The domestic violence continuums were first developed as
an education and assessment tool by the Shelter Children Research
and Services Project in 1980. They were developed as a result
of talking with domestic violence survivors about the reality
of the violence with which they are living.
The continuums describe a progression of violence, physical,
sexual, and emotional, that occurs within many intimate relationships.
Not every battering relationship will conform to the progression
described by the continuums, but continuums can be a very useful
tool for assessing the danger in those relationships where
the violence has been progressive. They also serve as a useful
tool for helping all of us to understand the realities of violence
in intimate relationships.
In order to use the continuums effectively, be aware
of the following:
- The violence continuums describe the progression of violence
that often occurs. It is also likely that violence will
escalate in frequency and intensity over time.
- Physical, sexual and emotional violence support and perpetrate
each other simultaneously to enforce the dominance and
control of the perpetrator.
- The acts of violence described are conscious acts of control,
and while there will be many similarities there will
be many differences as well in the choices made by batterers.
- The progression of violence will only stop when the batterer
makes a conscious choice to stop the behavior. This may
happen when the person who has been abused is no longer accessible
(e.g. she goes to a shelter, he goes to jail, she moves
and he chooses not to continue to harass her).
Note: If the batterer has chosen not to
stop the abusive behavior, the violence is likely to escalate
when the person he is battering takes action to stop the violence,
such as leaving the relationship or consulting outside assistance.
- Domestic violence can be lethal. Death is always possible
as an accidental outcome of the violence. It can also be
in intentional outcome. Every 5 days, a Virginian is killed
by an intimate partner.
Physical Abuse Continuum
Accepted in child rearing in a vast majority of families.
Most research indicates that men and women engage in these
behaviors almost equally.
Not Meeting Physical Needs
Pinch / Squeeze
Push / Shove
Shake / Jerk
Push / Shake / Slap that bruises
Punch / Hit
Behaviors clearly intended to render the victim powerless
and to gain control. Research indicates that this violence
is overwhelmingly perpetrated by men, and that when women do
engage in this level of violence it is most likely to be self
defense against a violent male partner.
Targeted physical blows to specific parts of the body
Use of household objects as weapons
Restraining and physical blows
Abuse that requires medical treatment
Abuse that results in lacerations, broken bones, internal
injuries, or miscarriage
Use of conventional weapons
Abuse that leads to disfigurement or disability
Emotional / Psychological Abuse Continuum
Joking about habits
Making insults about women in general
Ignoring partner’s feelings
abuse can be used by a batterer to control his partner’s
thinking and sense of reality.
Withholding approval as punishment
Repeated insults / labeling
Humiliation in private
Humiliation in public
The ultimate effects of this emotional abuse can include
depression, nervous breakdowns,
Blaming partner for all faults
Threats of violence / retaliation
Putting down partner’s abilities to
act on own behalf
Demanding all of partner’s attention
/ restricting contact with others
Threatening custody / safety of children
Offering to stay because partner needs him
Unpredictable consequences of actions
Attacking sense of reality
Sexual Abuse Continuum
Sexual violence is a difficult aspect of domestic
violence to identify and discuss. Women are expected to endure
a tremendous amount of sexual violence in their lives, and
many will have difficulty identifying sexual abuse as abuse.
Sexual violence is used by batterers in the same way that physical
violence is used: to establish control. Sexual violence is
also a part of many children’s lives. It has been estimated
that one in four girls and one in seven boys will be sexually
abused as children.
Jokes about women made in partner’s
Looking at women as sex objects
Sexual jokes about women
Minimizing partner’s feelings and
needs regarding sex
Criticizing partner sexually
Withholding sex and affection
Sexual labels like “whore” or “frigid”
Always demanding sex
Forcing partner to commit humiliating sexual acts
Promiscuity with others
Forcing partner to watch sexual acts with others
Demanding sex with threats
Forcing sex with others
Forcing uncomfortable sex
Forcing sex after beatings
Sex for the purpose of hurting
For more information e-mail us at Hotline@vsdvalliance.org. E-mail is not a secure form of communication. To ensure confidentiality please call the Family Violence & Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.838.8238 (V/TTY).