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The Lingo of Domestic Violence

Speaking out about abuse means learning its language

  • February 08, 2015
  • By domesticshelters.org
The Lingo of Domestic Violence

Words can be powerful, which is why part of understanding domestic violence is knowing the terms that go along with it. 

Following are a few of the terms and phrases used to describe the components of an abusive relationship:

Survivor. A person being abused—physically, verbally, sexually or in another harmful manner—is referred to as a survivor. He or she can also be called a victim, though survivor is the preferred term.

Perpetrator. This is the abuser, also sometimes referred to as the batterer. In court, this person is the defendant, or the person accused of a crime. The victim is the plaintiff, or the person who is accusing the defendant of a crime.

Intimate partner violence. This is another term for domestic violence, sometimes also referred to as domestic abuse. While domestic violence typically refers to abuse happening between two people in a relationship, including a spouse and partner, parent and child, siblings, etc., intimate partner violence refers more specifically to abuse by a spouse or ex-spouse, or a dating partner or ex-dating partner. Intimate partner violence does not require sexual intimacy in order to occur.

Dating violence. This refers to abuse that happens between two people who are dating and is typically used when discussing violent teenage relationships.

Emotional abuse. Using a victim’s emotions or manipulating their mental state in order to control them is referred to as emotional or psychological abuse. The abuser tries to tear down a victim’s self-esteem through mind games, insults, humiliation, or attempting to convince the victim he or she is mentally unstable or to blame for the abuse. This can also be known as verbal abuse.

Financial abuse. This is when an abuser uses finances to exert power and control over a victim. This may include stealing the victim’s money, making a victim beg for money, giving a victim an allowance, opening credit cards in the victim’s name in order to ruin the victim’s credit, preventing the victim from accessing bank accounts or not allowing the victim to get a job.

Personal Protection Order. A PPO is issued by the circuit court and is designed to stop violent or harassing behavior, including stalking. It is free to obtain and often lasts for about a week, giving a survivor time to file for a temporary restraining order.

Safety Plan. An advocate can help a survivor come up with a safety plan, which is a series of steps the survivor is planning to take to keep her and her children safe from an abuser, and/or to leave their abuser.