What Happens in an Abusive Relationship

In cases of domestic violence in an intimate relationship, four conditions are typically present:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

  • The victim is threatened with physical violence and or death and the abuser is perceived as having the ability to inflict that harm. Furthermore, the "additional element of terror" for the victim is the abuser's use of rape as a form of violence and control.
  • The victim feels he or she cannot escape, so they feel dependent on his/her partner and abuser.
  • The victim is isolated from others, so his or her perspective on the situation is largely shaped by the abusive partner.
  • The abuser is perceived as showing some degree of kindness and affection at some time, therefore giving the victim false hope that the abuse will end.

These conditions make the victim feel as if their life and well-being rely on staying with their partner, even if they are abusive. As a result, the victim may often deny or minimize what is happening in order to survive it.

Refer to the [Warning Signs of Abuse] for more information.


Persons You Know Who Might Be At Risk

Though risk factors vary, some characteristics seem to increase the likelihood of violence. The potential risk factors can be grouped into the following subsets.



Personal attributes that may be associated with higher risk of violence in general include: a young age, lower socio-economic status, limited education, a history of abuse and substance use, and, for partner violence, the choice of partner. Partner traits that put people at risk include alcohol or drug use, low educational level, negative attitudes about women, and witnessing domestic violence against women or being abused as a child. While violence may be more prevalent for those who meet the above, domestic violence is known to occur within all subsets of people, regardless of individual traits.


Family and relationship:

Within families, the risk of violence increases with marital conflicts, male dominance, economic stress and family breakdown.



Within communities, the risk is higher where there is gender inequality, and a lack of community cohesion or resources.



On a broader level, higher risk is found in societies with traditional gender norms or a lack of autonomy for women, and where there are restrictive laws on divorce and ownership and inheritance of property, or when there is social breakdown due to conflicts or disasters.