestic violence can occur to a spouse or former spouse as well as to a person the abuser is dating. It can also occur to a child.

Examples of emotional abuse

Psychology Today discusses that perpetrators use emotional or other forms of abuse to control their partners and that domestic violence is a pattern of abusive behavior. While physical abuse is more obvious, and it leaves evidence, emotional abuse is often more subtle. An abuser may use threats, insults, pets or other family members as leverage over the victim.

Abusers may have experienced violence in their childhood home, and they often have substance abuse issues. They become jealous easily and may accuse their partners of cheating when there is no evidence. Other examples of emotional abuse include:

  • Isolating the spouse from friends and family
  • Constantly checking up on the partner
  • Explosive outbursts with a remorseful and charming apology afterward
  • Possessiveness
  • Aggression
  • Blaming and instilling guilt

Over time, emotional abuse takes a toll on the victim. Victims commonly experience depression, feelings of low self-worth, anxiety and a sense of helplessness.