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Domestic violence

Intimate partner violence; Spousal abuse; Elder abuse; Child abuse; Sexual abuse - domestic violence

Domestic violence is when a person uses abusive behavior to control a partner or other family member. The abuse can be physical, emotional, economic, or sexual. It can affect people of any age, sex, culture, or class. When domestic violence is aimed at a child, it is called child abuse. Domestic violence is a crime.

Types of Domestic Violence

Domestic violence can include any of these behaviors:

Signs of Domestic Violence

Most people do not start out in abusive relationships. The abuse often starts slowly and gets worse over time, as the relationship deepens.

Some signs that your partner may be abusive include:

How to get Help

Leaving an abusive relationship is not easy. You may be afraid your partner will harm you if you leave, or that you will not have the financial or emotional support you need.

Domestic violence is not your fault. You cannot stop your partner's abuse. But you can find ways to get help for yourself.

How to Help a Loved one

If a friend or family member is being abused, there are many ways you can help.


Feder G, Macmillan HL. Intimate partner violence. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 228.

Mullins EWS, Regan L. Women's health. In: Feather A, Waterhouse M, eds. Kumar and Clarke's Clinical Medicine. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 39.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline. Getting help for a friend in need. Accessed December 1, 2022.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline. Types of abuse. Accessed December 1, 2022.


Review Date: 8/15/2022  

Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Clinical Professor, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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