• Stephanie Hormig

What is Domestic Abuse? / Part 1

Updated: Apr 11

The Real Definition of Domestic Abuse





THE FALSE STORY IN PEOPLE’S HEADS ABOUT DOMESTIC ABUSE


When I tell people I’m an advocate for survivors of domestic violence, I get very “interesting responses.” I’ve been in this field for over six years, and I talk to a lot of people every single day. So, by now, I’ve heard just about every “response” there is to hear. 


To be fair, most people are sympathetic towards DV victims and my work. But, to be honest, just because someone’s an ally, doesn’t automatically wipe away any cliches, stereotypes, and hidden biases they may be holding onto. 




THE FALSE STORY PEOPLE CLING TO: IT’S NOT DOMESTIC VIOLENCE UNLESS IT’S A BLACK EYE


Many allies still assume that domestic abuse is one (and only one thing): physical abuse.


They hold onto the false story that to be a DV victim you must have been beaten. 


Yes, physical abuse is a part of many domestic abuse survivors’ stories. But, this fact is taken to an extreme in our culture to create this false story that DV is only physical abuse.  


And this false story does more damage than any punch could ever do because the subtext is that if you don’t have a black eye, broken bone, or bruises, you are not a domestic abuse survivor. 


This false story has been used by police to overlook charges, by friends and family to ignore warning signs, and (most insidiously) by a victim to dismiss their own pain and not believe themselves. 


When this happens, a victim may not even seek help from anyone because thoughts like “Oh it’s not that bad,” “I’m over reacting,” or “Everyone will think I’m overreacting” stop victims of DV from speaking up and asking for help. 


But when we tear down this false story, we can all more clearly see the warning signs of domestic abuse. And when we sign the signs, then we can step in to help before these warnings escalate to broken bones and black eyes.




IF DOMESTIC ABUSE ISN’T A BLACK EYE, THEN WHAT IS IT?