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Health and Safety Directorate

What Is Domestic Abuse?

Are You Being Abused?

Look over the following questions to think about how you are being treated and how you treat your partner. Click here to review the signs.

Domestic abuse, also called "domestic violence" or "intimate partner violence", can be defined as a pattern of behavior in any relationship that is used to gain or maintain power and control over an intimate partner. Abuse is physical, sexual, emotional, economic or psychological actions or threats of actions that influence another person. This includes any behaviors that frighten, intimidate, terrorize, manipulate, hurt, humiliate, blame, injure, or wound someone. Domestic abuse can happen to anyone of any race, age, sexual orientation, religion, or gender. It can happen to couples who are married, living together or who are dating. Domestic violence affects people of all socioeconomic backgrounds and education levels. 

Power and Control Wheel

Click here for the "Power and Control Wheel" in other languages


Emotional abuse includes undermining a person's sense of self-worth through constant criticism; belittling one's abilities; name-calling or other verbal abuse; damaging a partner's relationship with the children; or not letting a partner see friends and family. You may be in an emotionally abusive relationship if your partner:

  • Calls you names, insults you or continually criticizes you.
  • Does not trust you and acts in a jealous or possessive manner.
  • Tries to isolate you from family or friends.
  • Monitors where you go, who you call and with whom you spend your time.
  • Does not want you to work.
  • Controls finances or refuses to share money.
  • Punishes you by withholding affection.
  • Expects you to ask permission.
  • Threatens to hurt you, the children, your family or your pets.
  • Humiliates you in any way.

Psychological abuse is causing fear by intimidation; threatening physical harm to self, partner or children; destruction of pets and property; “mind games”; or forcing isolation from friends, family, school and/or work.

Financial or economic abuse is making or attempting to make a person financially dependent by maintaining total control over financial resources, withholding access to money, and/or forbidding attendance at school or employment.

Physical abuse is when a person hurts or tries to hurt a partner by hitting, kicking, burning, grabbing, pinching, shoving, slapping, hair-pulling, biting, denying medical care or forcing alcohol and/or drug use, or using other physical force. You may be in a physically abusive relationship if your partner:

  • Damages property when angry (throws objects, punches walls, kicks doors, etc.).
  • Pushes, slaps, bites, kicks or chokes you.
  • Abandons you in a dangerous or unfamiliar place.
  • Scares you by driving recklessly.
  • Uses a weapon to threaten or hurt you.
  • Forces you to leave your home.
  • Traps you in your home or keeps you from leaving.
  • Prevents you from calling police or seeking medical attention.
  • Hurts your children.
  • Uses physical force in sexual situations.

Sexual abuse is forcing a partner to take part in a sex act when the partner does not consent. You may be in a sexually abusive relationship if your partner:

  • Accuses you of cheating or is often jealous of your outside relationships.
  • Wants you to dress in a sexual way.
  • Insults you in sexual ways or calls you sexual names.
  • Has ever forced or manipulated you into having sex or performing sexual acts.
  • Holds you down during sex.
  • Demands sex when you are sick, tired or after beating you.
  • Hurts you with weapons or objects during sex.
  • Involves other people in sexual activities with you.
  • Ignores your feelings regarding sex.

Stalking involves any pattern of behavior that serves no legitimate purpose and is intended to harass, annoy, or terrorize the victim. Typical stalking activities include repeated telephone calls, letters or gifts by mail, surveillance at work, home and other places victim is known to frequent. Stalking usually escalates.


For Survivors

  • No one deserves to be abused. The abuse is not your fault. You are not alone.
  • Contact DAPP if you are concerned that you may be experiencing any form of abuse or are in fear for the safety of yourself or your children.
  • If English is not your first language, you can request a language you feel more comfortable speaking when contacting HSD DAPP hotline to provide support.
  • You can also see Organizations to identify and contct an appropriate resource for your assistance (for both US and International).
  • Read how you can protect your digital privacy here.

DAPP Hotline: +1 (202) 458-5800 (WBG DAMA 5220 85800)



For Concerned Staff - How Can You Help?

How you can help victims of domestic abuse?

  • Listen and Believe the person to let them know they are not alone.
  • Encourage her/him to talk to call DAPP hotline or another confidential hotline to connect with a professional in the field.
  • Express concern for him/her, show support, and offer referrals to available resources.
  • If you have not been directly approached, but have reason to believe that her/she may be in an abusive relationship, consult with our DAPP case manager by contacting our hotline.

Note: Keep in mind that a survivor often makes several attempts to leave the abusive relationship before succeeding.

DAPP Hotline: +1 (202) 458-5800 (WBG DAMA 5220 85800)



For Abusive Partner - Are You An Abuser?

  • If you recognize you are mistreating your partner, there may be resources in your community to assist perpetrators to end the violence. See National Domestic Violence Hotline for resources.
  • Understand that the domestic abuse is not only against the WBG code of conduct, but you may be subject to criminal prosecution under U.S. Law.

DAPP Hotline: +1 (202) 458-5800 (WBG DAMA 5220 85800)