It can be difficult to recognize when you are a victim of domestic violence or abuse in California. One of the reasons for this is that the treatment you receive can alter your perceptions, but another reason is that abuse does not always take a recognizable form, such as physical violence.
According to service agency REACH Beyond Domestic Violence, physical abuse, such as striking you or making you feel unsafe by invading your personal space, is only one of several types of possible domestic violence. The definition of abuse is a pattern of behavior used to exert power and gain control over someone else, and these patterns can take different forms.
Your cultural identity, which may include gender or sexual orientation, is a significant part of what makes you unique, but an abuser can use aspects of your culture or identity to inflict suffering on you. For example, an abuser may threaten to out you as LGBT against your wishes, use offensive racial slurs or prevent you from observing faith-based customs of dress or diet.
This is one of the most common and least understood forms of domestic violence. Financial abuse involves restricting your access to shared household funds, sabotaging your efforts to get and keep a job, preventing you from working or running up debts in your name to destroy your credit. The goal is for you to become completely dependent on the abuser for your livelihood, making it very difficult to escape the relationship.
Commonly known as “gaslighting,” psychological abuse involves a series of manipulative actions designed to make you doubt your own sanity and the evidence of your senses. As an example, you may describe past experiences that you recall vividly, only to have the abuser tell you that they never happened. When you feel that you cannot trust your own judgment, you often become more dependent on the abuser and may be reluctant to report the abuse for fear that people will not believe you or call you crazy.
While the physical abuser uses hands, feet or weapons to cause harm, the emotional abuser does so with his or her words. Emotional abuse can be difficult to prove since it leaves no outward marks or scars, but the effects can be every bit as damaging to your sense of self.
One or more of these patterns may be present in an abusive relationship, but help is available to those who recognize themselves as victims.
The information in this article is not intended as legal advice but provided for educational purposes only.