Over time, abusers typically escalate both the frequency and/or severity of their abuse, including an escalation in the severity of their physical assaults. While physical violence is not always part of an abuser's pattern of coercive behavior, it is a common tactic of control. Once abusers use physical violence, they are likely to intensify their assaults over time, increasing the victim's risk of harm, including serious and life-threatening injury. Further, as abusers intensify their use of physical violence, their potential for killing their partners increases.
Abusers' success at establishing control by instilling fear in their partners, however, does not rely upon their use of physical violence. When physical abuse is not part of abusers' tactics of control, the use of threats and intimidation against their partners are common. Further, the absence of physical violence from abusers' tactics of control does not mean that these situations are necessarily less harmful or lethal than those in which physical violence is perpetrated. For example, a victim's partner may hold a loaded gun to her head or repeatedly threaten to harm her, the children, or himself, actions that create a great risk of harm or death from the abuser. As another example, family pets are often mistreated or killed by abusers to frighten their partners, as a threat of potential interpersonal attacks, or as a form of retaliation or punishment. (9) Animal abuse is a common precursor to physical assault.
Because the pattern of abusive men's tactics of control most often follows a predictable course, the more skilled individuals become at recognizing the pattern in its early stages, the more opportunity there is for providing assistance early on. Early intervention may prevent illness, injury, and even death by increasing victims' safety and reinforcing abusers' accountability for their coercive and violent behavior.
Diversity of Victims' Experiences
Although abusers' patterns of coercive tactics are remarkably similar across all demographic lines-socio-economic status, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, religious affiliation, physical and mental disabilities, immigrant status, education, employment status, urban vs. rural residency, and marital status-these differences can affect how domestic violence is identified and responded to, which, in turn, can make the