Defining Abuse

Domestic violence and sexual assault have much in common. Both are about power and control, humiliation and dominance. The need to address prevention of domestic violence and sexual assault is not just a women’s issue, and it is not just an individual or family problem. Violence against women is a human issue and social problem. It’s up to the community to take a stand against abuse, hold abusers accountable for their behavior and protect victims.

About Domestic Violence

Domestic violence is the actual or threatened physical, sexual, emotional or economic abuse of an individual by someone with whom they have or have had an intimate relationship. Abuse in intimate relationships is very common and, most often, women are the victims. However, men can be abused, too. Abuse happens to individuals from all backgrounds. Everyone knows an abused victim or survivor – at school, in the neighborhood, at work, in the family.

All abuse is perpetrated without concern for the physical or mental wellbeing of the victim. Abusers disregard/minimize the consequences of the violence to the victim. The abuser’s goal is to gain control by dominating the victim.

In a violent relationship, regardless of the form of abuse that occurs, incidents of abuse are recurrent and often escalate in severity and frequency.

Does Your Partner or Former Partner….

Always have to be right?

Constantly accuse you of being unfaithful?

Control all finances and force you to account for all you spend?

Discourage your relationships with family and friends?

Hit, punch, slap, kick or push you or your children?

Destroy personal property or sentimental items?

Prevent you from working or attending school?

Use or threaten to use a weapon against you?

Constantly criticize you for little things?

Anger easily when drinking or on drugs?

Threaten to hurt you or your children?

Force you to have sex against your will?

Humiliate you in front of others?

Stalk or check up on you all the time?

Try to control where you go, whom you see, or what you do?

If you are being hurt by or feel afraid of someone you are close to, or you know someone who is, help is available.

Forms of Abuse

Economic Abuse

  • Intentional design by an abuser to make a person completely dependent on the abuser for money and economic survival
  • Controlling a person’s money and forcing her/him to ask and justify the need for money to buy food, clothes, etc.
  • Preventing a person from working or choosing their own career
  • Sabotaging a person’s job (making them miss work, calling constantly)

Emotional Abuse

  • Harassment
  • Constant criticism
  • Continuous denigration of one’s abilities and competency (e.g., you are a rotten person, an awful parent, etc.)
  • Attempts to undermine one’s self-image and sense of self-worth by utilizing insults, name calling and “put downs”

Psychological Abuse

  • Threats of abuse or harm to others
  • Blackmail
  • Humiliation
  • Extreme control and/or limitation of one’s activity, including money spent, work issues, clothing worn, etc., by the abuser

Physical Abuse

  • Physical injuries
  • Intimidation or threat of injury
  • Attempts to inflict physical injury

Sexual Abuse

  • Attempts to engage in non-consensual contact
  • Any exploitative or coercive, non-consensual sexual contact (fondling, intercourse, sodomy, etc.)
  • Threatening a person in a sexual manner

Minimizing, Denying and Blaming

  • Making light of the abuse, not taking it seriously
  • Saying the abuse didn’t happen
  • Shifting responsibility for the abusive behavior
  • Saying you provoked the abuse

Destruction of Property and/or Pets

  • Destroying personal or household items
  • Torturing or killing pets
  • Threatening to torture or kill pets

Sexual Assault

Sexual assault shares many of the same features as domestic violence. Both are about power and control, humiliation and dominance. The need to address prevention of domestic violence and sexual assault is not just a women’s issue and not just an individual or family problem. Violence against women is a human issue and social problem. It is up to the community to take a stand against abuse, hold abusers accountable for their behavior and protect victims.

Sexual violence is any form of unwanted, unwelcome or coercive sexual contact. Like the crime of domestic violence, the goal of sexual assault is to overpower, intimidate and degrade the victim. Crimes of sexual violence exist in a continuum – from sexual harassment to rape – and can include anything from stalking to inappropriate touching to penetration. It can also include sexual stalking on the Internet.

Sexual violence is any act (verbal and/or physical) which breaks a person’s trust or threatens her/his safety and is sexual in nature. Victims and survivors of sexual assaults are forced, coerced and/or manipulated to participate in the unwanted sexual activity.

Criminal sexual contact, sexual harassment, sexual stalking on the Internet, and lewdness are forms of sexual violence. Sexual assault is the legal term for rape and includes vaginal, oral or anal sex without the victim’s consent or with a victim who is unable to consent.


  • Approximately 66% of rape victims know their assailant.
  • Approximately 48% of victims are raped by a friend or acquaintance; 30% by a stranger; 16% by an intimate; 2% by another relative; and in 4% of cases ,the relationship is unknown.1


  • Sexual assault is a widespread and under-reported crime.
  • Sexual assault is always against your will.
  • No means no; silence means no; maybe means no.
  • If someone is too drunk to say no, too disabled to say no, or too young to say no, that also means no.
  • If someone is unable to safely say no, that does not mean yes.
  • The only thing that means yes is yes – providing that the person saying yes is at the age of consent.
  • Teens especially need to know that they have the right to change their mind about having sex – even after it has begun.

For more information on laws about sexual assault, please see the NJ Law section.

If you or someone you know has been raped, see What to Do or How You Can Help.

What to Do if You Are Sexually Assaulted

  • Go to a safe place
  • If possible, do not bathe, shower, douche, go to the bathroom, change clothing, eat, drink or smoke
  • Get immediate medical attention for possible injuries, sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy
  • Consider calling the police
  • Call Womanspace at 609.394.9000 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for support and information

Common Feelings After Sexual Assault

  • Physical
    • Physical pain and body aches
    • Insomnia, difficulty staying asleep or nightmares
    • Loss of appetite, stomach pains or nausea
  • Emotional
    • Fear and anxiety
    • Helplessness
    • Guilt and shame
    • Embarrassment

These are all normal reactions, and you have the right to feel them. You also have the right to professional help to address these feelings.


  1. National Crime Victims Statistics, 2000.

If you believe that you are being stalked, get help immediately, even if only one incident has occurred.

Safety Anytime

  • If possible, have a phone nearby at all times, preferably one to which the stalker has never had access. Memorize emergency numbers, and make sure 911 and helpful family/friends are on speed dial.
  • Treat all threats, direct and indirect, as legitimate. Inform law enforcement immediately.
  • Vary routines, including changing routes to work, school, the grocery store, and other places regularly frequented. Limit time spent alone, and try to shop at different stores and visit different bank branches.
  • When out of the house or work environment, try not to travel alone, and try to stay in public areas.
  • Get a new, unlisted phone number. Leave the old number active and connected to an answering machine or voicemail. Have a friend, advocate or law enforcement screen your calls, and save any messages from the stalker. These messages, particularly those explicitly abusive or threatening, can be critical evidence for law enforcement to build a stalking case against the offender.
  • Do not interact with the person stalking or harassing you. Responding to the stalker’s actions may reinforce their behavior.*
  • Consider obtaining a protective order against the stalker. Some states offer stalking protective orders, and other victims may be eligible for protective orders under their state’s domestic violence statutes.
  • Trust your instincts. If you’re somewhere that does not feel safe, either find ways to make it safer, or leave.

If you are in imminent danger, locate a safe place. Consider going to…

  • Police station
  • Residences of family or friends (locations unknown to the perpetrators)
  • Domestic violence shelters
  • Place of worship
  • Public areas (Some stalkers may be less inclined toward violence or creating a disturbance in public places.)

Safety at Home

  • Identify escape routes out of your house. Teach them to your children.
  • Install solid core doors with dead bolts. If all keys cannot be accounted for, change the locks and secure the spare keys. Fix any broken windows or doors.
  • Have a code word to use with your children that tells them when they need to leave.
  • Inform neighbors and, if residing in an apartment, any on-site managers about the situation. Provide them with a photo or description of the stalker and any vehicles the stalker may drive, if known. Ask your neighbors to call the police if they see the stalker at your house. Agree on a signal you will use when you need them to call the police.
  • Pack a bag with important items you would need if you had to leave quickly. Put the bag in a safe place, or give it to a friend or relative you trust.
  • Consider putting together a “stalking sack” that includes your stalking log, a camera, information about the offender, etc. Get more information on Stalking Sacks.

Safety at Work and School

  • Give a picture of the stalker to security and friends at work and school.
  • Tell your supervisors. They have a responsibility to keep you safe at work.
  • Ask a security guard to walk you to your car or bus.
  • If the stalker contacts you, save any voicemails, text messages and e-mails. Print them if you can.
  • Give the school or daycare center a copy of your protective order. Tell them not to release your children to anyone without talking to you first.
  • Make sure your children know to tell a teacher or administrator at school if they see the stalker.
  • Make sure the school and work know not to give your address or phone number to anyone.
  • Keep a copy of your protective order at work.

*Complete disengagement may be difficult for some victims in certain circumstances (e.g., victim and stalker share custody of children, work in the same location, attend the same school, etc. Victims are encouraged to explore these concerns when creating a safety plan.

All rights reserved. Copyright © 2009 by the National Center for Victims of Crime. This information may be freely distributed, provided that it is distributed free of charge, in its entirety and includes this copyright notice.

Human Trafficking

What is Human Trafficking?

  • Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery.
  • Human trafficking is prevalent in many countries around the world. Different countries may be primarily sites of origin, transit, destination and/or internal trafficking.
  • Cases of human trafficking have been reported in all fifty states of the U.S. (Free the Slaves).
  • Human trafficking is a market-based economy that exists on principles of supply and demand. It thrives due to conditions which allow for high profits to be generated at low risk.


As defined in the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, the legal definition of “severe forms of trafficking in persons” is:

  1. Sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such an act has not attained 18 years of age
  2. The recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage or slavery.

Under the legal definition, trafficking victims in the U.S. can be divided into three populations:

  1. Minors (under age 18) involved in commercial sex
  2. Adults age 18 or over involved in commercial sex via force, fraud or coercion
  3. Children and adults forced to perform labor and/or services in conditions of involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage or slavery, via force, fraud or coercion.
  • Victims are trafficked for a wide variety of purposes, such as commercial sex, agricultural work or housekeeping, yet they all share the loss of one of our world’s most cherished rights – freedom.
  • There is no one consistent face of a trafficking victim. Trafficked persons can be rich or poor, men or women, adults or children, and foreign nationals or U.S. citizens.
  • There is no one consistent face of a trafficker. Traffickers include a wide range of criminal operators, including individual pimps, small families or businesses, loose-knit decentralized criminal networks  and internationally organized criminal syndicates.

The Law

  • Human trafficking is a crime under U.S. and international law, as well as under many state laws.
  • The Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000 is the main U.S. law on trafficking. It has been reauthorized in 2003, 2005 and 2008.
  • The “Protocol to Prevent, Suppress, and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children” is the main international law on the subject.


The number of trafficking victims in the US is largely unknown. However, hundreds of thousands of U.S. citizen minors are estimated to be at risk of commercial sexual exploitation, and the U.S. State Department estimates that 14,500-17,500 foreign nationals are trafficked into the country each year.

Myths and Misconceptions

  • It is important to dispel certain myths about trafficking.
  • Trafficking is not smuggling or forced movement.
  • Trafficking does not require transportation or border crossing, and does not only happen to immigrants or foreign nationals.
  • Trafficking does not require physical force, physical abuse or physical restraint.
  • The consent of the victim is considered irrelevant, as is payment.

Womanspace is a member of the NJ Coalition Against Human Trafficking


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