Polk County Medical Examiner

Domestic Abuse

Types of Abuse
  • Physical abuse (domestic violence)

When someone talks of domestic violence, they are often referring to physical abuse of a spouse or intimate partner. Physical abuse is the use of physical force against another in a way that ends up injuring that person or putting him or her at risk of being injured. Physical abuse ranges from physical restraint to murder.

  • Verbal or nonverbal abuse (psychological, mental, or emotional abuse)

Mental, psychological, or emotional abuse can be verbal or nonverbal. Verbal or nonverbal abuse of a spouse or intimate partner consists of more subtle actions or behaviors than physical abuse. While physical abuse might seem worse, the scars of verbal and emotional abuse are deep. Studies show that verbal or nonverbal abuse can be much more emotionally damaging than physical abuse.

  • Sexual abuse

Sexual abuse often is linked to physical abuse. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, abusers who are physically violent toward their intimate partners are often sexually violent as well. Furthermore, women who are both physically and sexually abused are at a higher risk of being seriously injured or killed.

  • Stalking or cyberstalking

According to the Office for Victims of Crime, stalking is “virtually any unwanted contact between two people that directly or indirectly communicates a threat or places the victim in fear.” Stalking of an intimate partner can take place during the relationship—with intense monitoring of the partner’s activities—or after a break-up. The stalker may be trying to get their partner back, or they may wish to harm their ex as punishment for their departure.
Cyberstalking is the use of the Internet or email to stalk another person.

  • Economic abuse or financial abuse

Economic abuse means having no access to the family's money. It implies that the abusive partner maintains control of the family finances, deciding without regard for the other person how the money is to be spent or saved.

  • Spiritual abuse

Spiritual abuse includes: Using the spouse’s or intimate partner’s religious or spiritual beliefs to manipulate them, Preventing the partner from practicing their religious or spiritual beliefs, Ridiculing the other person’s religious or spiritual beliefs, or Forcing the children to be reared in a faith that the partner has not agreed to.

Early Warning Signs for Future Abuse
  • Isolation
    • limiting outside involvement
    • making another avoid people/friends/family by deliberately embarrassing or humiliating them in front of others
    • expecting another to report every move and activity
    • restricting use of the car
    • moving residences
  • Emotional Abuse
    • putting another down/name-calling
    • ignoring or discounting activities and accomplishments
    • withholding approval or affection
    • making another feel as if they are crazy in public or through private humiliation
    • unreasonable jealousy and suspicion
    • playing mind games
  • Economic Abuse
    • preventing another from getting or keeping a job
    • withholding funds
    • spending family income without consent and/or making the partner struggle to pay bills
    • not letting someone know of or have access to family/personal income
    • forcing someone to ask for basic necessities
  • Intimidation
    • driving recklessly to make another feel threatened or endangered
    • destroying property or cherished possessions
    • making another afraid by using looks/actions/gestures
    • throwing objects as an expression of anger to make another feel threatened
    • displaying weapons
  • Using Children or Pets
    • threatening to take the children away
    • making the partner feel guilty about the children
    • abusing children or pets to punish the partner
    • using the children to relay messages
  • Using Priviledge
    • treating another like a servant
    • making all the big decisions
    • being the one to define male and female roles
    • acting like the master or queen of the castle
  • Sexual Abuse
    • sex on demand or sexual withholding
    • physical assaults during sexual intercourse
    • spousal rapes or non-consensual sex
    • sexually degrading language
    • denying reproductive freedom
  • Threats
    • threats of violence against significant third parties
    • threats to commit physical or sexual harm
    • threats to commit property destruction
    • threats to commit suicide or murder
  • Physical Abuse
    • biting/scratching
    • slapping/punching
    • kicking/stomping
    • throwing objects at another
    • locking another in a closet or utilizing other confinement
    • sleep interference and/or deliberately exhausting the partner with unreasonable demands and lack of rest
    • deprivation of heat or food
    • shoving another down steps or into objects
    • assaults with weapons such as knives/guns/other objects

Contact Us

To report a death call (515) 286-3333
1801 Hickman Rd
Des Moines, Iowa 50314
(515) 286-2102 (Days)
(515) 286-3333 (Other times)
Fax: (515) 286-2208