Signs Of Domestic Violence You Should Know

Medically reviewed by Dr. April Brewer, DBH, LPC
Updated February 29, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team
Content Warning: Please be advised, the below article might mention trauma-related topics that include abuse which could be triggering to the reader. If you or someone you love is experiencing abuse, contact the Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Support is available 24/7. Please also see our Get Help Now page for more immediate resources.
Are you ready to work through issues?

Many people may hear the term domestic violence and automatically think of physical abuse, but there can be several types of domestic violence, including emotional, psychological, digital, financial, and sexual violence. These types of domestic violence can be just as damaging to the survivor as physical abuse. For this reason, it may help to understand the various types of violence and seek help if you need it. Below, we'll talk about the signs of domestic violence and how it affects survivors.

Signs of domestic violence: Physical

Some signs of physical abuse appear as a result hitting, kicking, shoving, slapping, or using weapons to inflict harm. However, there are other types of physical violence.

For example, physical domestic violence may include someone controlling what and when you can eat or sleep, forcing you to use drugs or alcohol, or keeping you from seeking treatment when you need it, whether from the police, medical professionals, or anyone else.

Signs of domestic violence: Emotional

Another type of domestic violence is emotional abuse, wherein a person uses tactics to manipulate and control another person emotionally. For example, they may make you feel bad about yourself or insult, criticize, or humiliate you.

In addition, they may act jealous or possessive, withhold affection as a punishment or lie to you. They may also intentionally cheat to inflict pain or to serve as a type of punishment. These actions can affect how you feel about yourself and cause you to feel even more dependent on them, even though they make you feel worse.

Signs of domestic violence: Psychological

Psychological abuse is sometimes confused with emotional abuse, but it can be quite different. For example, psychological abuse can cause you to question your version of reality and your sanity, which is often called gaslighting

With psychological abuse, the abuser might also threaten to hurt you or those you care about (including other individuals in the family, children, or pets). They may dictate what you can do and with whom or control what you wear.

They may also blame you for the abuse, making you feel like if you did better, you would be able to stop them from “having to” do it in the first place. They may also steal or damage your belongings.

Signs of domestic violence: Sexual and reproductive

An abuser may force you to perform different sexual acts that you don't want to or simply when you don't want to. In addition, they may demand sex or harm you during sex through physical means, such as hitting or choking.

An abuser may also force you to watch pornography or insult you in sexual ways or regarding sexual aspects. This can also carry over into reproductive abuse, where the abuser may refuse to allow you the use of birth control or refuse to use birth control themselves. They may sabotage your efforts not to get pregnant or force you to get pregnant. They may also try to force you to get (or not get) an abortion.


Signs of domestic violence: Financial

Someone who is abusive may tell you what you can and can't buy or watch how you spend your money. Additionally, they may spend your money and charge purchases to your credit cards, which can affect your credit score, your available credit, and your ability to obtain loans.

Signs of domestic violence: Digital

A person who commits digital abuse may send you threats via digital means, such as text messages, emails, or social media. They may also track you through these means.

They may punish you for not answering their calls or texts and require you to constantly be available via your phone. Any method that uses digital technology to keep track of you or to control you may be considered digital domestic violence.

Signs of domestic violence: Stalking

Someone who follows you or spies on you, whether physically or via social media or other means, may be stalking you. For example, they may send you packages, letters, or text messages you don't want, even if you have requested them not to send them.

They may continue to call you at home or even at your place of work even after you have told them not to do so. They might continue to follow and monitor your every move, no matter where you go.

What you should know about domestic violence

These types of domestic violence can occur in any combination, and they may not be exclusive to a romantic partner. “Intimate partner violence” refers to violence that is inflicted by a person with whom you have or have had an intimate relationship, but “domestic violence” could happen in any type of relationship in the home, including relationships with siblings, uncles, aunts, and parents.  

Getting help when you believe you are experiencing domestic violence may help you not only end the abuse but also heal emotionally.

The trauma of experiencing domestic violence can continue to affect you, even after you think you've overcome it. Symptoms can occur long after the event is over and could make it difficult for you to enter into any relationship or trust another person. However, there is help available through professional counseling.

iStock/Courtney Hale
Are you ready to work through issues?

Help is available for domestic violence

If for some reason you don’t feel comfortable visiting a therapist’s office, you might consider online therapy, which research has shown to be as effective as in-office therapy. With online therapy, you can connect with a licensed counselor from home or anywhere you feel safe via phone or video chat. For example, if you don’t feel safe at home, you can talk to a therapist from a friend’s house or from anywhere with an internet connection. 


If your partner or another person forces you to do anything you don’t want for yourself, you may be in a domestic violence situation, and you don’t have to face it alone. Talking with a professional and with the authorities may help you understand what you're going through and what your options are. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to someone in person, you might consider reaching out to an online therapy platform like BetterHelp. 

With BetterHelp, you can be matched with a licensed counselor who has experience helping people navigate domestic violence situations. Take the first step to getting support for domestic violence and contact BetterHelp today.

Receive trauma-informed professional support
The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.
Get the support you need from one of our therapistsGet started