The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence defines domestic violence as “the willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, and/or other abusive behavior as part of a systematic pattern of power and control perpetrated by one intimate partner against another”. Domestic violence can take on a number of forms including physical violence, sexual violence, psychological violence, and emotional abuse.
Estimates from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control set the annual number of victims of domestic violence in the U.S. at 1 million. The victims of domestic violence are primarily women, with 1 in 3 women experiencing rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner during their lifetime. Men can be victims of domestic violence also. Statistics indicate that 1 in 7 men have been severely physically abused by an intimate partner. There is no ‘typical’ victim of domestic violence with affected individuals coming from all economic levels, cultures, religions and education levels.
Sometimes the victims of domestic violence are criticized for not removing themselves from an abusive relationship. There are a number of reasons for this including fear of retribution, hope that the relationship will improve, religious or cultural influences, financial dependency, concern for children, low self-esteem, and lack of a support system. Abuse, however, is never the fault of the victim even though it may be difficult for them to end the relationship.
The abuser often minimizes the seriousness of the violence and blames their behavior on their partner’s shortcomings, alcohol, drugs or stress. Characteristics of an abuser include: extreme jealousy, possessiveness, unpredictability, bad temper, controlling behavior, and antiquated beliefs about roles of women and men in relationships. The violence in the relationship most often relates to gaining power and control over their partner.
The following is a list of possible signs of abuse from the Office on Women’s Health in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. You may be abused if your partner:
- Monitors what you’re doing all the time
- Unfairly accuses you of being unfaithful all the time
- Prevents or discourages you from seeing friends or family
- Prevents or discourages you from going to work or school
- Gets very angry during and after drinking alcohol or using drugs
- Controls how you spend your money
- Controls your use of needed medicines
- Decides things for you that you should be allowed to decide (like what to wear or eat)
- Humiliates you in front of others
- Destroys your property or things that you care about
- Threatens to hurt you, the children, or pets
- Hurts you (by hitting, beating, pushing, shoving, punching, slapping, kicking, or biting)
- Uses (or threatens to use) a weapon against you
- Forces you to have sex against your will
- Controls your birth control or insists that you get pregnant
- Blames you for his or her violent outbursts
- Threatens to harm himself or herself when upset with you
- Says things like, “If I can’t have you then no one can”.
For more information about domestic violence and resources to help with breaking the cycle of abuse go to the website of The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence
or call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or 1-800-787-3224.
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