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Domestic Violence & Related Issues

See which issues are related to domestic violence and learn how PCADV is taking a stand to combat abuse and its effects. 

Sexual Violence and Assault

Sexual violence is a term used to refer to any kind of unwanted sexual contact. Sexual violence can include rape, sexting, groping/grabbing, sexual assault, sexual harassment, and exploitation of sexually explicit images. Domestic abusers sometimes use sexual violence as a form of power and control against their victim. Sexual violence and assault can also occur independently of domestic violence and can be perpetrated against strangers. Victims of sexual violence can seek protection under Sexual Violence and Intimidation Order or SVPO.


Stalking is a crime in Pennsylvania (and in every state). 7.5 million people are the victims of stalking each year in the United States. Stalking can happen to anyone and often happens when someone is trying to leave an abusive relationship. Stalkers may be complete strangers to their victims or may know them. Most victims have dated or been involved with their stalkers. Stalking involves following someone in a way that caused them to feel fearful or emotionally distressed. Stalkers may use any of the following tactics against their victims:

  • Following them; showing up at their workplace
  • Sending unwanted gifts, mail, e-mails or text messages
  • Monitoring phone calls or computer usage
  • Posting information or spreading rumors about them on the internet
  • Using technology such GPS or hidden cameras to track them
  • Other behaviors to threaten, track or control them

Additional information can be found at the Stalking Resource Center.


Intimate partner violence is the most common cause of domestic violence homicides. The presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation increases the risk of homicide by 500%. The risk of homicide extends beyond the immediate victim of abuse to the family and community. According to the American Journal of Public Health, a study of intimate partner homicides found that 20% of victims were not the intimate partners themselves, but family members, friends, neighbors, persons who intervened, law enforcement responders, or bystanders. Each year, PCADV publishes an annual Fatality Report. Additional statistics about domestic violence fatalities in Pennsylvania can be found on the Homicides Dashboard.


People who flee their homeland to live in the United States or who immigrate here from other countries do so for many reasons. PCADV knows that immigrant and refugee victims and survivors of domestic violence experience abuse in ways that other people do not. For example, they may not report their abuse because:

  • They might not have the papers to stay here.
  • They are afraid of being sent back to their home country, where they might not be safe.
  • Their children may be taken away from them.
  • If they are here to work, they may be afraid of losing their job.
  • They may rely on their abusive partner or family member for money and food.
  • Their abuser may tell them no one will believe them because they do not speak English (or English may be their second language).
  • Their religion may not be Christianity and they are afraid their religious practices will be used against them.

Immigrant victims and survivors of domestic violence face additional issues due to their immigration status that exacerbate trauma. Victims and survivors fear reaching out to law enforcement and other resources due to their immigration status. Furthermore, domestic violence abusers often exploit the fears of immigrant victims by threatening to report them to immigration authorities, or by hiding or destroying a victim’s immigration papers. Finally, due to recent federal actions around immigration and customs enforcement, victims’ fears relating to their immigration status are especially heightened. Immigrant victims need safe access to report their victimization, and a supportive response to the specific needs that they face.

Substance Use Disorder

Victims and survivors of domestic violence are frequently impacted by substance use disorder. The trauma many victims face due to domestic violence creates an environment in which substance use is common. Drugs and alcohol ease the pain survivors are experiencing, and allow them to escape a reality that is often insecure and frightening. Moreover, in order to continue subjugating their victim, domestic violence abusers will often sabotage the victim’s sobriety through actions such as stalking treatment centers/recovery meetings, forcing survivors to continue drug and alcohol abuse under threat of further violence, etc. Understanding the link between substance abuse/addiction and domestic violence is crucial to appropriately responding to the multi-level trauma faced by many addicted survivors and ensuring that they have safe access to all forms of medical and mental health treatment for addiction.

Animal Abuse

There is a strong link between the animal abuse and domestic violence. Animal abuse is often an indicator of current domestic violence occurring within a home and/or a predictor of future domestic violence. Domestic violence abusers isolate their victims, and often leave them with one source of companionship – their pet. Abusers then exploit this close relationship by inflicting harm upon a victim’s animal companion. In addition, one of the most significant barriers for victims attempting to leave an abusive relationship is the lack of safe shelter space for their pet. Understanding the link between domestic violence and animal abuse and developing additional pet-friendly shelter options are critical to better identifying domestic violence survivors making it easier for victims to get help.

PCADV is working to better understand the link between domestic violence and animal abuse and to craft pet-friendly shelter options in order to better identify domestic violence survivors and make it easier for them to get help.

See how PCADV is combating Animal Abuse