What is domestic violence?

Domestic violence is a pattern of assaultive and coercive behaviors, including physical, sexual and psychological attacks, as well as economic coercion, that adults or adolescents use against their intimate partners. Under the provisions of Florida Statute 741.28, domestic violence means any assault, aggravated battery, sexual assault, sexual battery, stalking, aggravated stalking, kidnapping, false imprisonment or any criminal offense resulting in physical injury or death of one family or household member by another who is or was residing in the same single dwelling unit.


What is the difference between fighting and battering?

Arguments, disagreements and differences of opinion are parts of normal relationships. What distinguishes an abusive relationship is an ongoing pattern of disproportionate control and coercion. The “fight” is not between people of equal power, but occurs within a relationship in which there is an imbalance of power and the use of abusive control tactics by one party.


Why does domestic violence happen?

Contrary to popular belief, domestic violence is not caused by stress, past abuse to the batterer, mental illness, alcohol or drugs. They may act as contributing factors, but they are NOT the cause. The only cause of domestic violence is the abuser’s CHOICE to act violently.


Why does someone stay in an abusive relationship?

There are many reasons a person may not be ready or able to leave. Some reasons include:

  • Fear of physical danger – most murders happen AFTER abused has left.
  • Financial barriers.
  • Belief that things will get better.
  • Fear of the unknown/failure.
  • Societal/religious messages to keep family intact.
  • They love the person and hope they will change.

**We should also question why an abuser would stay in a relationship with someone they do not respect or value enough to keep them from harm.


What are signs that I may be in an abusive relationship?

Does your partner…

  • Hit, punch, slap, choke, or shove you?
  • Destroy personal property, damage furniture or walls?
  • Prevent you from seeing friends or family?
  • Control all finances and/or force you to account for what you spend?
  • Belittle you in public or private?
  • Show extreme jealousy of others or make false accusations?
  • Force you to have sex against your will?


Does violence occur in same-sex relationships?

Violence does occur in same-sex relationships. In fact, statistics show that same-sex relationship violence is as common as heterosexual relationship violence. The elements of abusive relationships are similar for heterosexual and homosexual couples, although same-sex victims may face additional barriers to ending the relationship.


Are heterosexual men ever the victims of domestic abuse?

The topic of battered men is very emotionally charged. While most abuse is men’s violence against women, men can also be survivors. Harbor House ensures all of its services are open to any survivor, regardless of gender.


I’m worried about someone I know – what should I do?

If you are the friend or a loved one of someone who is being abused or has been sexually assaulted…

  • Learn what you can about the impact and effects of domestic violence or sexual assault.
  • Be patient and allow the victim to tell her/his story.
  • Offer resources and options. Try not to tell a victim what he/she should do. Remember they often feel powerless and feel like they have no control or choices. Assist them in regaining power and the ability to choose for themselves.
  • Know that being present and bearing witness to someone’s trauma and story empowers, validates and shows concern.
  • Always talk about safety.
  • Always get support for yourself. Helping and caretaking can take a great deal of time, energy and resources. Model the benefits of group/community support to your loved one by asking for assistance for yourself. You too are a precious resource and need to be refilled and replenished.