Domestic Violence

What is Domestic Violence?

Domestic Violence, Domestic Abuse and Intimate Partner Violence are all terms used to describe a repetitive pattern of behaviors one individual intentionally uses to establish or maintain power and control over an intimate partner.  Perpetrators of domestic violence have an underlying belief system of learned attitudes and feelings of entitlement and privilege that allows them to intentionally abuse their intimate partners in order to establish or keep that power imbalance.  

Perpetrators will employ different strategies to get the desired outcome depending upon the situation and what has worked in the past. They may use Intimidation, Emotional Abuse, Isolation, Minimizing, Denying and Blaming, Children, Privilege, Economic Abuse, Coercion and Threats.

Specific examples of some behaviors in each category can be seen on the domestic violence Power and Control Wheel.

It sometimes helps to put this behavior into perspective by comparing it to the Non-violence Equality Wheel.

Domestic abuse occurs across all spectrums of society no matter what the educational or socioeconomic background, sexual orientation, race or religion the victim and perpetrator have. 

Abuse can begin very gradually and increase over time. The perpetrator can intensify or escalate the abuse, becoming more dangerous, when it is perceived that the victim is gaining independence or is leaving or considering leaving the relationship.

Why don’t victims just leave?

Leaving an abusive relationship is not easy and is not necessarily safer for victims. Consider the following barriers to leaving:

No financial resources to provide basic needs for self or children.

No support system of friends and family.

Abuser has threatened to take the children.

Victim can’t afford to battle the abuser in divorce/custody matters.

Abuser would likely have unsupervised access to the children.

Abuser says “I’m sorry.” “It won’t happen again.” “I love you.”

Victim still loves the abuser and is hopeful the abuse can stop.

Abuser blames victim, victim blames self and Law enforcement, Clergy, Relatives or Therapists may have been influenced by the abuser to blame the victim.  

Victim may be suffering from trauma/depression/anxiety disorders/substance abuse.

Abuser blames alcohol/drugs for their behavior and victims hope that if the alcohol/drug use is addressed the abuse will stop.

Abuse was modeled during the victim’s childhood. Victim doesn’t recognize the abuse.

Victim is has a disability and is dependent upon the abuser.

Abuser threatens to harm or kill pets.

Abuser tells victim, ”If you leave, I’ll kill you.” “If you leave, I’ll kill myself.” “If I can’t have you, no one will.”

Victim believes it is safer to remain with the abuser rather than leave and forever live in fear of being found.

Victim can’t speak English or fears deportation.

Victim concerned about public embarrassment.

Abuser threatens to expose personal or family secret.

Abuser is a Law Enforcement Officer.

Victim has previously tried to leave and been found or lured back.

Timing is not right.

And certainly there are others not mentioned here.

What are some warning sign of abuse?

If your partner is doing any of the following you should consider talking with an Advocate trained in the dynamics of domestic violence.

Telling you that you can never do anything right.

Showing jealousy of your friends and time spent away.

Keeping you or discouraging you from seeing friends or family members.

Embarrassing or shaming you with put-downs.

Controlling all the money in the relationship. Taking your money. Making you ask for money. Refusing to give you money.

Looking at you or acting in ways that scare you.

Controlling who you see, where you go, or what you do.

Preventing you from making your own decisions.

Telling you that you are a bad parent or threatening to harm or take away your children.

Preventing you from working or attending school.

Destroying your property or threatening to hurt or kill your pets.

Pushing, slapping, strangling or hitting you.

Intimidating you with guns, knives or other weapons.

Pressuring you to have sex when you don’t want to or do things sexually you’re not comfortable with.

Pressuring you to use drugs or alcohol.

Threatening to commit suicide, or threatening to kill you.

Attempting to force you to drop criminal charges.

(Adapted from the National Domestic Violence Hotline)

Contact the following organizations if you or someone you care about would like more information about domestic violence and safety planning.

In An Emergency, Call 911

Women’s Resource Center-Grand Traverse Area

24 Hour Crisis Hotline: (800) 554-4972

720 S. Elmwood, Ste 2

Traverse City, MI 49684


The National Domestic Violence Hotline

 24 Hour Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)


Stalking Resource Center

Rape Abuse & Incest National Network

National Sexual Assault Hotline 1-800-656-HOPE

Women’s Law

When is domestic violence a crime?

Not all abusive behavior is criminal behavior which can be prosecuted. The Prosecuting Attorney must review each referred incident in the context of whether there is sufficient evidence to prove that a crime has been committed in violation of the Michigan Compiled Laws.

The Prosecuting Attorney makes the decision whether or not to authorize criminal charges for an incident involving domestic violence. The victim cannot press or drop the charges however, he or she is encouraged and has the right to consult with the prosecutor about what they hope will happen with the case.

Michigan Law defines Domestic Violence as an assault or assault and battery committed against the perpetrator’s spouse or former spouse, an individual with whom he or she has or has had a dating relationship, an individual with whom he or she has had a child in common, or a resident or former resident of his or her household.

This does not require evidence of any injury to the victim.

Michigan does have enhanced penalties for repeat offenders of domestic violence.

Other crimes can occur in domestic relationships including:

Aggravated Domestic Violence, Interfering with Electronic Communications (such as preventing or disconnecting a 911 call), Assault by Strangulation, Criminal Sexual Conduct, Stalking, Witness Bribing/Intimidating/Interfering, Malicious Destruction of Property, Assault with a Dangerous Weapon, Child Abuse, Assault with Intent to commit Great Bodily Harm less than Murder, Assault with Intent to commit Murder.


Link to forms here

This page last updated on 9/10/2020.