Family or domestic violence is emotional, physical, or sexual abuse committed by a spouse, former spouse, partner, parent, roommate, or other person living in the home. Domestic violence also includes emotional, physical, or sexual abuse of children, abuse of parents or grandparents, violence toward a partner of the same sex, and even date violence and date rape. Family violence is a rapidly growing public health problem that affects more than 2.5 million Americans— mainly women and children—each year.
Many theories exist that attempt to explain why men use violence against their partner, including deﬁcient communication skills, provocation by the partner, stress, and ﬁnancial hardship. While these factors may provoke an isolated incident of violence, they do not adequately explain the man’s motivation. The main reason why men commit violent acts within the family is because they see violence as the best way to gain and keep control over other people without experiencing negative consequences. Many violent men have ﬁrm and inﬂexible ideas about traditional male and female roles and hold a distorted concept of manhood.
Violent men typically have grown up in a violent family, in which they learned that violence is a “normal” response to solving problems. They may have been victims of violence as children or watched one parent beat the other. Violent men often have a quick temper and overreact to frustration. There is a strong link between violence and alcohol or other drug abuse. Poverty and lacking at least a
high school education are contributing factors, although domestic violence appears in every social and economic group.
The effects of family violence extend far beyond the physical scars produced by the abuse. People who have been physically or sexually abused at home often experience long-lasting depression (see page 345), panic attacks, sleep or eating disorders, or sexual problems. They may begin abusing alcohol or other drugs, become aggressive or neglectful, or attempt suicide (see page 346). Children who witness or experience family violence are deeply affected and often grow up to become violent or aggressive themselves. Many people are afraid to leave their abuser because they fear what the abuser will do if they try to leave or think they may lose custody of their children. Others may have nowhere else to go or no money of their own.