Physical abuse almost never starts with a busted lip. Abusers typically begin subtly with an intimidating stance, a hand raised, a grab at your arm, or a quick slap to get your attention. This almost always graduates to harsher physical slaps, chokes, grabs, or even punches if you let the previous abuse slide. Abusers know that it takes time to breaking their spouse or partner down so they think they deserve the abuse. Once those defenses are broken down, the abuser is in control, and the abuse will likely escalate.

Examples of physical abuse:

Pinching or biting
Slapping, beating, or kicking
Backing you into a corner
Pinning you down
Throwing objects
Pulling your hair
Holding you captive
Breaking down a door to get to you
Preventing you from eating or sleeping
Locking you out of the house
Forcing your car off the road
Abandoning you in dangerous places
Keeping you from getting medical care
Spitting on you
Using or threatening to use a weapon against you
Driving at unsafe speeds to intimidate you
Refusing to help you when you are sick, injured, or pregnant
Withholding medications or medical treatment
Animal cruelty towards pets

Sometimes people ask if a one time incident (i.e. throwing an object once) is always domestic violence. Contextualizing the incident in the relationship and looking at other forms of controlling behavior will help to determine if this is something that could escalate. However, a one-time incident can be a warning sign that future abuse could occur. In addition, a one-time incident may have the same effect of causing fear, limiting behavior, and long-term negative impact as continuing physical abuse. Contact a hotline if you have questions or concerns.