Domestic violence—also known as battering, spouse abuse, or partner abuse— is a pattern of psychological, economic, or sexual force used by one person in a relationship against the other. It is characterized by recurrent verbal and phys- ical assaults that tend to escalate over time and is the most common cause of injury to women who need emergency medical treatment. It is estimated that an act of domestic violence occurs every 15 seconds somewhere in the United States. This translates to more than 2.5 million victims of domestic violence each year. Domestic violence occurs in all ethnic, racial, educational, and socio- economic groups.
The targets of domestic violence are usually women and their children. More than 90 percent of family violence cases in the United States involve women being abused by men. Six in every 10 women who are victims of homicide were murdered by someone they knew. About half of these women were murdered by a spouse or someone with whom they had been intimate. Men who commit domestic violence may be a spouse, a former spouse, a ﬁancé, or a boyfriend.
Children are involved in about 60 percent of domestic violence incidents. During assaults on their mothers, the children of battered women are at risk for injury themselves, either deliberate or incidental. One in 10 calls made to alert police to domestic abuse is placed by a child in the home. More than 53 percent of male abusers also beat their children. The self-perpetuating aspect of domes- tic violence can be seen in the fact that one of every three abused children becomes an adult abuser or victim.
Domestic violence has long-term effects on the lives of the victims as well as any children who live in the home. It may take years for the woman to become disentangled from the abusive relationship, during which time the level of abuse can increase. Attempts to escape often escalate the violence.
Domestic violence can take many forms. It usually falls into one or more of the following categories:
• Physical battering. The abuser’s physical attacks or aggressive behavior can include grabbing, pinching, slapping, punching, hair-pulling, kicking, biting, restraining, or choking; destroying furniture or personal possessions; injuring pets; and murder.
• Psychological battering. This type of violence can include cursing, shouting or verbal abuse, implicit or direct threats of bodily harm, uninvited visits, stalking, malicious telephone calls or letters, throwing things, blocking a doorway passage, cornering the victim during an argument, possessiveness, embarrassing the victim in public, restricting telephone use and isolating the victim from friends and family, forbidding use of the family car, withholding money or health insurance, refusing to pay bills, and sabotaging the victim’s attempts to work or to go to school.
• Sexual abuse. Physical attacks by the abuser are often accompanied by, or cul- minate in, sexual violence in which the victim is forced to take part in a sex- ual activity.
Battering is viewed as a set of learned controlling behaviors and the feeling of being trapped in a relationship. The batterer may ﬁnd that violence is an effective method for gaining and keeping control over another person, and he often does not experience adverse consequences as a result of his behavior. Historically, violence against women has often not been treated as a “real” crime. There is no distinct personality or socioeconomic proﬁle for men who commit domestic vio- lence. Many batterers have no history of a mental health condition or a criminal record. Batterers come from all groups and backgrounds and have different per- sonality proﬁles.