Domestic Violence

Purple RibbonDomestic violence is a serious issue in Fairfax County and various services are available to help victims, abusers and families touched bay domestic abuse.

What is domestic violence?

Also known as “family abuse,” it is any act committed against a family or household member involving violence, force, or threat that results in bodily injury or the fear of bodily injury.

More commonly, it is known as a pattern of abusive behaviors used by someone in an intimate, dating, or familial relationship to dominate over and control another person.

What types of relationships are covered under domestic violence?

  • Current or former spouse, even if they do not live together.
  • Parent or stepparent
  • Children or stepchildren
  • Brother, sister, half-brother, or half-sister
  • Grandparent or grandchildren, even if they do not live together
  • Any in-laws (father, mother, son, daughter, sister or brother) who reside in the same house
  • Any individuals who have a child in common, even if they have never been married or lived together
  • Any individuals who have lived together within the last 12 months (even if not currently living together) and any of their children who have lived in the same house with either individual

What is coercive behavior?

Abusive conduct used to control or dominate a victim. Some tactics include:

  • Physical and sexual violence against you or your children
  • Direct and implied threats of violence
  • Emotional and psychological intimidation
  • Verbal abuse
  • Isolation
  • Stalking
  • Economic/financial control
  • Spiritual abuse
  • Threat or use of weapons
  • Destruction of property
  • Harm to family, pets or other important people in the victim’s life

What are some characteristics of a victim?

Victims generally:

  • Feel guilty or responsible for being battered and accept the violence or minimize the seriousness of injuries
  • Have low self-esteem
  • Have severe stress reactions
  • Have a history of abuse (grew up in violent home or were victims in a previous abusive relationship)
  • Feel powerless and isolated
  • Are emotionally and economically dependent on the batterer
  • Fear they might be insane

How do I know if I am a victim of domestic violence?

Some common indicators include:

Physical abuse

  • Pushing, shoving, slapping, hitting, punching, or kicking
  • Holding, tying down, restraining your movement, or preventing you from leaving
  • Inflicting bruises, welts, lacerations, punctures, fractures, burns, or scratches
  • Assaulting or threatening you with a weapon
  • Injuring your pets

Sexual abuse

  • Forcing you to have sex or perform sexual acts against your will
  • Attempting sexual activity with you when you are not fully conscious or are afraid to say no
  • Physically hurting you during sex
  • Coercing you to have sex without protection against pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases
  • Calling you sexually degrading names (i.e. prostitute or whore)
  • Accusing you of having sex with other people or flirting with them to get attention

Emotional or psychological abuse

  • Threatening to hurt you in any way
  • Physical or social isolation (not allowing you to go out alone, have friends, or choose your own friends)
  • Extreme jealousy or possessiveness (“I can’t control my anger when I think of you with another man/woman”)
  • Threats of suicide (“I’ll kill myself if you ever talk to another man/woman”)
  • Intimidation or humiliation (Displaying weapons or making you look stupid in front of others)
  • Constantly insulting or criticizing you or calling you names (“You’re so stupid,” “You can’t do anything right”)
  • False accusations, blaming you for everything
  • Ignoring or ridiculing your needs
  • Lying or breaking promises, destroying your trust
  • Driving fast or recklessly just to scare you and laughing at your fear
  • Leaving you in a dangerous place
  • Refusing to help you when you’re sick or injured
  • Threatening to kill or injure your pets
  • Using your children as leverage or threatening to hurt them

How can I tell if someone I know is a victim in an abusive relationship?

  • Physical bruises or other marks of violence and possible attempts to cover them up
  • Withdrawal from usual activities
  • Sudden or increased isolation
  • Use of alcohol or drugs
  • Sudden changes in mood or personality, cries easily or overreacts to minor incidents

What are some characteristics of a batterer?

  • Extremely jealous
  • Low self-esteem
  • Blames others for their actions, does not accept responsibility
  • Unable to deal with stress, lack of impulse control
  • Socially isolated, does not have many friends
  • Denial, minimizes seriousness of violence
  • Substance abuser
  • History of abuse, grew up in violent home or involved in prior abusive relationships
  • Believes in violence as a method to solve problems

Why do abusers batter?

Typically, abusers engage in violence to dominate and control the victim.

What are some early warning signs that your partner may be an abuser?

Your partner:

  • Has hit before
  • Has a history of violent relationships
  • Has severe mood swings
  • Physically expresses anger and is unable to express themselves clearly
  • Demands strict control and blames others for mishaps
  • Isolates you from your friends and family
  • Is extremely jealous of your successes or anyone you talk to

Who should I contact?

If there is immediate danger call the Fairfax County Police Department emergency telephone number (911).

If there is no immediate danger contact the Fairfax County Department of Family Services. (

            Fairfax County Office for Women and Domestic and Sexual Violence Services    703-360-7273

            Fairfax County Police Department, Victim Services Section                                       703-246-2141                                                                

            Child Protective Services                                                                                                    703-324-7400
            Adult Protective Services                                                                                                    703-324-7450 

For more information regarding abuse visit or call Department of Family Services.


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