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Held Against Your Will: Kidnapping in Domestic Violence

Updated on August 20, 2014

The word “kidnapping” brings to mind non-custodial parents taking off with their kids, strangers snatching people off the streets, and even hostage-takers laying claim to their victims. Few people realize that, under United States law, kidnapping is any incident where you’re held against your will with intent to do harm in some way, and it is a criminal offense.

What qualifies as domestic abuse?

Too many people suffer in silence because they don't think that it's abuse if there are no marks. Types of non-physical abuse include, but are not limited to:

  • Intimidating behavior
  • Making threats against your loved ones if you don't "behave"
  • Physical restraint, with or without injury
  • Intentionally leading you to believe that something is wrong with you

If you're not sure if it's abuse, talk to law enforcement or a domestic abuse counselor.

Was it really kidnapping?

If you’re involved in an incident with your significant other, you may be unsure of whether or not it really was kidnapping. Perhaps your boyfriend stood in the doorway and refused to let you out, even after repeated requests that he do so. Maybe your wife brandished a frying pan at you, threatening to use it against you if you tried to step foot outside the door. Regardless of the situation, you were being held against your will. There may have been no physical injury. It is an emotionally traumatizing situation, and almost always falls under the definition of kidnapping.

Sometimes it’s difficult to say exactly where a “normal argument” ends and kidnapping begins. In some cases, a criminal defense attorney may be able to help clarify the definition, or give a learned opinion of whether or not a case qualifies as kidnapping. The legal definition itself is not clear-cut, so individual courts may differ.

Protection or control? Intent often defines the relationship

No one outside of a relationship can determine whether or not you're abused -- you are the only one who knows the whole truth.
No one outside of a relationship can determine whether or not you're abused -- you are the only one who knows the whole truth. | Source

Is it domestic violence when there are no marks?

Thousands of traumatized people in abusive relationships don’t recognize events for what they really are – after all, how can it be domestic violence if you were never physically injured? Domestic violence takes on many forms, including emotional and psychological terror. Holding someone against their will, even if it’s someone who would stay under normal circumstances, exerts full control over them. It’s demeaning at best, but induces distress and feelings of helplessness in most cases. Whenever an abusive partner threatens the abused, that instilled helplessness can add weight and certainty to that threat.

Abuse damages every aspect of wellbeing

The cycle of abuse involves emotional and psychological nuances that reach far beyond physical violence.
The cycle of abuse involves emotional and psychological nuances that reach far beyond physical violence. | Source
Breaking the Cycle of Abuse: How to Move Beyond Your Past to Create an Abuse-Free Future
Breaking the Cycle of Abuse: How to Move Beyond Your Past to Create an Abuse-Free Future

No one has to just accept abuse as part of their life. It's never to late to work toward ending the cycle and start living a healthy life free of all types of abuse. This book helps walk you through the critical steps of reinventing your life to achieve this essential reality.


What should you do if you've "technically" been kidnapped?

If you feel that you’ve been the victim of a technical kidnapping, first get somewhere safe – that is, away from the abusive partner or other abuser. Contact law enforcement as soon as you can, explaining the situation in detail. The person may be arrested pending formal charges to ensure your safety. Next, contact a domestic violence attorney to learn about your rights and how the law can protect you in this instance. Your attorney may recommend a restraining order, and can give you some insight into the types of information and documentation that may be helpful for your case.

How close have you personally been to domestic violence?

See results

You have the right to freedom, and that includes your own personal freedom to come and go as you please. It doesn’t matter if it’s your significant other, spouse, sibling, adult son or daughter, or anyone else – they don’t have the right to overpower you and hold you against your will. Your domestic violence attorney can help guide you through the process to prosecute a crime that doesn’t leave marks, and to which there may have been no witnesses aside from yourself and the perpetrator.

The extent of abuse is never apparent in physical marks alone

Only a small portion of domestic abuse situations leave marks.
Only a small portion of domestic abuse situations leave marks. | Source

Living in an abusive situation never hurts just you, but escape or resolution is always possible

So, to recap -- the definition of kidnapping is pretty wide-ranging, and it happens more often than you might think in domestic abuse situations. No one can hold you against your will without repercussions as long as you're willing to protect your rights as a sentient human being. It's important to remember that abuse:

  • Can happen to anyone
  • Occurs in a high percentage of relationships
  • Is never your fault
  • Does not follow lines of gender or age

The only way to prevent being abused, and potentially protect future people in the abuser's life, is to speak up about it. In some cases, the abuser doesn't even realize they're being abusive -- they're acting out patterns that they've learned through their parents, siblings, past significant others, or other major influences. Defending yourself in a way that keeps you physically, mentally and emotionally safe is the only way to start breaking that cycle.

Stop Signs: Recognizing, Avoiding, and Escaping Abusive Relationships
Stop Signs: Recognizing, Avoiding, and Escaping Abusive Relationships

The first step in ending abuse is to realize it's happening. Is it you, or is it something that's being done to you? This book helps you recognize the signs of abuse for what they really are.


I hope this hub has been helpful to you, and has provided a little more clarity on the types of abuse. Kidnapping is often misunderstood by the general population, so many people who have suffered from it never get protection under the law. Know the laws, know your rights, and start working toward healthy living.

What about you -- have you had experience with abuse, either as the abused, an abuser (intentional or accidental), or as the loved one on the sidelines? Please take a moment to comment with any questions or useful things you've learned. Abuse is almost always the result of toxic thought patterns and warped social norms, so stepping away from the victim role is a huge part of ending it for good.

© 2014 Rebecca Mikulin


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    • grand old lady profile image

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 

      4 years ago from Philippines

      Hello Wychic, this was a very mind opening article. Didn't know this was prevalent in Singapore, which is a very modern island. The video was horrifying. The man was an animal. And I wonder who the child was crying in the background.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      4 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      I was not affected in any abusive way. I knew someone who lived with her husband for many years of abuse. She eventually left him but only after the kids had grown up.


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