Relationship Abuse/Intimate Partner Violence/Domestic Violence/Dating Violence

These terms are used interchangeably with the following definition:Relationship abuse is a pattern of abusive and coercive behaviors used to maintain power and control over a former or current intimate partner. Abuse can be emotional, financial, sexual or physical and can include threats, isolation, and intimidation.

This website does not address child abuse except in the context of the co-occurrence of domestic violence and child maltreatment.

Perpetrator/Offender/Abuser/People Who Choose to be Abusive

It is a choice to be abusive towards someone else. Ideally, we would say “people who have chosen to be abusive,” rather than “perpetrators,” “offenders,” or “abusers.” However, this is the terminology used in our courts, institutions and social services and is reflected as such on our site.

Violence against women/Men’s violence against women/Gender-based violence/Gender-violence

These terms are used interchangeably to describe the use of violence and abuse as a form of gender oppression, and/or as a result of gender oppression. However, the terms we choose shape the way we view the issue. When we say “violence against women,” we are more likely to focus on “what is wrong” with the woman instead of focusing on what the perpetrator has done to the woman. When we say “men’s violence against women or violence in same gender relationships”, we start to look more specifically at the perpetrator and the perpetrator’s actions. Gender-based violence encapsulates relationship abuse in both heterosexual and homosexual relationships, but is still not gender neutral.

Read the United Nations Definition of Violence Against Women.

Gender Pronouns

Because the vast majority of relationship abuse is committed by men against women in heterosexual relationships, this website sometimes contains the female gender pronoun when referring to the abused person (roughly 95% of relationship abuse is by a man against a woman and the majority of the remaining 5% is by a man against a man or a woman against a woman). Domestic violence/relationship happens at the same rate in LGBTQQ relationships (roughly 1 in 4) and all of the information on this site is relevant for male victims and for individuals in same-gender relationships. In addition, please see our resources on same-gender relationships. Our goal is to encourage helping professionals to be gender inclusive. This includes using gender-neutral language when working with individuals, while continuing to analyze gender as a construct that has implications on gender-based violence in both heterosexual and same-gender relationships.


Intersectionality is a tool for analysis, advocacy and policy development that addresses multiple discriminations and helps us understand how different sets of identities impact on access to rights and opportunities. Intersectionality is used to study, understand and respond to the ways in which gender intersects with other identities and how these intersections contribute to unique experiences of oppression and privilege. Read more…

Association for Women’s Rights in Development

Victim Blaming

Victim-blaming statements and attitudes place the blame on the victim of a crime or act of abuse. In regards to relationship abuse, examples of victim-blaming attitude are: “She must have provoked him into being abusive” or “they both need to change.” Victim-blaming attitudes marginalize the victim/survivor and make it harder to come forward and report the abuse. If the survivor knows that you or society blames her for the abuse, s/he will not feel safe or comfortable coming forward and talking to you. Read more…


A bystander is a person who observes an unacceptable behavior that he or she knows is destructive or bad. An active bystander takes steps that can make a difference in making a situation better or less destructive. We are often referring to active bystanders when we use the term bystander. This is sometimes referred to as upstander.


Holding abusers accountable sends a message to others that abuse of any kind will not be tolerated in our community. Unfortunately, there are still many barriers to justice in the criminal justice system, and when professionals do not understand the dynamics of domestic violence, it can make it difficult to adequately identify and prosecute abusers. In addition, many women cannot rely on the criminal justice system due to institutional barriers, including discrimination or homophobia. Therefore, it is important for us to hold abusers accountable on an individual level as well. Do not blame the survivor. Teach your children that violence is never the answer to a problem, and that controlling another person is wrong.


Patriarchy is a male dominant form of social organization that undervalues women and that systematically excludes women from social, political, and economic power. The United States, and many other countries and societies, is a patriarchy. The structures in place serve (and have served historically) to benefit men, and to oppress women.


Objectification is seeing/treating a person as an object. This can include or result in the treatment of a person: 1)primarily in terms of how s/he looks, 2) as lacking agency and self-determination, 3) as lacking the capacity to speak, 4) as something that is owned by another (can be bought or sold or used), 5) as interchangeable with other objects, 6) as something whose experiences and feelings need not be taken into account (Nussbaum 1995, Langton 2009).


Misogyny is hatred and mistrust towards women that contributes to rape, relationship abuse, sexual objectification of women, victim blaming, and sexist policies.


Feminism consists of the ideologies and movements that strive for gender equality politically, socially, and economically. It is also equally valuing women and their contributions to society; valuing them in the same way men and their contributions to society are valued.

Cultural Competency

  • Cultural competency refers to the process by which advocates and service providers:
    • Combine general knowledge with specific information provided by the individual,
    • Incorporate an awareness of their own biases, and
    • Approach the definition of culture with a self reflective and open mind.

Recognizing that that individuals have different perspectives based on their diversity is the first step in a lifelong process of becoming culturally competent.

    1. When working with domestic violence survivors, a successful, culturally competent intervention incorporates:
      • An understanding of the definition of cultural competency;
      • An awareness of one’s own biases, prejudices and knowledge concerning
        survivors and their culture; and
      • A recognition of professional power (such as the power differential between
        advocates and the individual) in order to avoid imposing one’s own values on the client or person.

From Domestic Violence: Practical Applications Session. Trainer’s Manual For Health Care Providers, Family Violence Prevention Fund (1998)