Community Health Initiative - Domestic Violence

Find support if you or a loved one are threatened by domestic violence


Welcome. This page represents a first step to information, support and a guide for those seeking help who are either facing issues of violence, or know of someone who is. Please consider everything you read here as helpful suggestions, not solutions. The most important thing you can do if you or someone you know is facing domestic or intimate partner violence is to ask for help. Dial 2-1-1 any time and someone will listen, understand, and direct you to available services. Or, you can contact Bolton Refuge House in Eau Claire or Family Support Center in Chippewa Falls.

On this page, you'll find information and links to resources to help you or a loved one facing a harmful or potentially harmful relationship.

Did you know ...

Every 9 seconds in the U.S. a woman is assaulted or beaten.

On average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the U.S. This equates to more than 10 million women and men each year.

1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men in the U.S. has been raped in their lifetime.

1 in 15 children are exposed to intimate partner violence each year and 90% of these children are eyewitnesses to this violence.


(All of the information below was obtained from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. For more information and additional resources, please see the resources section.)

Forms of abuse:

Physical abuse

Physical abuse is any intentional and unwanted contact with you or something close to your body. It does not always cause pain or leave a bruise, but it is still unhealthy. Physical abuse is the most common form of abuse. Abusers use physical abuse to keep their partner under control. It is a powerful form of control because it creates an environment of fear. Physical abuse typically gets worse over time.

Physical violence may include: hitting, punching, kicking, slapping, strangling, smothering, using or threatening to use weapons, shoving, throwing things, destroying property, hurting or killing pets, and denying the victim to get medical treatment.

Sexual abuse

Sexual abuse refers to any sexual actions that pressures, forces, or scares someone into doing something sexually that they do not want to do. Sexual abuse is common in abusive relationships. When someone does not resist an unwanted sexual advance, it does not mean they consented and is still considered sexual abuse. Feelings of shame and humiliation are typically present in victims of sexual abuse.

Sexual abuse may include: physically forcing sex, making you feel fearful about saying no to sex, forcing sex with other partners, forcing you to participate in demeaning or degrading sexual acts, violence or name calling during sex, and denying contraception or protection from sexually transmitted diseases.

Emotional abuse

Emotional abuse occurs in some form in all abusive relationships. It is a very powerful tactic used by the abuser to gain power and control. It can cause extreme damage to the victim’s self-esteem. Emotional abuse can start lightly, making the victim unaware that it is even happening, and eventually becoming more direct. Typically, emotional abuse makes the victim feel like they are responsible for the abuse and to feel crazy, worthless, and hopeless. It is so damaging that many survivors of domestic violence state that they would rather be hit than endure the ongoing damage of emotional abuse.

Emotional abuse may include: constant put downs or criticisms, name calling, making the victim feel like they are going “crazy”, acting superior, minimizing the abuse or blaming the victim for their behavior, threatening and making the victim feel fearful, isolating the victim from friends and family, excessive jealousy, accusing the victim of having affairs, and watching where the victim goes and who he/she talks to.

Financial abuse

This form of abuse is one of the least commonly known, but is one of the most powerful tactics used by an abuser. It is so powerful that many victims of abuse describe it as the main reason they stayed in an abusive relationship or went back to one.

Financial abuse may include: giving you an allowance, not letting you have your own money, hiding family assets, running up debt, interfering with your job, and ruining your credit.

Red Flags of Abuse:

  • Wants to move too quickly into the relationship
  • Seems “too good to be true” early in the relationship
  • Wants you all to him- or herself; insists that you stop spending time with your friends or family
  • Insists that you stop participating in hobbies or activities, quit school or quit your job
  • Does not honor your boundaries
  • Is excessively jealous and accuses you of being unfaithful
  • Wants to know where you are all of the time and frequently calls, emails, and/or texts you throughout the day
  • Criticizes or puts you down; says you are crazy, stupid, and/or fat/unattractive, or that no one else would ever want or love you
  • Takes no responsibility for his/her behavior and blames others
  • Has a history of abusing others
  • Blames the entire failure of previous relationships on his/her former partner; for example, “My ex was totally crazy.”
  • Takes your money or runs up your credit card debt
  • Rages out of control with you, but can maintain composure around others

If you are unsure if you are in an abusive relationship, here are some questions you can ask yourself. If you answer “yes” to one or more of the questions, you may be in an abusive relationship.

  1. Did your partner grow up in a violent family? People who grow up in families where they have been abused as children, or where one parent beats the other, have grown up learning that violence is normal behavior.
  2. Does your partner tend to use force or violence to “solve” their problems?
  3. Does your partner have a quick temper? Do they over-react to little problems and frustrations? Are they cruel to animals? Do they punch walls or throw things when they are upset? Any of these behaviors may be a sign of a person who will work out bad feelings with violence.
  4. Do they abuse alcohol or other drugs? Substance abuse does not cause domestic violence, but it can make it worse. There is a strong link between violence and problems with drugs and alcohol. Be alert to possible drinking/drug problems, particularly if your partner refuses to admit that they have a problem, or refuses to get help. Do not think that you can change them.
  5. Do they have strong traditional ideals about “roles” in relationships? For example, do they think all women should stay at home, take care of their husbands, and follow their wishes and orders?
  6. Are they jealous of your other relationships—friends, family, co-workers? Do they want to know where you are at all times? Do they want you with them all of the time?
  7. Do they have access to guns, knives, or other lethal weapons? Do they talk about using them against people, or threaten to use them to get even?
  8. Do they expect you to follow their orders or advice? Do they become angry if you do not fulfill their wishes or if you cannot anticipate what they want?
  9. Do they go through extreme highs and lows, almost as if they are two different people? Are they extremely kind one time, and extremely cruel another time?

Why Do People Abuse?

Abuse stems from a desire to gain and maintain power and control over an intimate partner. Abusers believe they have the right to control their partners. They typically believe that their own feelings and needs should be the priority in their relationships.

Abuse is a learned behavior. People learn abuse through witnessing it in their own families, from friends, or from their culture. Being abusive is a choice. Many people who were abused or witnessed abuse while growing up choose not to use those negative and hurtful ways of behaving in their own relationships.

While there is no “typical” type of abuser, they often display common characteristics such as:

  • Denying the existence or minimizing the seriousness of violence and its effect on the victim and other family members.
  • Objectifying the victim and seeing them as their property or sexual object.
  • Has low self-esteem and feels powerless and ineffective in the world. The abuser may appear successful, but internally, they feel inadequate.
  • Externalizes the causes of their behavior. The abuser blames their violence on circumstances such as stress, their partner’s behavior, a “bad day”, alcohol, drugs, or other factors.
  • May be pleasant and charming between periods of violence and is often seen as a nice person to others outside of the relationship.

Safety Planning

Staying safe during an explosive incident:

  • Practice a code word or signal with your neighbor, children, friend, or family member for when you need them to call 911 if applicable.
  • Try to avoid rooms without exits, such as the bathroom, and rooms that contain weapons, such as the kitchen.
  • Be aware of weapons or things that could be used as weapons in your house, and where they are located.
  • Visualize escape routes and practice them ahead of time if possible.
  • If you have children, teach them not to physically get in the middle of a fight.

Preparing to leave:

  • If you are thinking of leaving, discuss your plan with someone you trust and talk to the local domestic violence shelter for assistance in leaving.
  • Be aware of how technology can be both helpful and harmful. Your abuser can discover your plans or location by monitoring your phone, and/or checking your email and internet searches. Use public computers such as at the library whenever possible.
  • Hide a packed bag with necessary items, medications, and important documents with someone you trust.
  • Open a bank account in your name or have money stored in a safe place.
  • Consider getting a restraining order. (Refer to the Legal Resources link for more information)

Friends and Family: How You Can Help

10 tips on how you can help a friend or family member who is in an abusive relationship:

  1. Don’t judge the victim.
  2. Avoid telling the victim to leave the relationship. He/She already knows they need to leave, but they do not feel they can.
  3. Listen to what the victim tells you.
  4. Help the victim develop a safety plan. If it is safe for you to do so, let the victim store some emergency things at your house in case she needs to leave quickly.
  5. Document all dates and times you see injuries on the victim even if they tell you the injuries were not caused by the abuser. Additionally, if the victim has injuries, ask if you can take pictures of them. Be sure to date the pictures and make notes about where and how the victim got the injuries.
  6. Tell the victim about your local domestic violence shelter and give him/her the phone number. The victim could also call the National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-7233) for help developing a safety plan and obtaining other information helpful to leaving an abusive relationship. 211 is another resource the victim can utilize to obtain information about domestic violence services in the area.
  7. If the victim is going to leave the abuser, tell him/her not to disclose their location to mutual friends or family members that may tell the abuser where the victim is. Offer a safe place for the victim or help him/her find one.
  8. Pick a code word that only you and the victim know. When the victim says or texts the chosen word, you will know to call the police.
  9. If the victim is suicidal, he/she needs help. Ideally without letting the abuser know.
  10. Let the victim know that you are there for them, you afraid for his/her safety and his/her children’s safety, this is not his/her fault, even if the abuser apologizes the abuse is still likely to continue, alcohol does not cause abuse, there is a good chance the abuse will only continue to get worse, and that he/she is not alone.


Abusers in LGBTQ relationships use all the same tactics to gain power and control as abusive partners in heterosexual relationships: physical, sexual, and/or emotional abuse, financial control, isolation, and more. Abusers in LGBTQ relationships also build up their tactics that maintain power and control with societal factors that make it complicated for the victim to leave or get safe.

Abusers in LGBTQ relationships may threaten to “out” their partner’s sexual orientation or gender identity to family members, employers, community members, and others.

They may tell the victim that no one will help the victim because he/she is lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, or that for this reason, the victim “deserves” the abuse. Additionally, the abuser may take over support resources by manipulating the victims’ friends and family. This is a particular issue to members of the LGBTQ community where there may be fewer resources, neighborhoods or social outlets for the victim to turn to.

Teen Dating Violence

1 in 3 teen girls in the U.S. is a victim of emotional, physical, or sexual abuse from a dating partner.

1 in 10 high school students has been purposefully hit, slapped, or physically hurt by a boyfriend or girlfriend.

Only 33% of teens who were in a violent relationship ever told anyone about the abuse. is a national teen dating violence website that provides great information to teens, parents, and educators on abuse, tools to overcome abuse, quizzes, warning signs, safety plans, etc.

Warning signs to look for:

  • Sudden or new problems with school attendance
  • Lack of interest in former extracurricular activities
  • Unexplained changes in behavior, grades, or quality of schoolwork
  • Isolation from former friends
  • Unexplained bruises or injuries and/or noticeable changes in appearance
  • Making excuses or apologizing for their partners inappropriate behavior

For parents:

Love Is Not Abuse Iphone App is a free app for parents that simulates abuse that many teens face in their relationships. App users will receive texts, emails, and phone calls from a ‘boyfriend’ or ‘girlfriend’ that are similar to actual communication abused teens experience—in many cases all day and night. The app also provides videos, resources, and curriculum to parents so they can teach their children about abuse.