Recognizing the Dynamics of Domestic Violence

The following list identifies a series of behaviors typically demonstrated by batterers and abusive people. All of these forms of abuse: psychological, economic, and physical, come from the batterer’s desire for power and control. The list can help you recognize if you or someone you know is in a violent relationship. Check off those behaviors that apply to the relationship. The more checks on the list, the more dangerous the situation might be.

Destructive Criticism/Verbal Abuse

Name-calling; mocking; accusing; blaming; yelling; swearing; making humiliating remarks or gestures.

Pressure Tactics

Rushing you to make decisions by “guilt-tripping” and other forms of intimidation; sulking; threatening to withhold money; manipulating children; telling you what to do.

Abusing Authority

Always claiming to be right (insisting statements are “the truth”); telling you what to do; making decisions; using “logic.”


Interrupting; changing topics; not listening or responding; twisting your words; putting you down in front of other people; saying bad things about your friends or family.

Abusing Trust

Lying; withholding information; cheating on you; being overly jealous.

Breaking Promises

Not following through on agreements; not taking a fair share of responsibility; refusing to help with child care or housework.

Emotional Withholding

Not expressing feelings; not giving support, attention or compliments; not respecting feelings, rights or opinions.

Minimizing, Denying & Blaming

Making light of behavior and not taking it seriously; saying the abuse didn’t happen; shifting responsibility for abusive behavior; saying you caused it.

Economic Control

Interfering with your work or not letting you work; refusing to give you or taking your money; taking your car keys or otherwise preventing you from using the car; threatening to report you to welfare or other social-service agencies.

Self-Destructive Behavior

Abusing drugs or alcohol; threatening suicide or other forms of self-harm; deliberately saying or doing things that will have negative consequences (e.g., telling off the boss.)


Preventing or making it difficult for you to see friends or relatives; monitoring phone calls; telling you where you can and cannot go.


Making uninvited visits or calls; following you; checking up on you; embarrassing you in public; refusing to leave when asked.


Making angry or threatening gestures; use of physical size to intimidate; standing in doorway during arguments; out-shouting you; driving recklessly.


Destroying your possessions (e.g., furniture); punching walls, throwing and/or breaking things.


Making and/or carrying out threats to hurt you or others.

Sexual Violence

Degrading treatment based on your sex or sexual orientation; using force or coercion to obtain sex or perform sexual acts.

Physical Violence

Being violent to you, your children, household pets or others; slapping, punching, grabbing, kicking, choking; pushing; biting; burning; stabbing; shooting, etc.


Use of weapons; keeping weapons around which frighten you; threatening or attempting to kill you or those you love.