What is Domestic Violence?

Domestic violence can take a number of forms. Some forms of violence are physical, verbal, emotional, economic, religious, and sexual abuse. These can range from subtle, coercive forms to marital rape. Domestic violence includes female mutilation, and use of knives, blunt instruments, guns and other weapons that result in disfigurement or death.

Domestic violence affects men, women, and children. In the United States, 35.6% of women and 28.5% of men have experienced some form of domestic violence (including rape, physical violence, or stalking) by an intimate partner in their lifetime. 

Globally, a female partner is more commonly the victim of such violence. Recent research shows a country’s level of gender equality directly correlates with that country’s rate of domestic violence. Partners may engage in abusive or violent behavior towards each other. The victim may act in self-defense or retaliation. Women are encouraged in developed countries to report it to the authorities. Some researchers believe domestic violence against men is under-reported. Social norms prevent men from reporting domestic abuse. Research shows men perceive reporting female abuse against them discounts their masculinity


Domestic violence occurs when the abuser believes that abuse is acceptable, justified or unlikely to be reported. It may produce intergenerational cycles of abuse in children and other family members. Family members may feel that such violence is acceptable or condoned.

Awareness, perception, definition and documentation of domestic violence differ widely from country to country. One cycle of violence is tensions rise and an act of violence is committed, followed by a period of reconciliation and calm. Victims may be feel powerless from isolation, power and control, cultural acceptance, lack of financial resources, fear, shame or to protect children.

Victims may experience physical disabilities, chronic health problems, mental illness and difficulties creating healthy relationships. They may display post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or other psychological problems. Children in a violent household may show mental disorders and aggression. These factors can add to the legacy of abuse.

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