Domestic Violence: Warning Signs

By Kacy Mixon, M.S., LMFT

Domestic violence can differ in the severity of abuse, but gaining and maintaining control is the primary goal of many batterers. Think of a batter as an addict, with a different type of addiction that isn’t easy to see, nor easy to eliminate. Research has found different types of aggression in relationships [2]. Two of the most widely researched are Common Couple Violence (CCV) and Intimate Terrorism (IT). CCV includes relationship dynamics that have physical aggression that is not connected to patterns of control. IT, however, involves a partner who:

“…uses physical violence in combination with a variety of other control tactics to exercise general, coercive control over [their] partner. This powerful combination of violence with a general pattern of control is terrorizing because once a controlling partner has been violent; all of [their] other controlling actions take on the threat of violence. a look, a yell, a quiet warning, even an ostensibly benign request can have the emotional impact of a physical assault” [3]

A culture of secrecy often surrounds those experiencing domestic violence making it easier batterers in the Intimate Terrorist category to maintain control. This secrecy tends to be fueled by victims’ feelings of shame, fear, and societal stigma and further perpetuates the cycle of violence. Those in the helping professions will interact with a family experiencing domestic violence at some point in their careers whether domestic violence is the reason for receiving services or not. In another post we will spend more time on the subject of batterer typologies but for now think about the type of warning signs.

Film titled "The Story of Domestic Violence-Chapter 2: Warning Signs"
Nuttmann, S., Davis, M. (Directors/Producers). (2010). Shout. The Story of Domestic Violence-Chapter 2: Warning Signs [Film].
“Shout. The Story of Domestic Violence” [1] is a documentary that follows Sam, who lost his sister as a result of domestic violence. Chapter 2 of the documentary looks at visible signs in an abusive relationship.“Shout. The Story of Domestic Violence-Chapter 2: Warning Signs”


[1] Nuttmann, S., Davis, M. (Directors/Producers). (2010). Shout. The Story of Domestic Violence-Chapter 2: Warning Signs [Film].

[2] Graham-Kevan, N., Archer, J. (2003). Intimate terrorism and common couple violence: A test of Johnson’s predictions in four British samples. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 18(11), 1247-1270.

[3] Johnson, M.P. (2008). A typology of domestic violence: Intimate terrorism, violence resistance, and situational couple violence. Lebanon, NH: Northeastern University Press. (p. 26)

This post was written by Kacy Mixon, M.S., LMFT, Social Media Specialist.  She is a member of the MFLN Family Development (FD) team which aims to support the development of professionals working with military families. Find out more about the Military Families Learning Network FD concentration on our website, on Facebook, on Twitter, You Tube, and on LinkedIn.

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