For many women and their families the effects of domestic violence will be catastrophic, the damage to their physical and psychological well being may be deeply damaging, and on occasions fatal.
(Department of Health [DoH] 2000a: 12)
Domestic violence has been defined as:
a continuum of behaviour ranging from verbal abuse, physical, and sexual assault, to rape and even homicide. The vast majority of such violence, and the most severe and chronic incidents, are perpetrated by men against women and their children.
(Department of Health [DoH] 2000a: v)
While the term 'domestic violence' includes violence and abuse within same-sex relationships, violence by women against men and violence and abuse perpetrated by one family member against another, the focus of this book is on violence and abuse by men, against women. It seeks to explore the multiplicity of factors that collectively construct an ever-increasing and serious healthcare need for those being abused within their intimate relationships.
Intimate violence may take many forms, often combining physical, emotional, psychological, sexual and financial abuse. The degree of abuse and violence varies within each partnership, often occurring on a continuum of severity and effect. For some the abuse and violence are periodic with minimal long-term effects. However, countless women are so controlled and inhibited that they are unable to make even the simplest decision or act without permission, responding with complete obedience to every order given and every rule imposed. The violence becomes insidious, permeating every action, every thought and deed until eventually, for some women, suicide remains the only escape. Other women express their self-disgust and powerlessness through alcohol or drug abuse, or self-mutilation, exhibiting signs of severe depression and total dependency on the abuser. Intimate partners may demand and achieve, through physical and emotional violence, complete obedience to every order, using humiliation as an important strategy in obedience training in their women.