If you are in danger call 911, please use a safer computer, call your local hotline, or the U.S. National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or TTY 1-800-787-3224.

What is abuse?

Abuse is a pattern of behavior in which physical violence and/or emotional coercion is used to gain or maintain power or control in a relationship. A single incident of assault also constitutes abuse. Read More On This Topic...

What is abuse?
Abuse is a pattern of behavior in which physical violence and/or emotional coercion is used to gain or maintain power or control in a relationship. A single incident of assault also constitutes abuse.

Examples of Abuse:

Physical: Hitting, pushing, biting, punching, choking, any unwanted or uninvited intimidating or painful touching...

Emotional: cursing swearing, attacks on self-esteem, blaming, criticizing your thoughts, feelings, looks, etc

Psychological: Threatening, throwing, smashing, breaking things, punching walls, hiding things, sabotaging your car.

Sexual: any non-consenting sexual act or behavior , withholding sex or controlling what happens during sex.


What is domestic violence?
Domestic violence is a pattern of behavior that includes the use or threat of violence and intimidation for the purpose of gaining power and control over another person. Violence is characterized by: Physical Abuse, Sexual Abuse, Economic Abuse, Isolation, Emotional Abuse, Control, or Verbal Abuse.

Examples of Domestic Violence:

 Verbal and emotional abuse

   Your partner calls you stupid.

   Your partner says you're worthless.

   Your partner says "I did it for your own good."

   Your partner calls you an idiot or says you are crazy.

   Your partner calls you dirty names.


Physical abuse

   Your partner breaks things.

   Your partner shoves you.

   Your partner chokes you.

   Your partner slaps or punches you.

   Your partner bites you.

   Your partner hurts your children, other family members or pets.


Sexual abuse  

   Your partner accuses you of being unfaithful.

   Your partner forces you to do things you don't want to sexually.

   You think you can pacify your partner by giving in.


Abuse through control

   Your partner controls your money.

   Your partner tells you what to wear.

   Your partner monitors your whereabouts at all times.

   The abuser should be forgiven because they were using alcohol or drugs

   No one else would want you.


What the victim can do

   Tell someone you trust about what is happening.

   Find someone you trust that is willing to help.

   If you have been assaulted or abused in any way, report the incident to your local police.

   If you have been injured, seek immediate, appropriate emergency medical care.

   If you need to leave or be away from the offender, locate safe temporary housing through friends, family or area safe home or shelter.

   Seek an Order of Protection.

   Save all the evidence you can (such as a written journal).


Your choices  

   Learn about your options.

   Find support.

   Don't blame yourself if you return.

   Build strength.

Get continuous help and counseling.


What is the Cycle of Abuse?

Often, it is difficult to recognize the pattern of abuse in a relationship, as people tend to perceive abusive behaviors as isolated incidents that are unrelated to one another. Yet abuse can often happen in cycles.  Often, abusive behavior is interspersed with calm, loving periods within the relationship. The cycle of abusive can be described as follows.

Tension Building Phase:  tensions may arise in the relationship (ie. a minor disagreement). The tension will continue to build over hours, days, months, until an ‘Explosion’ occurs.

Explosion Phase: the ‘explosion’ often results in a form of physical, verbal or sexual assault.

Calm Phase:  the abuser may buy gifts or do something special. Often, the abuser will feel sorry for what has happened.

Typically, the cycle repeats itself and often intensifies in frequency, as more small incidents occur, which result in tensions to arise and the cycle of abuse to occur.  People want to believe that each incident of abuse will not occur again. However, it usually does continue.
Sometimes abuse occurs without any warning signs or build-up or there may be no periods of remorse. In other situations, tension is always present.


Abuse Is Assault Is Abuse

1) v. the threat or attempt to strike another, whether successful or not, provided the target is aware of the danger. The assaulter must be reasonably capable of carrying through the attack. In some states if the assault is with a deadly weapon (such as sniping with a rifle), the intended victim does not need to know of the peril. Other state laws distinguish between different degrees (first or second) of assault depending on whether there is actual hitting, injury or just a threat. "Aggravated assault" is an attack connected with the commission of another crime, such as beating a clerk during a robbery.
2) n. the act of committing an assault, as in "there was an assault down on Third Avenue." Assault is both a criminal wrong, for which one may be charged and tried, and civil wrong for which the target may sue for damages due to the assault, including for mental distress.

At Common Law, an intentional act by one person that creates an apprehension in another of an imminent harmful or offensive contact.

An assault is carried out by a threat of bodily harm coupled with an apparent, present ability to cause the harm. It is both a crime and a tort and, therefore, may result in either criminal or civil liability. Generally, the common law definition is the same in criminal and Tort Law. There is, however, an additional Criminal Law category of assault consisting of an attempted but unsuccessful Battery.

Statutory definitions of assault in the various jurisdictions throughout the United States are not substantially different from the common-law definition.


Generally, the essential elements of assault consist of an act intended to cause an apprehension of harmful or offensive contact that causes apprehension of such contact in the victim.

The act required for an assault must be overt. Although words alone are insufficient, they might create an assault when coupled with some action that indicates the ability to carry out the threat. A mere threat to harm is not an assault; however, a threat combined with a raised fist might be sufficient if it causes a reasonable apprehension of harm in the victim.

Intent is an essential element of assault. In tort law, it can be specific intent—if the assailant intends to cause the apprehension of harmful or offensive contact in the victim—or general intent—if he or she intends to do the act that causes such apprehension. In addition, the intent element is satisfied if it is substantially certain, to a reasonable person, that the act will cause the result. A defendant who holds a gun to a victim's head possesses the requisite intent, since it is substantially certain that this act will produce an apprehension in the victim. In all cases, intent to kill or harm is irrelevant.

In criminal law, the attempted battery type of assault requires a Specific Intent to commit battery. An intent to frighten will not suffice for this form of assault.

There can be no assault if the act does not produce a true apprehension of harm in the victim. There must be a reasonable fear of injury. The usual test applied is whether the act would induce such apprehension in the mind of a reasonable person. The status of the victim is taken into account. A threat made to a child might be sufficient to constitute an assault, while an identical threat made to an adult might not.

Virtually all jurisdictions agree that the victim must be aware of the danger. This element is not required, however, for the attempted battery type of assault. A defendant who throws a rock at a sleeping victim can only be guilty of the attempted battery assault, since the victim would not be aware of the possible harm.

Aggravated Assault

An aggravated assault, punishable in all states as a felony, is committed when a defendant intends to do more than merely frighten the victim. Common types of aggravated assaults are those accompanied by an intent to kill, rob, or rape. An assault with a dangerous weapon is aggravated if there is an intent to cause serious harm. Pointing an unloaded gun at a victim to frighten the individual is not considered an aggravated assault.


A defendant adjudged to have committed civil assault is liable for damages. The question of the amount that should be awarded to the victim is determined by a jury. Compensatory Damages, which are aimed at compensating the victim for the injury, are common. Nominal damages, a small sum awarded for the invasion of a right even though there has been no substantial injury, may be awarded. In some cases, courts allow Punitive Damages, which are designed to punish the defendant for the wrongful conduct.

The punishment for criminal assault is a fine, imprisonment, or both. Penalties are more severe when the assault is aggravated. Many states have statutes dividing criminal assault into various degrees. As in aggravated assault, the severity of the crime, the extent of violence and harm, and the criminal intent of the defendant are all factors considered in determining the sentence imposed.

ASSAULT, crim. law. An assault is any unlawful attempt or offer with force or violence to do a corporal hurt to another, whether from malice or wantonness; for example, by striking at him or even holding up the fist at him in a threatening or insulting manner, or with other circumstances as denote at the time. an intention, coupled with a present ability, of actual violence against his person, as by pointing a weapon at him when he is within reach of it. 6 Rogers Rec: 9. When the injury is actually inflicted, it amounts to a battery. (q.v.)
     2. Assaults are either simple or aggravated. 1. A simple assault is one Where there is no intention to do any other injury. This is punished at common law by fine and imprisonment. 2. An aggravated assault is one that has in addition to the bare intention to commit it, another object which is also criminal; for example, if a man should fire a pistol at another and miss him, the former would be guilty of an assault with intent to murder; so an assault with intent to rob a man, or with intent to spoil his clothes, and the like, are aggravated assaults, and they are more severely punished than simple assaults. General references, 1 East, P. C. 406; Bull. N. P. 15; Hawk. P. B. b. 1, c. 62, s. 12; 1 Russ. Cr. 604; 2 Camp. Rep. 650 1 Wheeler's Cr. C. 364; 6 Rogers' Rec. 9; 1 Serg. & Rawle, 347 Bac. Ab. h.t.; Roscoe. Cr. Ev. 210.
A Law Dictionary, Adapted to the Constitution and Laws of the United States. By John Bouvier. Published 1856.


If you are in danger call 911, please use a safer computer, call your local hotline, or the U.S. National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or TTY 1-800-787-3224. Read More On The Topic of Abuse And Take An Online Quiz...

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