What is / isn't family violence?

Family violence is a pattern of behavior used to gain power and control over another person. It is not an isolated argument between family members or strangers. It is not normal, reasonable discipline of children.

Abuse comes in many forms, including physical, sexual, psychological, verbal, and financial.

Physical Abuse

Physical Abuse: when anyone you know uses violent force against you to make you behave a certain way. This can include punching, beating, kicking, biting, shaking, throwing, stabbing, choking, hitting, burning, or any action that causes you pain and injury. They are not accidents. If you're physically abused, you may have cuts, bruises or marks on your body.

Sexual Abuse

Sexual Abuse: when anyone you know forces or coerces you into sexual behavior you don't want to do, such as rape or watching/making pornography. It doesn't have to be physical either: calling you inappropriate names, like "Sexy" and "Hottie" or talking about sexual topics which make you feel uncomfortable, is also abusive. If you are sexually abused, you may be scared, confused, feel "dirty" and wash excessively.

Psychological/Verbal Abuse

Psychological/Verbal Abuse: when anyone you know puts you down, calls you names or accuses you of things you haven't done to make you feel worthless. Abusers may also deny they have hurt you and make you question your sanity (i.e.: "I didn't hit you that hard" or "If you hadn't done X, I wouldn't have had to hurt you"), or isolate you from family and friends. If you are psychologically or verbally abused, you may feel all alone and that no one cares about you.

Financial Abuse

Financial Abuse: when anyone you know uses finances as a way to control you, such as tracking and questioning all your purchases, not letting you spend money without their permission, giving you an "allowance" based on their judgments of your behavior, harassing you at your work/forcing you to lose your job so that you are financially dependent on them, etc. If you are financially abused, you may not have the funds to escape an abusive relationship.

Is there help available?

Yes. There are state and national resources available to victims who need help realizing what is happening to them, who are trying to leave their abuser and/or who are safe and attempting to heal from their abuse. You can access the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence's State Coalitions webpage to find resources near you.

Use this link to learn more about the Heart & Hope program

Baker-Tingey, J. 2021, Heart & Hope Frequently Asked Questions, Extension, University of Nevada, Reno, Blog Post

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Also of Interest:

How to help a victim of domestic violence
The purpose of this publication is to provide an overview of the difficulties victims face when leaving an abusive situation, and what we can do to help them be successful in leaving.
Powell, P. and Smith, M. 2012, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno, FS-12-08
Orders of Protection: Domestic Violence
The purpose of this fact sheet is to describe what an Order of Protection is, the process followed to obtain one, and the need to report order violations.
Powell, P. and Smith, M. 2012, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno, FS-12-07
Domestic Violence: An Overview
The purpose of this publication is to help readers understand the dynamics of IPV, by providing an overview of various forms of control exhibited toward victims. As Nevada nortoriously ranks high in reports of IPV, understanding how IPV impacts our communities is crucial in devel...
Powell, P. 2011, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno, FS-11-76
The Medical Cost of Domestic Violence
What is typically igonored is the financial cost domestic violence places on society, in terms of housing, child care, employment and criminal justice services
C. Powell, P. Powell, J. Baker-Tingey 2018, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno FS-18-02
What Even is Domestic Violence? Beyond the Bruises
In the age of media saturation, society's desensitization to violence poses a silent threat, especially within the sphere of domestic life. It’s time to peel back the layers on what we think we know about domestic violence and reveal its complex reality.
Payne, P. and Thomas, C. 2024, University of Nevada, Reno, Ask the Professor Blogs

Associated Programs

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Heart & Hope: Building Resilient Families

Heart & Hope provides resources and skills to victims of domestic violence who have left the perpetrator and are building a new life for themselves and their family. Workshops help parent victims gain parenting skills and confidence, build resilience for themselves and their children, avoid becoming victims in future relationships, strengthen family relationships and envision hope for the future. Workshops help children build social and emotional skills to prevent them from becoming future victi