When people hear the term “domestic violence,” they may only think of physical harm or a relationship issue between two partners. Domestic violence, however, is a pattern of manipulative and harmful actions that can be both physical and psychological. It can also happen to anyone regardless of age, gender identity, sexual orientation, ethnicity, ability, and relationship.

Domestic abuse is a widespread issue:

  • 21-55% of Asian women in the U.S. reported having experienced physical or sexual violence during their lifetime (source, 2015).
  • About one in ten Americans aged 60+ have experienced some form of elder abuse (source). Specifically, financial exploitation is the second most common form of abuse among Chinese older adults (source, 2017).
  • Children exposed to domestic violence are impacted physically, mentally and emotionally (source, 2009).

Due to financial challenges, one’s immigration status, or cultural barriers to keep matters private and maintain honor in the family, it may be difficult for victims of domestic violence to acknowledge the abuse, speak up for themselves, or leave the relationship.

What Does An Abusive Relationship Look Like?
Domestic violence involves people whom we love, trust, or respect, such as intimate partners, family members, or caretakers, so it is not always easy to spot the red flags. For the health and safety of yourself or a loved one, it is important to recognize the forms of abuse and intervene when it is safe.

Domestic Abuse Can Take Many Forms

Adapted from NYC Hope

Physical Abuse
Actions that cause harm to a person’s body, restrict a person’s movement, or isolate an individual from their community.
A person may experience physical abuse if they have been:

  • forcibly touched or wounded
  • threatened with an object or weapon
  • prevented from going outside or seeing family and friends
Verbal and Emotional Abuse
Actions that cause harm and emotional trauma through name calling, insults, or release of private information.
A person may experience verbal and emotional abuse if they have been:

  • intentionally embarrassed in public
  • frequently put down, denied of their truth, or accused of cheating or lying
  • blamed for the abuser’s actions
  • threatened to comply at the cost of their loved ones’, child’s, or personal safety
Digital Abuse
Actions that use technology (internet, social media, handheld devices) to intimidate or cause harm.
A person may experience digital abuse if:

  • their digital access and contacts are constantly monitored or restricted
  • they are forced to reveal their personal emails, letters, texts, or passwords
  • they are required to respond immediately to the abuser’s messages and calls
  • they are pressured to send or receive photos or videos they are uncomfortable with
Sexual Abuse
Any sexual behavior, including touching and kissing, that takes place without the consent of the person involved.
A person may experience sexual abuse if they have been:

  • forced, threatened, or made to feel obligated to engage in sexual activity that they have refused, are not comfortable with, or when they cannot give permission
  • prevented from using or buying birth control
Financial Abuse
Actions that use finances or employment to control an individual.
A person may experience  financial abuse if:

  • their spending, work hours, and access to income are restricted
  • their personal funds are spent without their knowledge
  • they are forbidden to work  or pursue an education
Spiritual Abuse
Actions that use religion, beliefs, or culture to control an individual.
A person may experience spiritual abuse if:

  • they are restricted from practicing their own belief
  • they are forced to practice another belief
  • religion is used to justify the abuser’s actions

The repetitive behavior of identifying a person’s location, and stirring fear in the individual.

A person may experience stalking if:

  • their location is monitored by the abuser
  • their family and friends are frequently contacted for their location
  • the abuser shows up unexpectedly and repeatedly


Help is Available
A healthy relationship should feel safe, comfortable, and supportive—no one deserves to be mistreated. If you or someone you know have concerns about domestic abuse, please contact our Social Work Department: http://www.cbwchc.org/socialwork.asp.  You can also call 311 and ask for the City’s 24-hour Domestic Violence Hotline, or visit our community resources page for language-appropriate hotlines in New York City.


Posted by Charles B. Wang Community Health Center

The Charles B. Wang Community Health Center is a nonprofit and federally qualified health center, established in 1971. Our mission is to provide high quality and affordable health care to the undeserved, with a focus on Asian Americans. Our vision is to ensure that everyone has full and equal access to the highest level of health care. Learn more at www.cbwchc.org.

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