Domestic violence (battering) is a pattern of abusive and coercive behavior used to gain dominance, power, and control over an intimate partner. It includes the use of illegal and legal behaviors and tactics that undermine the victim’s sense of self, free will, and safety. Battering behavior can impact other family members and can be used in other family relationships.
Domestic violence crosses all class, race, lifestyle, and religious lines. The only clear distinction is gender. Most victims of domestic violence are women, and most perpetrators of domestic violence are men. According to the National Institute of Justice, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Bureau of Justice Statistics, women are at significantly greater risk of domestic violence than men. Approximately 1 in 4 women in the U.S. have experienced severe physical violence by an intimate partner at some point in their lifetime. Many academic leaders have identified domestic violence as a major criminal justice, health care, and social issue.
Perpetrators of domestic violence (batterers) use a combination of the following tactics to gain and maintain dominance, power, and control over the victim. Batterers make a choice to use control tactics and violence, including when the violence occurs and the amount of injury inflicted by their acts. Batterers bear sole responsibility for their actions.
Physical violence: Pushing; grabbing; shoving; restraining; kicking; spitting; biting; pulling hair; pinching; hitting; punching; slapping; strangling (choking); cutting; stabbing
Sexual violence: Unwanted touching or fondling; forced sexual contact; rape; accusing her of being unfaithful; humiliating or objectifying her body; restricting her access to reproductive health care; forcing her to engage in unwanted sex acts; threatening to have sex with someone else; coercing her into having sex
Coercion and threats: Making or carrying out threats to do something to hurt her; threatening to leave her, to commit suicide, to report her to welfare, to have her deported or report her to immigration authorities; making her drop charges or not testify; making her do illegal things
Intimidation: Making her afraid by using looks, actions, gestures; destroying her property; abusing pets; displaying weapons
Emotional abuse: Putting her down; calling her names; making her think she’s crazy; playing mind games; humiliating her; making her feel bad about herself; making her feel guilty
Isolation: Controlling what she does, who she sees and talks to, what she reads, where she goes; limiting her outside involvement; using jealousy to justify actions; withholding important documents (immigration paperwork, birth certificates, social security cards)
Using children: Making her feel guilty about the children; using the children to relay messages; using visitation to harass her; threatening to take the children away, to fight for custody, to harm the children; undermining her parenting; teaching the children to treat her with disrespect
Economic abuse: Preventing her from getting or keeping a job; making her ask for money; giving her an allowance; taking her money; not letting her know about or have access to family income
Male privilege/entitlement: Treating her like a servant; making all the big decisions; making all the rules; adhering to strict gender roles and being the one to define men’s and women’s roles
Minimizing, denying, blaming: Making light of the abuse and not taking her concerns about it seriously; saying the abuse didn’t happen; shifting responsibility for abusive behavior; saying she caused the abuse; claiming to be the “real” victim
Considerations for Safety Planning
- Threats to severely injure or kill her or her children if she leaves
- Abuser/partner promises he will change
- Access to transportation
- Access to communication with friends and family
- Access to a “safe” place in her home
- Access to resources and supports
- Access to affordable housing
- Access to economic resources
- Workplace safety (getting to and from work, safety while at work)
- Cultural, social, or religious beliefs about marriage, families, and children
- Concerns related to parenting
- Immigration issues
Supporting a Victim of Domestic Violence
Learn how you can support a victim of domestic violence.