According to the New Mexico Interpersonal Violence Data Central Repository, one in three women and one in seven men in New Mexico will be a victim of domestic violence during their lifetime. Additionally, one in four women and one in fourteen men will be a victim of stalking. Given the high incidence of domestic violence and abuse in New Mexico, an important first step in dealing with the problem is to understand the types of domestic violence.
Domestic violence is often defined as a pattern of physical, emotional, sexual, and/or financial abuse to establish control over a domestic partner. It often involves criminal and non-criminal behavior, and is relevant in both criminal and civil proceedings. Domestic violence is perpetrated against the victim, but it is also often perpetrated against children, other family members, or pets in order to maintain control over the victim.
Physical abuse is often the easiest form of abuse to recognize and detect. Physical abuse can include physical acts of violence as well as the threat of violence. Physical abuse includes hitting, kicking, throwing things, locking the partner out of the home, denying them medication or medical attention, driving recklessly, punching walls, and stalking. The abuse may be directed at the partner, or children, pets, other family members, and property.
Sexual abuse refers to unwanted or coerced sexual contact. It also includes actions and words that humiliate and make the partner feel vulnerable, especially in relation to sexuality, body image, and sexual performance. Sexual abuse includes unwanted touching, rape, demeaning comments about the partner’s sexuality, criticism of a partner’s sexual history, exposing the partner to sexually transmitted diseases, refusing to have safe sex, cheating, and withholding sex.
Emotional abuse involves words, actions, or lack of action to control a partner. Emotional abuse, also known as psychological abuse, is difficult to define and detect. However, most cases that involve physical or sexual abuse often also have an element of emotional abuse.
Even though all couples have fights and say hurtful things to each other, it only rises to the level of psychological or emotional abuse when one person exhibits complete disregard for the other person’s feelings and employs repeated hurtful exchanges to gain control over the other person. Psychological abuse generally involves coercion, verbal threats, ridicule, name-calling, and constant blaming of the partner. In other examples of emotional abuse, the partner will threaten suicide or to harm him or herself in order to manipulate the other person. Social isolation is often also an element of emotional abuse.
Financial abuse occurs when one partner uses or misuses the partnership’s or the other person’s assets without freely given consent. This may include one partner forbidding the other to work, refusing to work, controlling common property and bank accounts, and demanding the partner sign over assets and property. It also includes criminal behavior such as outright stealing from the other person, forging their signature on financial documents, and destroying their property.
Domestic violence is a serious problem and can have dire and far-reaching effects on not only the victim, but also children, other family members, and friends. It is always important to report domestic violence and seek help.
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