Partner abuse is a systematic pattern of behaviors where one person non-consensually uses power to try to control the thoughts, beliefs, actions, body, and/or spirit of a partner.*
*By “partner,” we are referring to a range of intimate relationships including but not limited to play partner; date; primary, secondary, or other non-monogamous partner; spouse; sexual partner; boyfriend/girlfriend; boo; hookup; life partner; lover.
Partner abuse is also called domestic violence, battering, intimate partner abuse, and/or dating violence.
Those who abuse may use a number of behaviors to control their partner including:
Emotional Abuse: verbal abuse, lying, undermining self esteem, humiliation, monitoring whereabouts, threats, and/or intimidation.
Physical Abuse: pushing, hitting, punching, choking, withholding medications or hormones, sleep deprivation.
Sexual Abuse: rape, forcing sex and/or sex with others, exposure to HIV or sexually transmitted infections.
Economic Abuse: controlling money & resources, forcing to live above means, stealing, identity theft.
Cultural/Identity Abuse: threat of outing partner’s sexual orientation, gender identity, SM, polyamory, HIV status, or any other personal information. Using partner’s race, class, age, immigration status, religion, size, physical ability, language, and/or ethnicity, against them.
Partner abuse happens in lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, polyamorous, SM/kink and straight communities. It crosses all social, ethnic, racial, age, and economic lines. An individual’s size, strength, politics, gender presentation, or personality does not determine whether s/he can be abused or an abuser.
No one has the right to abuse and no one deserves to be abused.
Have you been told…
- But I’ve never hit you!
Partner abuse is not about physical violence, it’s about control. Hitting is often unnecessary to maintain control in a relationship. Verbal, emotional, sexual, economic and cultural/identity abuse can be powerful and devastating weapons.
- You’ve hit me too, so if I’m abusive, so are you.
Partner abuse is never mutual. Although both partners may use violence, abusers do so to control their partners; survivors may use physical violence in self-defense or to try to stop the abuse.
- You know I’d never hurt you. I was high, I didn’t know what I was doing.
Partner abuse is not the result of addiction, it’s a behavioral choice. There are many abusers who don’t use and many substance abusers who don’t abuse. Getting clean and sober is no guarantee of your safety.
- You don’t understand – I’m just being butch.
Blaming abusive behavior on being butch is both insulting to butches and plain denial. While some butches abuse, so do some femmes. You and/or your abuser may identify as butch, femme or neither. Partner abuse can happen in all kinds of relationships, regardless of sexual identity, gender identity or gender presentation.
- I thought you liked rough sex.
No one wants or likes to be raped or abused. Although some abusers may say their abusive behavior is really just part of an SM scene, SM requires the consent of all involved, and a scene can be stopped by any participant at any time. If your partner is disrespectful of your limits, ignores your safe word, or violates your boundaries, it’s not SM – it’s abuse.
- How can you say I’m abusing you when you’re so much stronger than I am?
Partner abuse is about control, not size or strength. There is no way to tell by looking at a couple who is the abuser and who is being abused.
- I’ll never do it again, I promise. We’ll go for help.
Abusers may seem remorseful or promise to change after an incident, but often these promises are only attempts to keep you from leaving. Real change requires taking full responsibility for the abuse and committing to non-abusive behavior whether or not you stay together. This kind of change doesn’t happen overnight (if at all) and usually requires the help of a state certified program for batterers. Couples counseling does not help abusers stop abusing, and can actually be dangerous for the survivor.
- You always say how great our relationship is – how can you say I’m abusive?
Abusers can be charming, wonderful, caring, fun people. If they weren’t, no one would go out with them. Just because they can be nice doesn’t mean they can’t be abusive, and it doesn’t make the abuse okay.
- Women are safe, we don’t abuse each other.
Abuse occurs in relationships between women as often as in straight relationships, and women have been seriously injured and killed by their female partners.
- No one else will want you because you’re transgender.
Abusers can use transphobia as a tactic of control, you don’t have to put up with abuse to find love. No matter what your partner says, you don’t deserve to be abused.