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Domestic Violence

Domestic Violence is the willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, and/or other abusive behavior perpetrated by one intimate partner against another.  It is a pattern of behaviors that one person uses over another to gain power and control. 

It can be classified into the emotional, mental and psychological, financial, sexual and physical types of abuse. Read on to learn more about each type, warning signs, and how to get help for yourself or someone you care about.

Types of Abuse

This section is an informative guide to help you better understand the different forms abuse may take, and how to take the first steps to get help for yourself or someone else.

Emotional, Mental, and Psychological Abuse

Emotional abuse includes non-physical behaviors such as threats, insults, constant monitoring or “checking in,” excessive texting, humiliation, intimidation, isolation or stalking. There are many behaviors that qualify as emotional or verbal abuse.

  • Calling you names and putting you down.
  • Yelling and screaming at you.
  • Intentionally embarrassing you in public.
  • Preventing you from seeing or talking with friends and family.
  • Telling you what to do and wear.
  • Damaging your property when they’re angry (throwing objects, punching walls, kicking doors, etc.)
  • Using online communities or cell phones to control, intimidate or humiliate you.
  • Blaming your actions for their abusive or unhealthy behavior.
  • Accusing you of cheating and often being jealous of your outside relationships.
  • Stalking you.
  • Threatening to commit suicide to keep you from breaking up with them.
  • Threatening to harm you, your pet or people you care about.
  • Using gaslighting techniques to confuse or manipulate you.
  • Making you feel guilty or immature when you don’t consent to sexual activity.
  • Threatening to expose your secrets such as your sexual orientation or immigration status.
  • Starting rumors about you.
  • Threatening to have your children taken away.

Financial Abuse

Financial Abuse can be very subtle. It can include telling you what you can and cannot buy or requiring you to share control of your bank accounts. Click below to see more examples of this type of abuse.

  • Forbidding to work.
  • Preventing you from going to work by taking your car or keys.
  • Forbidding from attending job training or advancement opportunities.
  • Getting you fired by harassing you, your employer or coworkers on the job.
  • Controlling how all of the money is spent.
  • Using your social security number to obtain bad credit loans without your permission.
  • Maxing out your credit cards without your permission.
  • Running up large amounts of debt on joint accounts.
  • Not being included in investment or banking decisions.
  • Not being allowed access to bank accounts.
  • Placing your paycheck in their account and denying you access to it.
  • Withholding money or giving “an allowance.”
  • Forcing to write bad checks or file fraudulent tax returns.
  • Refusing to work or contribute to the family income.
  • Withholding funds to obtain basic needs such as food and medicine.
  • Hiding assets.
  • Stealing your identity, property, or inheritance.
  • Forcing one to work in a family business without pay.
  • Refusing to pay bills and ruining intimate partners credit score.
  • Forcing one to turn over public benefits or threatening to turn in for “cheating or misusing benefits.”
  • Filing false insurance claims.
  • Refusing to pay or evading child support or manipulating the divorce process by drawing it out by hiding or not disclosing assets.
  • Hiding or stealing your student financial aid check or outside financial support.
  • Using your child’s social security number to claim an income tax refund without your permission.
  • Using funds from your children’s tuition or a joint savings account without your knowledge.
  • Spending money on themselves but not allowing you to do the same.
  • Giving you presents and/or paying for things like dinner and expecting you to somehow return the favor.
  • Using their money to hold power over you because they know you are not in the same financial situation as they are.

Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse includes any action that pressures or coerces an intimate partner to do something sexually they don’t want to do. It can also refer to behavior that impacts an intimate partner’s ability to control their sexual activity or the circumstances in which sexual activity occurs, including oral sex, rape or restricting access to birth control and condoms. Some examples of sexual assault and abuse include:

  • Unwanted fondling or inappropriate touch.
  • Rape, intercourse, oral or anal sodomy. 
  • Unwanted rough or violent sexual activity.
  • Withholding or unwanted removal of contraceptive methods. 
  • Keeping intimate partner from protecting themselves from sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
  • Sexual contact with intimate partner who is very drunk, drugged, unconscious or otherwise unable to give a clear and informed “yes” or “no.”
  • Treating a person in a sexually derogatory manner. 

Physical Abuse

Physical abuse is any intentional and unwanted contact with you or something close to your body. Sometimes abusive behavior does not cause pain or even leave a bruise, but it’s still unhealthy. Examples of physical abuse include:

  • Slapping, hitting, biting, arm twisting or kicking. 
  • Scratching, punching, pushing or pulling. 
  • Use of object to inflict pain and injury. 
  • Pulling your hair.
  • Strangulation. 
  • Grabbing your clothing.
  • Using a gun, knife, box cutter, bat, mace or other weapon.
  • Smacking your bottom without your permission or consent.
  • Forcing you to have sex or perform a sexual act.
  • Grabbing your face to make you look at them.
  • Grabbing you to prevent you from leaving
  • Force you to go somewhere.

Understanding the Cycle of Abuse

The cycle of abuse is a way to show the patterns of abusive behavior. It begins with the tension building stage where the abuser will start to show more and more abusive behavior. Then there is a moment of acute explosion where there is a moment of verbal abuse or physical act of violence, or other shows of violence.

Then the final aspect of the cycle of abuse is the honeymoon. In the honeymoon stage, the abuser will do everything in their power to apologize for the act of violence and to make the victim feel as if this is a one-time incident. This may include things like gift giving, allowing of big purchases, apologizing, promises to never do “it” again, conversations about changing of behavior or boundaries.

The cycle will then begin again after the honeymoon period lulls and the abuser starts to feel more stressed, aggravated, or that they are somehow losing control.

Warning Signs

The following can be warning signs of domestic violence. This is not a complete list. If you answer yes to any of the following, we are here to listen! Please call one of our advocates today at 803-649-0480.

Do You...

  • Feel afraid to talk to your partner about your feelings
  • Avoid certain topics of conversation because you don’t want to anger your partner
  • Question whether you are crazy
  • Believe that you deserve the mistreatment or pain your partner is causing you
  • Feel emotionally numb?
  • Feel helpless or afraid to talk to others about what is happening?
  • Think you can do nothing right for your partner, no matter how hard you try?

Does Your Partner...

  • Humiliate or yell at you?
  • Treat you so badly you avoid friends and family out of embarrassment?
  • Blame you for their abusive behavior?
  • Have an uncontrollable and unpredictable temper that you never know when it will show?
  • Threaten to commit suicide if you say you are leaving?
  • Limit your access to money, a phone, or a car?
  • Make any threats to you, your children, your pets, your friends or your family?
  • Threaten to destroy things you own or like?
  • Constantly check up on you and get upset when you don’t respond?
  • Force you to have sex with them or guilt you into having sex with them?
  • Asks to see your phone and check your messages “just in case”?

Safety Planning

Although you can’t control an abuser’s use of violence, you can plan how you will respond to future abusive or violent incidents, prepare for the possibility of an incident happening, and plan how to get to safety. It is your decision if and when you tell others that you have been abused, or that you are still at risk. Friends, family, and coworkers can help with your safety plan if they are aware of the situation and want to help.

Developing a Personalized Safety Plan

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • When I have to talk to the abuser, I can ___________________.

  • When I talk on the phone with the abuser, I can ___________________.

  • I can make up a "code word" for my family, co-workers, friends and counselor so they know when to call for help for me. My code word is ___________________.

  • When I feel a fight coming on, I will try to move to a place that is lowest risk for getting hurt, such as ____________________ (at work), ____________________ (at home) or ____________________ (in public).

  • I can tell my family, co-workers, boss, counselor or a friend about my situation. I feel safe telling ____________________.

  • I can screen my calls, texts, emails, and visitors. I have the right to not receive harassing phone calls, texts or emails. I can ask friends, family members or co-workers to help me screen my contacts. I can ask these people for help: ____________________.

  • I can call any of the following people for assistance or support if necessary and ask them to call the police if they see the abuser harassing me. Friend: ____________________ Relative: ____________________ Co-worker: ____________________ Counselor: ____________________ Shelter: ____________________ Other: ____________________

  • When leaving work, I can ____________________.

  • When walking, riding, or driving home, if problems occur, I can ____________________.

  • I can attend a victim's/survivor's support group with the Domestic Violence program, like ____________________.

  • Contact Information I Need To Have: Police Department: ____________________ Domestic Violence Program: ____________________ Sexual Assault Program: ____________________ Attorney: ____________________ Counselor: ____________________ Spiritual Support/Clergy: ____________________ Probation Officer: ____________________ Other: ____________________

How to Help a Friend

Worried about your friend or family member? Think they may be experiencing abuse? Here is a list of warning signs you may have noticed: 

  • Their partner puts them down in front of other people
  • They are constantly worried about making their partner angry
  • They make excuses for their partner’s behavior
  • Their partner is extremely jealous or possessive
  • They have unexplained marks or injuries
  • They’ve stopped spending time with friends and family
  •  They are depressed or anxious, or you notice other changes in their personality

Here are some ways you can support your friend or family member:

Acknowledge they are in a scary situation.

Tell them you are there for them. Remind them that the abuse is not their fault. It may be difficult for them to talk about the abuse, so be patient and give them space to tell their story in their own time.

Be non-judgmental.

There are a lot of barriers to leaving a domestic violence situation. Respect their decisions. They are the experts in their relationship and know what they need to do to stay safe and when will be a good (safe) time for them to leave. Do not criticize them or attempt to manipulate or guilt them into doing what you think is best for them.

If they do leave the relationship, continue to support them.

It is important to remember that support should not end once the relationship is over. There may be many practical things a survivor will need help with: child care, travel to and from work, help establishing their home so they and their family feel safe, etc. There are also many ways to provide emotional support: give them space to grieve their relationship, help them get the mental health support they may want, encourage them, be there for them in small ways, do things to help them feel not as lonely, etc.

Encourage them to participate in activities.

Reconnection with friends and family can feel very overwhelming, embarrassing, and upsetting for survivors of domestic violence. They may be feeling ashamed and guilty for their marriage or relationship ending. They may be afraid of judgment and suspicious that their family and friends won’t support them. Helping them re-establish healthy connections with support systems, that the survivor wants to reconnect with, is a great way to support survivors of domestic violence.

It is not your job to save them.

Survivors do not need heroes. They need someone to be patient, to remind them of their own value and worth, to help them see that they can trust their instincts and that they can think for themselves. They need empowerment to make hard decisions. It’s important for you to be supportive without making demands, without forcing the survivor to make decisions they are not ready for, and to remember that oftentimes survivors go back to their abusers an average of 7 times before they finally leave. If they do go back, that’s when they need your support even more!  

Remember: leaving is hard to do.

It’s scary, overwhelming and unsettling. That’s why we are here! We offer advocacy, counseling, support for survivors and their families, and are there to help survivors navigate finding resources and local support. Have questions? Are still unsure what to do or how to help? Call us at 803-649-0480 to talk to an advocate today! 

Sexual Violence

Any type of forced or coerced sexual contact or behavior that happens without consent. Sexual violence includes rape and attempted rape, child molestation, groping, forced kissing and sexual harassment or threats. Sexual violence is a crime of power and control.  Sexual Violence can take many different forms, but one thing remains the same: it’s never the victim’s fault.

Sexual Violence is prevalent in every community and affects all people regardless of age, socio-economic status, sexual orientation, gender, race, religion or nationality. 


Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment includes unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature in the workplace or learning environment, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Sexual harassment does not always have to be specifically about sexual behavior or directed at a specific person. For example, negative comments about women as a group may be a form of sexual harassment. 

  • Making conditions of employment or advancement dependent on sexual favors, either explicitly or implicitly.
  • Physical acts of sexual assault.
  • Requests for sexual favors.
  • Verbal harassment of a sexual nature, including jokes referring to sexual acts or sexual orientation.
  • Unwanted touching or physical contact.
  • Unwelcome sexual advances.
  • Discussing sexual relations/stories/fantasies at work, school, or in other inappropriate places.
  • Feeling pressured to engage with someone sexually.
  • Exposing oneself or performing sexual acts on oneself.
  • Unwanted sexually explicit photos, emails, or text messages.

Sexual Assault

The term sexual assault refers to sexual contact or behavior that occurs without explicit consent of the victim. Some forms of sexual assault include:

  • Attempted rape
  • Fondling or unwanted sexual touching
  • Forcing a victim to perform sexual acts, such as oral sex or penetrating the perpetrator’s body
  • Penetration of the victim’s body, also known as rape

Child Sexual Abuse

Child sexual abuse is a form of child abuse that includes sexual activity with a minor. A child cannot consent to any form of sexual activity, period. When a perpetrator engages with a child this way, they are committing a crime that can have lasting effects on the victim for years. Child sexual abuse does not need to include physical contact between a perpetrator and a child. 

  • Exhibitionism, or exposing oneself to a minor
  • Fondling
  • Intercourse
  • Masturbation in the presence of a minor or forcing the minor to masturbate
  • Obscene phone calls, text messages, or digital interaction
  • Producing, owning, or sharing pornographic images or movies of children
  • Sex of any kind with a minor, including vaginal, oral, or anal 
  • Sex trafficking 
  • Any other sexual conduct that is harmful to a child’s mental, emotional, or physical welfare


Incest refers to sexual contact between family members. Laws vary from state to state regarding what constitutes crimes of incest, child sexual abuse, sexual assault, and rape. Regardless of state laws, unwanted sexual contact from a family member can have a lasting effect on the survivor.

Human Trafficking

Human Trafficking is a crime where people profit from the exploitation of children, adolescents, and adults. Sex trafficking occurs when one person manipulates another person into sex acts in exchange for something of value, such as money, food, shelter or drugs. 

Who are the victims?

Victims of trafficking come from all walks of life, and may be foreign nationals or U.S. citizens. Women and girls make up the majority of reported victims (Polaris, 2019), and people who identify with under-represented or underserved communities or who are perceived as vulnerable may be at greater risk of exploitation.

This includes:

  • Children, youth, and adults who are homeless
  • Children and youth living in foster care
  • LGBTQ people
  • People of color
  • People who have experienced physical or sexual abuse in the past
  • People struggling with self-esteem
  • People who live in poverty
  • Refugees
  • Undocumented immigrants
  • Migrant workers
  • People living with addiction
  • Children, youth, and adults living with intellectual disabilities or mental illness

Signs of Sexual Exploitation

While each individual and situation is different, there are some potential warning signs that may indicate that a person is being harmed or trafficked. These “red flags” can include:

  • Controlling or abusive relationship(s)
  • Lack of access to important documents, such as driver’s license, passport, or credit cards
  • Signs of malnourishment or abuse
  • Tattoos or branding
  • Personal or family history of sex trafficking
  • Chronic runaway
  • Absences from school or work
  • Changes in appearance, mood, or behavior
  • Isolation from family or friends

(CSE Institute, 2016; DHS, 2017; PCAR, 2018; Polaris, 2017)

Understanding Consent

Consent is an agreement between participants to engage in sexual activity. Consent doesn’t have to be verbal, but verbally agreeing to different sexual activities can help both you and your partner respect each other’s boundaries. 

When you’re engaging in sexual activity, consent is about communication. And it should happen every time. Giving consent for one activity, one time, does not mean giving consent for increased or recurring sexual contact. For example, agreeing to kiss someone doesn’t give that person permission to remove your clothes. Having sex with someone in the past doesn’t give that person permission to have sex with you again in the future.

You can withdraw consent at any point if you feel uncomfortable. It’s important to clearly communicate to your partner that you are no longer comfortable with this activity and wish to stop. The best way to ensure both parties are comfortable with any sexual activity is to talk about it.

Prison Rape Elimination Act (aka PREA)

What is prisoner rape?

Prisoner rape includes any act of sexual violence committed against an inmate. The perpetrator may be another inmate, or they may be a staff member who works for the prison, jail, or detention facility.

What is being done?

In 2003, The Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) was passed with the goal of analyzing the status of sexual assault crimes committed in prison and offering support services to inmates. The Act established the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission to develop standards for responding to and preventing instances of sexual assault in prisons. These standards, released in May 2012 by the Department of Justice, outline means for preventing sexual assaults and offering survivors the care they need, including cost-free sexual assault forensic exams and access to a sexual assault service provider.  If you’re an inmate, a former inmate, or know an inmate who survived sexual assault while in prison, there are resources available to you.

We provide PREA services in 6 different counties including detention centers, state and federal correctional facilities. 

Healthy Relationships

All relationships exist on a spectrum between healthy and unhealthy. 

It’s important to note that domestic violence is a pattern of abuse. Not all unhealthy relationships are abusive. For instance, how you feel after an argument or disagreement can tell you much about your relationship. Do you feel guilty or ashamed or do you feel scared or terrified of having sharing your feelings? There is a big difference between the two. It can be normal to feel upset or guilty after an argument, as caring about the people we love and their feelings, is a very common part of being in a relationship. 

How your relationship heals after a disagreement is important to keep in mind. If you become increasingly afraid of sharing or talking about how you feel because you are scared of how your partner will react, that is a red flag. (link to warning signs) If your partner keeps reminding you of how you hurt them in order to keep you feeling guilty, that is also a red flag. 

Healthy relationships are relationships that can handle boundaries. They are relationships that empower both partners to share their feelings and thoughts. They are relationships that support each partner’s goals, dreams, and healthy choices. They are based on trust and respect.