What is Domestic Violence?

Definition

Domestic violence is a pattern of coercive control that one person exercises over another.

Understanding the Full Spectrum of Domestic Violence

Domestic violence can happen to anyone, from any background. It doesn’t discriminate based on age, race, sexual orientation, income, education, ability, or gender—anyone can suffer from abuse, at any time.

While physical abuse might be the first thing that comes to mind when one hears the term “domestic violence,” an abusive partner may try to exert control in a number of other ways. This can include verbal abuse, social isolation, and exerting control over finances. Remember that domestic violence is about power; its purpose is for the abuser to control the victim in whatever form(s) it takes, through whatever means it takes.

Read more about the different types of abuse below.

Abuse Comes in Many Forms

Domestic violence is all about power—abusers exert control over their partners in whatever form they can. While physical violence may be the first thing that comes to mind when one pictures domestic violence, abusers exert their control in many other ways. Below are some of the forms in which this abuse can take place.

Types of Abuse

Does Your Partner:

Embarrass you with bad names and put downs?





Control what you do, who you see or talk to, or where you go?





Stop you from seeing or talking to friends or family?





Take your money or Social Security, make you ask for money, or refuse to give you money?





Make all the decisions?





Look at you in ways that scare you?





Tell you you’re a bad parent or threaten to take away or hurt your children?





Act like the abuse is no big deal, it is your fault or even deny doing it?





Destroy your property or threaten to kill your pets?





Intimidate you with guns, knives, or other weapons?





Shove you, slap you or hit you?





Force you to drop charges?





Threaten to commit suicide?






If you think your interactions with your partner might be abusive, look below to take a short quiz. The questions and your answers might help you determine if you need to seek help for an abusive relationship.

Are You Experiencing Abuse?

If you think your interactions with your partner might be abusive, ask yourself these 13 questions below:

Does Your Partner:

Embarrass you with bad names and put downs?





Control what you do, who you see or talk to, or where you go?





Stop you from seeing or talking to friends or family?





Take your money or Social Security, make you ask for money, or refuse to give you money?





Make all the decisions?





Look at you in ways that scare you?





Tell you you’re a bad parent or threaten to take away or hurt your children?





Act like the abuse is no big deal, it is your fault or even deny doing it?





Destroy your property or threaten to kill your pets?





Intimidate you with guns, knives, or other weapons?





Shove you, slap you or hit you?





Force you to drop charges?





Threaten to commit suicide?






If you answered “yes” to even one of these questions, your relationship may be abusive.

If you want to talk to someone about your relationship call:

(800)799-7233

National Domestic Violence Hotline

La Línea Nacional sobre Violencia Doméstica

TTY (800) 787-3224

The Extent of the Proble

The Gender Gap


Domestic violence can happen to anyone regardless of gender. However, domestic violence continues to affect women at a disproportionately high rate. In 2007, 45% of female homicide victims were murdered by intimate partners; 5% of male homicide victims were murdered by intimate partners (Catalano, Smith, Snyder, and Rand, 2009). Cultural norms about the status in relationships between men and women, in addition to other gender-based inequities, continue to fuel this problem.




Intersectionality


Domestic violence is a pattern of coercive control in order to gain and maintain power and control over family or household. As with all forms of violence, the root cause of this violence is oppression. Societal attitudes of racism, sexism and homophobia increase the vulnerability of people more likely to experience emotional, financial and physical violence at the hands of those that are meant to love and nurture them.




"Why Don't They Just Leave?"


It’s common for those outside a domestic violence situation to question why someone doesn’t just leave the abusive relationship. In addition to the many obstacles a survivor faces while trying to leave, their risk of extreme violence or death vastly increases once they do leave their abuser. “Women who are separated from their partners have the highest rates of intimate partner victimization (42%) as opposed to 1% for married women, 9% for divorced women and 5% for women who have never been married” (Catalano, 2007). This is why it is imperative to help survivors access the right support, resources, and protections during that critical period of time. Achieving safety requires the right tools and options be available at the point the survivor needs them.





Though the cost to society pales in comparison to the individual cost, it’s important to note that the effects of domestic violence extend far beyond the homes in which it occurs. Read more about the societal impacts of domestic violence by clicking the button below.

Impacts to Society

The Full Cost Extends Beyond the Individual

Though the cost to society might pale in comparison to an individual’s traumatic experience, it’s important to note that the effects of domestic violence extend far beyond the homes in which it occurs.

Ramifications to Children in the Home


Unfortunately, children are also a frequent target of domestic violence abusers. However, even when children are not directly physically or emotionally abused, the stress of the situation in the household causes immense harm. Children who witness domestic violence have increased stress, anxiety, and emotional challenges. This not only affects their mental health but also their ability to focus and learn in school. A lack of educational success can lead to even more far-reaching challenges in the lives of these children.




Future Chronic Health Problems


In addition to cost of physical injuries that occur as a direct result of abuse, other health problems can arise in survivors from the stress of abuse. “Women directly affected by violence are more likely report the following: use of disability equipment; arthritis; asthma; activity limitations; stroke; high blood cholesterol; heart attack; heart disease; risk factors for HIV and STDs; smoking; and heavy or binge drinking” (Tjaden & Thoennes, 2000). The magnitude of increase to these risk factors is astounding: “Abused women are 70% more likely to have heart disease, 80% more likely to experience a stroke, and 60% more likely to develop asthma” (Pearl, Robert MD; Fortune, Dec. 2013). These health problems cause additional suffering for survivors, and they also put more strain on the healthcare system.




The Economic Cost


Domestic violence leaves behind terrible emotional pain and trauma, which is difficult to quantify. The cost of the physical toll it takes can be more easily estimated. According to the CDC, in 2003, the direct healthcare costs of domestic violence totaled approximately $4.1 billion. An additional $1.8 billion was lost in productivity due to injuries and premature death. Domestic violence is the number one cause of injury for women ages 18-44 (Pearl, Robert MD; Fortune, Dec. 2013). On average, victims of intimate partner violence lose a total of 8 million days of paid work each year as a result of their abuse. This absenteeism comes as a result of survivors recovering from injuries, as well as an inability to get to work due to their partner sabotaging their means of transportation or child care, among other controlling tactics. In 2010, it was estimated that the average cost to society of a homicide is $17.25 million. Out of that figure, $307,355 is estimated to go to expenses within the justice system (“Average Homicide Cost is $17.25M, Study Concludes,” ABA Journal, October 18, 2010). Even without taking into account the moral and ethical costs of homicide, prevention programs are clearly the cheaper alternative from a financial perspective alone.




The Safety Risk to the Community at Large


Domestic violence abusers are not only a risk to their partners and family but also their community. While law enforcement officers are at an especially high risk of harm, violence wrought by abusers can also lead to injury or death of everyday bystanders. Law enforcement and justice system resources are also heavily taxed by addressing domestic violence issues, leading to a variety of unintended consequences we may never be able to fully evaluate.





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