What are the Red Flags of Domestic Violence?

Communities, Families
Domestic Violence

Debbie A. Powell, Deputy Associate Commissioner, Family & Youth Services Bureau

October has been commemorated as National Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM) for 30 years. The observance was established in 1987 by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. The month was meant to unite individuals and organizations working on domestic violence issues and to raise awareness of this epidemic.

We are one of those organizations. The Division of Family Violence Prevention and Services at ACF’s Family and Youth Services Bureau provides funding, technical assistance, and training for over 1,500 emergency shelters and related assistance for victims of domestic violence and their children, including a national domestic violence hotline that operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days of the year. 

Domestic violence is one person in a relationship using tactics of coercive control to exert power over the other.

That control can be through:

  • Emotional abuse and manipulation
  • Physical violence, either once or repeatedly
  • Stalking or monitoring daily activities
  • Controlling the victim’s money or sabotaging their employment
  • Harming or threatening to harm their children
  • Sexual violence

According to the CDC, 62% of female victims and 18% of male victims of intimate partner violence commonly report feeling fearful and having concern for their safety.

If you suspect that domestic violence is happening, it can be difficult to talk about. The National Domestic Violence Hotline has suggestions of what to look for if you are concerned for a friend or family member.

  • Does their partner put them down in front of other people?
  • Are they constantly worried about making their partner angry, or fearful of how they may react?
  • Do they make excuses for their partner’s behavior or worry that their partner is extremely jealous and possessive?
  • Have you noticed unexplained bruises, marks, or injuries?
  • Have they stopped spending time with friends and family?
  • Are they depressed or anxious, or have you noticed changes in their personality?

The Hotline also has specific suggestions for supporting teens or young people experiencing dating abuse or a coworker who may be being abused.

Want to learn more about the power dynamics of domestic violence? The Power & Control Wheel is a useful tool to explain and identify tactics most commonly used by batterers to keep victims under their control. There have been many adaptations, including ones for teen dating violence, abuse across the lifespan, violence against Native women, and abuse in same-sex relationships.  

The National Domestic Violence Hotline is available 24/7/365 at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or 1-800-787-3224 for TTY. Live online chat services are available every day from 7:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m. CT at http://www.thehotline.org

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