Domestic Violence

Domestic violence refers to any form of violence by an intimate partner or by other family members, regardless of the place where this violence takes place. Other terms that can be used are domestic abuse, spousal abuse, family violence and intimate partner violence (IPV), although they are not fully synonymous.

The terms domestic abuse and domestic violence are often considered to have the same meaning as intimate partner violence. Family violence is a broader term that may be used to include child abuse, elder abuse and other violent acts between family members. Domestic violence may take different forms, including physical or psychological abuse, sexual abuse, economic abuse. It should be noted that these separate categories often go hand in hand. Physical abuse may be slapping, beating, stabbing, strangling, burning, choking, threats with an object or weapon and even murder. According to UNICEF, some traditional practices harmful to women (such as female genital mutilation) are also to be considered physical abuse. Sexual abuse takes place when the victim is forced to unwanted sexual acts with the abuser or others through threats, intimidation or physical force.

Psychological abuse, or behavior that is aimed at intimidating and persecuting a person, is also considered to be a form of domestic violence when it takes place in the family. Psychological abuse may take various forms. For example, the perpetrator may threaten the victim with abuse, abandonment, taking away the custody of the children. This type of domestic violence also includes confinement to the home, surveillance, destruction of objects, isolation, verbal aggression and constant humiliation.

One lesser-known form of domestic violence is economic abuse, in which the abuser controls and intimidates the victim by denying them funds, food or other basic needs, or by controlling the victim's access to health care, education, employment.

Although the victims of domestic violence are often women and children and the perpetrators are mostly men, there are also cases of abuse against men by women. Domestic violence may take place in both heterosexual and homosexual relationships, between current and former spouses, in unmarried couples living together or in dating relationships.

Domestic violence may have serious physical or psychological effects on the victim. One psychological effect that is often mentioned is the battered person syndrome. This has also been associated with post-traumatic stress disorder as victims of domestic violence are exposed to severe trauma and they may sometimes feel they are in danger even if they are not.

Because women are the main victims of domestic violence, a concept of battered woman syndrome (BWS) was developed by Dr. Lenore E. Walker. This term is used to describe the emotional state of a battered woman, or a woman that has experienced at least two complete battering cycles. In The Battered Woman Syndrome (1984) Walker lists four main characteristics of the syndrome: the woman has the feeling that she is to blame for the violence, she is unable to place the blame elsewhere, the woman feels fear for her life or the lives of her children, the victim has an image of the abuser as omnipresent and omniscient.

BWS serves as a basis for the so-called battered woman defense used in court cases to defend women who have murdered their abusers after having been exposed to physical or psychological violence.

Domestic violence is considered to be a widespread problem but it is also one of the most under-reported crimes, which makes it difficult to give a realistic estimate of the number of incidents. This fact may be due to the victim's fear of the abuser, of judgment by the society or of inadequate reaction by the police. For example, in the United States before the 1980s, many men supported the idea that the woman belonged to her husband and he had the right to do whatever he wanted with her. This viewpoint was also reflected in the work of the police, which often undermined the importance of calls made by women to report domestic violence. However, several lawsuits against inadequate police protection have helped change the law toward better understanding of the problem with domestic violence and more adequate intervention by the police.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Violence in the Home: Multidisciplinary Perspectives
Karel Kurst-Swanger; Jacqueline L. Petcosky.
Oxford University Press, 2003
Domestic Violence: A Handbook for Health Professionals
Lyn Shipway.
Routledge, 2004
Families, Violence and Social Change
Linda McKie.
Open University Press, 2005
Handbook of Domestic Violence Intervention Strategies: Policies, Programs, and Legal Remedies
Albert R. Roberts.
Oxford University Press, 2002
Domestic Violence: Legal Sanctions and Recidivism Rates among Male Perpetrators
S. Deborah Cosimo.
LFB Scholarly, 2012
The Rehabilitation of Partner-Violent Men
Erica Bowen.
Wiley-Blackwell, 2011
Victims as Offenders: The Paradox of Women's Violence in Relationships
Susan L. Miller.
Rutgers University Press, 2005
Female Domestic Violence Offenders: Their Attachment Security, Trauma Symptoms, and Personality Organization
Goldenson, Julie; Geffner, Robert; Foster, Sharon L.; Clipson, Clark R.
Violence and Victims, Vol. 22, No. 5, January 1, 2007
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Domestic Violence and Child Protection: Directions for Good Practice
Cathy Humphreys; Nicky Stanley.
Jessica Kingsley, 2006
Same Violence, Same Sex, Different Standard: An Examination of Same-Sex Domestic Violence and the Use of Expert Testimony on Battered Woman's Syndrome in Same-Sex Domestic Violence Cases
Pertnoy, Leonard D.
St. Thomas Law Review, Vol. 24, No. 3, Summer 2012
Domestic Violence and Mandatory Arrest Laws: To What Extent Do They Influence Police Arrest Decisions?
Hirschel, David; Buzawa, Eve; Pattavina, April; Faggiani, Don.
Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, Vol. 98, No. 1, Fall 2007
Predicting Case Conviction and Domestic Violence Recidivism: Measuring the Deterrent Effects of Conviction and Protection Order Violations
Frantzen, Durant; San Miguel, Claudia; Kwak, Dae-Hoon.
Violence and Victims, Vol. 26, No. 4, July 1, 2011
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Mothering through Domestic Violence
Lorraine Radford; Marianne Hester.
Jessica Kingsley, 2006
Reviving Hope for Domestic Violence Prosecutions: Giles V. California
Hussain, Aiysha.
American Criminal Law Review, Vol. 46, No. 3, Summer 2009
Cultural Models of Domestic Violence: Perspectives of Social Work and Anthropology Students
Collins, Cyleste C.; Dressier, William W.
Journal of Social Work Education, Vol. 44, No. 2, Spring-Summer 2008
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Is Anyone Listening? Accountability and Women Survivors of Domestic Violence
Gill Hague; Rosemary Aris; Audrey Mullender.
Routledge, 2003
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