What is Domestic Violence

The words ‘domestic violence’ call certain images easily to mind. Immediately, we picture a woman, cowed and frightened, being punched and kicked by her husband, left nursing a blackened eye or broken arm.

It’s the obvious interpretation, but there is far more to domestic violence than just this, shocking as it is. To understand better what really constitutes domestic violence, it is helpful to see how the US and UK governments define the issue:

The US government gives the following definition of domestic violence:

‘…pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner’. Further, it is said that domestic violence ‘can happen to anyone regardless of race, age, sexual orientation, religion, or gender’, and can take many forms, including physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional, economic, and psychological abuse.

The definition given by the UK government follows:

‘Patterns of behavior characterized by the misuse of power and control by one person over another who are or have been in an intimate relationship. It can occur in mixed gender relationships and same gender relationships and has profound consequences for the lives of children, individuals, families and communities. It may be physical, sexual, emotional and/or psychological. The latter may include intimidation, harassment, damage to property, threats and financial abuse.’

Domestic violence is not only an issue between couples

Although the neatest and simplest way to think of domestic violence is of it being a physically violent abuse that takes place between couples, and more specifically, as something that takes place within a heterosexual couple where the man is physically violent towards the woman, this is massively over simplifying the truth. Domestic violence can and does take place between homosexual couples. It also takes place in families. Children are often victims of domestic violence as are the disabled, and the elderly.

Although less common, men can be victims of domestic violence too.

Physical domestic violence

While the term ‘domestic violence’ includes many types of abusive behavior, the most obvious and apparently easy to categorize is physical violence. However, besides the most violent types of abuse, such as stabbing, beating and punching, there are many levels at which domestic physical violence can occur. Shaking, for example,  can cause brain injuries, and even at a lesser level of intensity, is a violent and intimidating act. Pushing, grabbing and shoving must also be considered manifestations of violence. Any physical abuse is a sign of domestic violence and frequently escalates into even more violent acts over a period of time.
Sexual abuse is another manifestation of physical domestic violence. Even within marriage, everyone has the right to decide what they wish or do not want to do sexually, and any form of coercion, physical or mental, is ultimately a part of a domestic violence issue.

Domestic Violence is not only physical

Another common misunderstanding about domestic violence is that it only ever takes place inside the home, behind closed doors. While this is the most common, it is not exclusively true. Domestic violence can also occur outside the home and even in the workplace. In these cases, the term ‘domestic’ refers to the fact that the abuse is inflicted on a person by a close family member, wherever it takes place.

Domestic violence in the home is fairly easy to define. It is any type of abuse of one close family member by another. (The word ‘family member’ being used here to denote a person who is part of regular family life, not necessarily a blood relation or related by marriage.) This abuse can be physical, emotional, psychological, financial or digital. Because it takes place in the home, behind closed doors, it can be difficult for outsiders to notice, especially if there are no obvious injuries resulting.

Domestic violence outside the home includes things like stalking (where one partner follows the other, regulating their movements and curtailing their freedom. Stalking can also be done via mobile phones and the internet. A common form of domestic violence that occurs outside the home is emotional. The victim is made to feel stupid or embarrassed in public, or feels impelled to behave in a certain manner in public for fear of reprisals after.

Domestic violence in the workplace can involve the abuser making phone calls to the victim to harass them at work. A person who is being abused may be frequently late to work, or inexplicably and frequently absent.

Domestic violence is about control

Contrary to popular belief, domestic violence is all about power and control. A person who abuses their partner or other family member is not out of control…in fact, they are more than able to control their actions. They choose who to abuse (most do not go around abusing other people in their lives) and they choose when, where and how to carry out this abuse. Abusers behave as they do in order to exert power and control over their victims.

Help for victims of domestic violence

Domestic violence is, therefore, a far bigger problem than it first appears. It can be difficult to detect, and hard to recognise even from within the abusive relationship. If you are a victim, or think that you know someone who is being abused, the contacts below can offer help, advice and refuge.

US:

http://www.loveisrespect.org/get-help/contact-us      Love is Respect

UK:

Worldwide:http://www.hotpeachpages.net/  Worldwide help for victims of domestic abuse.