Introduction to Domestic Violence

Statistics of Domestic Violence in America

  • 1 in 4 women will experience domestic violence during her lifetime.
  • A national survey of 6,000 American families revealed that 50% of the men who frequently assaulted their wives also frequently abused their children.
  • Studies show that 90% of the children in violent homes are aware of the violence and 70% of the children in battered women’s shelters have been physically abused.
  • One third of female homicide victims are murdered by their intimate male partners.
  • Pregnant and recently pregnant women are more likely to be victims of homicide than to die of any other cause.

  • Domestic violence is not an isolated event, but a pattern of perpetrator behaviors used against the victim
  • The abusive and coercive behaviors take different forms (physical, sexual, psychological, and economic), each used as a tactic to maintain power and control in the relationship.

Physical Assault

  • Hitting
  • Slapping
  • Biting
  • Grabbing
  • Shaking
  • Strangulation
  • Scratching
  • Punching

Sexual Assault

  • Perpetrator physically forces sex
  • Forced to perform a kind of sex they do not want
  • Attack of victim’s genitals with blows or weapons

Psychological Assault

  • Threats of Violence or Harm
  • Attacks against Property or Pets
  • Emotional Abuse
    • Put downs, Public Humiliation, Mind Games
  • Isolation
    • Control of victim’s time, activities, and contact with others, attempt to control movements by taking car keys or forcing her to quit her job, controlling medication or limiting access to health care.

Use of Children

  • Some abusive acts are directed against the children to punish the victim (physical attacks, sexual attacks, threats of harm to the children, forcing children to watch abuse, engaging children in abuse).


  • Not paying child support, threatening to take the children away, involving the victim in long legal battles over custody, kidnapping or taking the children hostage.

Use of Economics

  • These tactics can be used in any relationship, despite economic status.
    • Controlling access to family resources: time, transportation, food, clothing, shelter, insurance, money
    • Having to ask “permission” to spend money
    • It is the perpetrator’s use of physical and sexual force or threats that gives power to their psychologically abusive acts. The victims know from past experiences that the perpetrators will back up the threats or taunts with physical violence.
    • The result of this pattern of violence is the erosion of the victim’s self esteem and distortion of her options, abilities, and interpretation of events.

Cycle of Violence

All parts of the pattern interact with each other and can have profound physical and emotional effects on victims. This pattern of abuse is referred to as the Cycle of Violence.

Tension Building
Be moody, sullen, faultfinding and very critical, withdraw affection, isolate partner, belittle partner, make threats

Beat partner, often severely, rape partner, attack partner with weapon, become extremely verbally abusive

Apologize, cry, and beg for forgiveness, promise to get help, to go for counseling to AA, to do "whatever it takes", send flowers and presents, promise it will never happen again

It is hard for victims to break free from this cycle. Most of the time, victims are in love with their abuser. After the seduction stage, women have hope that their partners will keep their promises to stop the violence. At other parts of the cycle, women stay because of fear. Their partner may make threats to harm or kill her, her children, or other members of the family.

Over time, this cycle becomes more frequent and escalates. Without intervention, the abuse gets worse and the relationship becomes more dangerous.

Domestic violence is a behavior learned through observation and reinforcement. It is not caused by an illness or genetics.

Domestic violence is observed and reinforced not only in the family, but in society’s major institutions:

  • Familial
  • Social
  • Religious
  • Media


  • Religious beliefs stating a woman should submit to her husband
  • Laws that do not consider violence against intimates a crime
  • Images of violence against women in the media

According to estimates, children will view 8,000 murders and 100,000 acts of violence while they are in elementary school.

These beliefs and practices reinforce the use of violence to control intimates by failing to hold perpetrators responsible for their actions and by failing to protect victims.

Alcohol or Drugs Do Not Cause Domestic Violence

Because many male batterers also abuse alcohol and other drugs, it's easy to conclude that these substances may cause domestic violence. It is estimated that in 45% of cases of domestic violence, the perpetrator had been drinking or using drugs.

Although there is an association between alcohol and drug use, it cannot be used as an excuse to evade responsibility for the perpetrator’s behavior. The abusive man typically controls his actions, even when drunk or high, by choosing a time and place for the assaults to take place in private and go undetected. In addition, successful completion of a drug treatment program does not guarantee an end to battering. Domestic violence and substance abuse are two different problems that should be treated separately.

Take a moment and brainstorm some reasons why women would stay in their abusive relationships. Compare your ideas with the following.

  • Why Does She Stay?

Obstacles for Women to Leave

  • Fear - victims fear for their personal safety and that of their children. The most dangerous time for a battered woman is when she decides to leave.
  • Economic Barriers - battered women are often denied access to bank accounts, credit cards, and cash. They may have no employment history and lack job skills that could help them financially support themselves and their children.
  • Social Isolation -battered women are frequently isolated from friends, family, and any type of support network.
  • Feelings of Failure -battered women often feel ashamed of their situation and their inability to change it; victims usually have low self-esteem and blame themselves for somehow causing their partner to be abusive.
  • Promises of Change from Partner -during the Honeymoon Stage, the batterer will make promises to change and get the necessary counseling to stop the violence.
  • Religious and Cultural Beliefs -victims may hold religious beliefs that forbid divorce. Others may hold cultural beliefs that accept husband-to-wife physical violence.
  • Prior lack or failure of intervention - battered women may not know the resources in their community that are available to help them safely leave their relationship. They may also feel that resources have previously failed them. For example, the victim may have called the police during an abusive incident, but the batterer was not arrested because she had no physical injuries.