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“Domestic violence represents serious violent crime: …there is nothing the victim can do to stop the violence, nor is there anything she does to deserve the abuse.”

-from Fifty Obstacles to Leaving a.k.a., Why Abuse Victims Stay by Sarah M. Buel

Domestic violence includes a wide range of acts by one person against an intimate partner or within a family. It is a pattern of behavior that is used by a partner or family member to get and keep power and control.

Understanding Domestic Violence

Behaviors that make up “domestic violence” may be

  • physical violence
  • verbal abuse
  • sexual, emotional and psychological pressure
  • stalking
  • financial control

Any of these can be part of domestic violence in a relationship or family:

  • Breaking objects
  • Insults name-calling
  • Hurting/killing pets
  • Yelling
  • Forced sex
  • Recklessly endangering or scaring the victim or children
  • Isolating the victim from friends and family members
  • Controlling resources like money and credit
  • Denying use of vehicles
  • Withholding food and medication
  • Keeping a victim constantly fearful and preoccupied
  • In same gender relationships, it can include threats to “out” the victim – let others know that the victim is lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered.

Abusers (also called batterers, perpetrators, or offenders) use any ways they can to be the boss, wear the pants, call the shots and make the rules in a family or relationship. Victims learn not to go against the rules or make any moves without the abuser’s permission, because of fear of how the abuser will react and act out.

Domestic Violence Can Happen To Anyone

Domestic violence can happen to people from all backgrounds and neighborhoods. While both men and women may be victims of domestic violence, research shows that

  • women are the overwhelming majority of adult victims
  • domestic violence is a major cause of injury to women

Understand Why Abuse Victims Stay - Ask Why Abusers Behave The Way They Do

Disagreements develop from time to time in relationships. Domestic violence is not a disagreement. Abusers learn how to (through observation, experience, reinforcement, culture, family, community) and repeatedly act to dominate and keep power and control over their partners.

Substance abuse, genetics, stress, illness or problems in the relationship, do not cause domestic violence, but are often used as excuses and can lead to increasingly violent behavior. Without intervention, the violence can become more destructive and sometimes deadly over time. PCADV collects media reports about domestic violence-related fatalities that occur in the Commonwealth. In 2011, there were 166 fatalities in 124 incidents: 118 victims killed and 48 killers.

Abusers are the only ones who can stop the abuse. Friends and family members who want to help encourage them can use these resources from LoveIsRespect.org

Other Words About Domestic Violence

Some other words used to talk or write about domestic violence are
interpersonal violence (IPV), family violence, relationship violence, spousal violence, dating violence and other terms. These terms don’t necessarily mean the same thing and can describe varied behaviors and relationships. However, each term can bring light to a different aspect of domestic violence.

Other places to find information, statistics and research about Domestic Violence:

  • VAWnet, the National Online Resource Center on Violence Against Women, is funded through a Cooperative Agreement with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and is housed within the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence (NRCDV). VAWnet is an easily accessible and comprehensive collection of full-text, searchable electronic resources on domestic violence, sexual violence and related issues.
  • Mincava e-lectronic clearinghouse provides an extensive pool of up-to-date educational resources about all types of violence, including higher education syllabi, published research, funding sources, upcoming training events, individuals or organizations which serve as resources, and searchable databases with over 1000 training manuals, videos and other education resources.
  • National Criminal Justice Reference Service Library, is administered by the Office of Justice Programs, US Department of Justice. NCJRSP provides access to reports, statistics, and research from many federal government agencies, including the FBI, National Institute of Justice, Office for Victims of Crime, FBI and the Census Bureau.
  • WomensLaw.org, a project of the National Network to End Domestic Violence, provides legal information and support to victims of domestic violence.
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