Domestic Violence

What is domestic violence?

Domestic violence is a term used to describe violence and abuse by family members or intimate partners such as a spouse, former spouse, boyfriend or girlfriend, ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend, or date. Other terms used for domestic violence include the following:

  • Intimate partner abuse

  • Family violence

  • Child abuse

  • Battering

  • Courtship violence

  • Marital rape

  • Date rape

  • Stalking

Domestic violence can take many forms, but involves using intimidation and threats or violent behaviors to gain power and control over another person. Usually, the abusive person is a male, and women are often the victims. But, domestic violence also occurs against males. It also occurs in same-sex relationships. The social stigmas surrounding LGBTQ relationships can make seeking help even harder for victims. Child abuse, elder abuse, and sibling abuse are also considered domestic violence.

Facts about domestic violence

The CDC lists the following facts about domestic violence:

  • In the U.S. nearly 24 people per minute are victims of rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner.

  • About 3 in 10 women and 1 in 10 men in the U.S. have reported rape, physical violence, or stalking by a family member or intimate partner.

  • Psychological consequences for victims of intimate partner violence can include depression, suicidal thoughts and attempts, lowered self-esteem, alcohol and other drug abuse, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

What are the different forms of domestic violence?

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, abuse often starts with verbal behaviors such as name-calling, threats, and hitting or throwing objects. It can become worse, including pushing, slapping, and holding against the victim's will. Further battering may include punching, hitting, and kicking and may escalate to life-threatening behaviors such as choking, breaking of bones, or use of weapons.

The following are forms of domestic violence and battering:

  • Physical. This refers to battering or hitting causing physical injury that may include bruising, broken bones, internal bleeding, and death. Often the abuse starts with minor contact and escalates over time into more violent actions.

  • Sexual. This often accompanies or follows physical battering, and results in rape or other forced sexual activity.

  • Psychological or emotional. An abuser often mentally or emotionally abuses with words, threats, harassment, extreme possessiveness, forced isolation, and destruction of belongings. Isolation often occurs when the abuser tries to control a victim's time, activities, and contact with others. Abusers may accomplish this through interfering with supportive relationships, creating barriers to normal activities, such as taking away the car keys or locking the victim in the home, and lying or distorting what is real to gain psychological control.

  • Stalking. Repeated harassing or threatening behavior that often leads to physical or sexual abuse.

  • Economic. This is when the abuser controls access to the all of the victim's resources, such as time, transportation, food, clothing, shelter, insurance, and money. For example, an abuser may interfere with a partner's ability to become self-sufficient, and insist on control of all of the finances. When the victim leaves the violent relationship, the perpetrator may use economics as a way to maintain control or force the victim to return.

How to get help

First, you must recognize that battering or abuse is occurring. Because verbal and emotional abuse often precede physical violence, you should be aware of warning signs that include extreme jealousy, possessiveness, a bad temper, unpredictability, cruelty to animals, and verbal abusiveness.

Contact your local battered women's shelter or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233 (SAFE). They can provide you with helpful information and advice.

The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence urges women in abusive relationships to create a safety plan. The following plan may help you in difficult situations:

  • Find a safe place to go in your home if an argument begins. Avoid rooms without an exit and rooms with potential dangers, such as a kitchen or bathroom.

  • Know who to contact in a crisis and establish a code word or sign among trusted family or friends to let them know you need help.

  • Memorize all important phone numbers.

  • Always keep money and change with you.

  • Keep important papers and documents in a place you can easily access if necessary, including: social security cards, birth certificates, marriage license, checkbook, charge cards, bank statements, health insurance cards, and any records of past abuse including photographs and police reports.

Remember that help is available and that you have the right to live without fear and violence. Without help, abuse will continue and place you at risk for serious harm.

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