Domestic violence can happen in any relationship, regardless of ethnic group, income level, religion, education or sexual orientation. Abuse may occur between a married people, or between an unmarried people living together or in a dating relationship. It happens in heterosexual, gay and lesbian relationships.

However, researchers have found that some people are more likely to become the victims of domestic violence. A likely victim:

  • Has poor self-image.
  • Puts up with abusive behavior.
  • Is economically and emotionally dependent on the abuser.
  • Is uncertain of his or her own needs.
  • Has low self-esteem.
  • Has unrealistic belief that he or she can change the abuser.
  • Feels powerless to stop violence.
  • Believes that jealousy is proof of love.

While abuse can happen to anyone, women are by far the most frequent victims and men are the most frequent abusers. The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that 95 percent of the assaults on partners or spouses is committed by men against women.

Again, the victims often have some common characteristics. Women who are victims of domestic violence often:

  • Abuse alcohol or other substances.
  • Have been previously abused.
  • Are pregnant.
  • Are poor and have limited support.
  • Have partners who abuse alcohol or other substances.
  • Have left their abuser.
  • Have requested a restraining order against the abuser.
  • Are members of ethnic minority or immigrant groups.
  • Have traditional beliefs that women should be submissive to men.
  • Do not speak English.

What to Do if you’re a Victim of Domestic Violence

Need help for domestic violence? Call toll-free: 800-799-7233 (SAFE).

It can be extremely difficult for a victim of domestic violence to acknowledge that abuse is taking place, especially when it’s not physical abuse but rather emotional or psychological. But this is a time to be honest with yourself and see that it is not your fault. You are not causing your abuser to hit you or abuse you in other ways — they are perpetrating violence on you.

You are not alone. It is not your fault. Please find a way to reach out to get help from a trusted person in your circle of friends or family. If not one of them, then talk to a doctor or therapist about your situation. They can help you find resources and get you further help.

Leaving domestic violence can sometimes be a process that doesn’t happen all at once, because of fear of the abuser and needing to ensure you have the resources to leave and continue your life in peace. Your local community will often have services to help you do this via a woman’s shelter or woman’s health center (for women; less services are available for men in most communities).

You can also reach out to the National Domestic Violence Hotline toll free at 800-799-SAFE (7233) or the National Sexual Assault Hotline, also toll-free, at 800-656-HOPE (4673). These hotlines are staffed by trained, compassionate people who can help you figure out what’s best for you in your situation, because every situation is different.

You can leave your domestic violence situation, but it may take some time and careful planning. Nobody deserves to suffer abuse in a relationship — nobody.