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What is domestic violence?

What we hear from many victims and survivors is that they did not believe they were experiencing domestic violence because they did not experience physical abuse, even though they experienced mental, emotional, and financial abuse. Victims and survivors that CADA advocates have worked with have expressed that emotional abuse is just as, if not more prevalent than the physical abuse they experience.

Emotional abuse can take many forms, such as controlling the finances, making threats, minimizing or denying the abuse, or extreme jealousy. If one partner makes the other feel embarassed, isolated, scared, or belittled, these can be signs of emotional abuse.

At CADA, we understand that domestic violence looks different to everyone experiencing it. Domestic violence is any attempt to gain power and control over one's partner. It might take the form of physical or sexual violence, or it might include the tactics of emotional abuse. The power and control wheel is a tool that was developed with survivors to show tactics often used in abusive relationsips. The wheel demonstrates that an abusive partner attempts to gain power and control through various abusive tactics, with the overarching threat of physical or sexual violence. Even if there has never been physical violence, the victim is often afraid of their partner. They are afraid that their partner might one day be violent towards them, their children, or their family. 


If you answer yes to any or all of these questions, we recommend talking to someone you trust about your relationship or reaching out to an advocate at CADA. Make sure you talk to someone who will listen with an open mind and not judge you. Always, always, always remember - the abuse is NOT your fault.

Do you have to be careful to control your behavior to avoid your partner’s anger?

Does your partner make you feel like you are wrong, stupid, crazy, or inadequate?

Do you feel like you can’t say no to sex?

Is your partner always checking up on you or accusing you of cheating?

Does your partner criticize you or humiliate you?

Has your partner ever scared you with violence or threatening behavior?

Why do people stay?

Advocates and victims are often asked why people stay in abusive relationships. It can be hard for someone who has never experienced abuse to understand why someone would stay in a relationship that is unhealthy or violent. A lot of the people we work with say that the relationship started off great - that their partner was loving, caring, and attentive. The abuse developed over time and started with more subtle unhealthy behaviors, such as a mean comment, a jealous remark, or a firm grab of their arm. Over time, these behaviors become a pattern and can escalate. We want to believe that the people we love would not intentionally hurt us.

Some reasons someone may stay in an abusive relationship:


The person loves their partner. They may have good memories, have been together a long time, and they may think back to when the relationship was better.


Almost all victims of abuse blame themselves for the abuse. It is because most abusers deny responsibility for their actions and put blame on the victim.


many people don’t have the financial resources to live without their partner. Their partner may control the money or restrict their partner’s access to financial resources.


Many abusive partners make threats to the victim. Because of these threats, a victim might fear the consequences of leaving just as much as the consequences of staying.


 A lot of people in abusive relationships hope it will get better. Many abusive people blame the abuse on alcohol, mental health issues, stress at work, or financial problems. Sometimes people hope that if those issues are resolved, their relationships will improve.

Lack of supportive relationships:

Many people don’t have family and friends to help them. It is very common for abusers to isolate people from the people who love them the most


Because of threats made by their partner, many people are afraid that their children will be taken away from them through family court or child protection. We have heard a lot of people say that they want to stay in the relationship to protect their children.

While these are certainly not all the reasons someone might stay in a relationship, they can show you that leaving an abusive relationship is not an easy decision to make. It is one of the hardest and most dangerous times for a victim.

What if I want to end the abusive relationship?

Because of the barriers victims face, it can be an extremely difficult decision to end or leave an abusive relationship.

Here are some safety considerations for someone in or trying to leave an abusive relationship:

Can you safely document the abuse in a journal?

How much (if any) contact will you need to have with your abuser? How can you communicate in a way that is safe?

How can you tell the violence is getting worse? What can you do when you see warning signs? Can you identify patterns of when the abuse escalates?

Do you want to get a restraining order so that your abuser cannot have contact with you and/or the children?

Who can help you during this time? What family or friends can you involve in your safety plan?

Do you want to report the abuse to law enforcement?

It is important to know that regardless of whether you leave or stay, CADA advocates will provide you with support and tools for safety planning. Advocates are here 24-hours a day to talk about your thoughts and feelings, the concerns. Advocates can work with you to discuss options and offer resources that are available to you.

for a safety planning tool to help survivors of violence assess their risk and make a plan

for protective strategies that may help in safety planning

to safety plan regarding technology and stalking

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