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Anyone that has been affected by domestic violence or abuse can attest to the fact that these crimes are terrifying and brutal. They affect your entire life, both physically and emotionally, leaving you damaged and scarred for life. However, not enough people know the difference between domestic violence and abuse.

Domestic violence and abuse are terms that are often used interchangeably. But what is the difference between them? And if you’re a victim, how can you tell which one you are suffering from? Here’s everything you need to know about the differences between domestic violence and abuse.

What Is Domestic Abuse?

When a married person or someone in an intimate relationship uses certain behaviours to dominate and control their partner, then that is a form of domestic abuse. Abuse can take different forms such as sexual violence, emotional and psychological abuse, physical assault, and economic deprivation.

The abuser uses threats to exert some form of dominance over their partner. They may even use scare tactics such as stalking or destroying the victim’s property to keep them in line. Some may go as far as bullying and threatening to harm the victim’s friends and family members. They may also frighten the victim into thinking that if they leave or report the situation to authorities and concerned friends or family members, they will be harmed as well.

Anyone can be a victim of domestic abuse and violence, regardless of race, gender, age, ethnicity, sexuality, economic status, or other factors.

What is Domestic Violence?

Domestic violence is a pattern of abusive behavior in a marriage or romantic relationship. It can include physical and sexual violence, emotional abuse, psychological abuse, and economic abuse. The perpetrator may be the victim’s spouse or ex, but this type of violence can also happen between a parental figure and a child.

When it comes to domestic violence and abuse, the victim is always reliant on the offender. There’s always a power gap between the two parties involved. While domestic abuse can be in the form of psychological and emotional abuse, domestic violence typically entails physical harm.

Domestic abuse and domestic violence are both signs of an abusive relationship. These terms are often used interchangeably because they are both types of violent behaviour that take place in the home. However, there are some distinctions between the two words: Domestic abuse is about power and control, while domestic violence generally concerns the victim’s physical safety.

What Are The Signs Of An Abusive Relationship?

In most cases, domestic abuse can result in physical violence, even though it may start with just verbal abuse and threats.  And as much as physical injury may present the most obvious danger, the psychological and emotional ramifications of domestic abuse are equally severe.

Emotionally abusive relationships can lead to anxiety and depression, make people feel powerless and alone, and shatter their self-worth and esteem. Either way, no one should have to go through this kind of abuse and torment. The first step to breaking free is admitting that your relationship is abusive.

Generally speaking, there are several signs of an abusive relationship. But fear of your partner is the most obvious sign. If you have to be extra careful in how you talk or behave with them or walk on eggshells around your partner. In that case, you are in an unhealthy and abusive relationship.

Likewise, if you have feelings of desperation, self-loathing, and helplessness, or if your partner tries to control you or belittles you, then you have to take these as signs of being in an abusive relationship.

Emotional Abuse

Contrary to popular belief, not every abusive relationship implies physical violence. Just because a person is not physically assaulted does not mean they are not being abused. A person in an emotionally abusive relationship is equally in a destructive situation, just like in relationships with physical assault and violence.  Even though most people, including the victim, often minimize or overlook this form of abuse.

An emotional abuser uses tactics that gradually undermine their partner’s confidence and self-esteem. The idea is to have their victims feel like they can’t leave the relationship or survive a broken relationship. The abuser also goes out of the way to make the victim feel like they are nothing to their lover.

The signs of an emotionally abusive relationship include verbal abuse such as name-calling, shaming, yelling, and blaming. They also include controlling behaviour, intimidation, and isolating their partner from concerned friends or family.

Physical And Sexual Abuse

When someone uses physical force in a way that causes injuries or puts you in danger, then that’s physical abuse. Physical abuse, such as battering or assault, is considered a crime. And it doesn’t matter if it happened inside or outside a family unit. When it comes to physical abuse, the law and the police have the power to protect you from these attacks.

Sexual abuse is any situation that forces, intimidates, or coerces an individual to partake in unwanted, degrading, or dangerous sexual activity. If an intimate partner or spouse forces you into having sex, by law, that’s an act of aggression and domestic violence. Moreover, most people with partners who abuse them sexually and physically are at risk of being severely injured or killed.


Domestic violence and abuse refer to a pattern of behavior that one person uses over time to gain and possess power over another person. It often starts with verbal abuse but can quickly escalate to physical harm. Emotional abuse is also common in these relationships. The perpetrator may punish the victim for things such as not meeting expectations or being too independent.

Fortunately, the cycle of domestic violence can be broken by recognizing the dynamics of power and control in a relationship. The first step is to recognize the warning signs and take action before it escalates into something more dangerous.

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