Many believe that abusive relationships are limited to lower-income families or to certain ethnic or cultural groups. This is not true. Individuals from all backgrounds are abused. Often they suffer alone for a long time, not wanting to admit they are being abused.
Abuse between spouses or partners is not just a private problem. Assaulting another person is a crime, whether they are a spouse, a partner or a stranger. The law applies equally regardless of sex. Anyone can be the victim of relationship violence and abuse.
Even though there is no such thing as a typical abuser, some studies suggest that there is a typical pattern to abuse. It is referred to as the cycle of violence. It has three distinct phases. During the first phase tension, frustration and anger on the part of the abuser may gradually build up over time. The build-up period may range from days to months, or possibly even years.
As the tension builds, the possibility that abuse will occur becomes greater. At some point an explosion occurs; this is the second phase. The abuse may last minutes or may continue over a period of days.
Following the abuse there is usually a period of relative calm; this is the third phase. It is often referred to as the honeymoon phase. During this phase the abuser is likely to apologize to the victim and try to make amends.
Then the cycle repeats itself. Often the time to go through the cycle gets shorter the more times it is repeated.
Abusive behaviour is not always this predictable. Abuse can vary widely from case to case.
The term "abuse" covers a wide range of behaviour that may or may not involve actual physical violence.
Physical Abuse is any aggressive behaviour directed at another person, such as pushing, pinching, squeezing, shaking, grabbing, biting, slapping, punching, kicking, choking, etc. It also includes throwing objects or using a weapon. Needless to say, such conduct will often result in serious injuries. But many victims are subjected to varying degrees of physical abuse without suffering physical injury that is visible to the eye.
Sexual Abuse is forced participation in any type of sexual activity. No one, including a spouse or partner, has the right to force someone to participate in sexual activity. If force or threats of force are used to gain compliance, a charge of sexual assault can be laid.
Psychological Abuse is the infliction of emotional pain and suffering by doing things to control or degrade another person, such as persistent verbal attacks on self-esteem, repeated accusations of infidelity, threats of suicide or harm to others, and control over friends, clothes and money.
Forced Confinement is when someone does not allow another person out of, for example, a house, room, bed or chair.
Abuse towards pets or property is the destruction of or harm to property or animals. This may include the direct or indirect threat that "you are next."
If the abusive behaviour is a crime, see Victims of Crime for information about criminal charges, the criminal justice system and the rights of victims in the justice system.