Domestic Violence is, by barest definition, violence within a home. Beyond this, the term has a range of definitions, more and less formal, which are frequently used with little awareness that that range of definitions exists. Those definitions basically include the following elements:
- romantic relationships including marriages, cohabitation, and dating relationships, sexual and nonsexual, exclusive or nonexclusive, heterosexual or homosexual
- physical violence
- direct physical violence, ranging from murder and rape to unwanted physical contact.
- indirect physical violence, including destruction of objects, throwing objects near the victim, harm to animals
- mental/emotional violence
- verbal threats of physical violence to the victim, the self, or others including children, ranging from explicit, detailed and impending to implicit and vague as to both content and time frame
- verbal violence, including threats, insults, put-downs, attacks,
- nonverbal threats, including gestures, facial expressions, body postures
The term replaced the terms "wife beating" or "wife battering" which came before, and has begun to be replaced, to some degree, with more descriptive terms such as "relationship violence", "domestic abuse", and "violence against women". The term has been defined legally in some jurisdictions, which can add further confusion when members of the justice system meets up with domestic violence advocates.
Cycle of Violence
Frequently, the term is used to describe specific violent and overtly abusive incidents, and legal definitions will tend to take this perspective. However, when violent and abusive behaviors happen within a relationship, the effects of those behaviors continue after these overt incidents are over. Advocates and counselors will refer to domestic violence as a pattern of behaviors, including those listed above.
Lenore Walker presented the model of a "Cycle of Violence" which consists of three basic phases:
- Honeymoon Phase
- Characterized by affection, apology, apparent end of violence.
- Tension Building Phase
- Characterized by poor communication, tension, fear of causing outbursts,
- Acting-out Phase
- Characterized by outbursts of violent, abusive incidents.
Domestic violence is caused specifically by the choice to engage in the violent or abusive behavior. A variety of factors can lead to that choice, but only in the case of truly uncontrollabe compulsions can those factors eliminate the potential to choose nonviolent and nonabusive behaviors.
The purpose of domestic violence is not primarily to hurt or harm the victim. Rather, it is to gain or maintain power and control over the victim.
It is impossible to have a discussion of domestic violence that does not include a discussion of the role gender does or doesn't have to play in the problem. Sometimes, the discussion of gender can overwhelm any other topic, due to the degree of emotion with which the discussion of gender can attain.
Attention to domestic violence began in the women's movement as concern about wives being beaten by their husbands, and has remained a major focus in the modern feminist movement, particularly under the label "violence against women". Political opposition to the feminist movement helped push interest in discussion of women who were violent with their husbands and partners.
Conflicts have erupted regarding whether men are more abusive than women, whether men's abuse of women is worse than women's abuse of men, how and whether resources for abused women should be made available to abused men, etc. Feminists involved in the movement have been resistant to discussing female initiated violence because they see such discussions as distracting from the greater problem of male violence, and because it can be used to rationalize male violence if women are "just as bad" as men.
Studies have been carried out to explore these issues, and results have seemed somewhat contradictory. A problem in conducting such studies is the amount of silence, fear and shame that results from abuse within families and relationships. Another is that abusive patterns can tend to seem normal to those who have lived in them for a length of time. Similarly, subtle forms of abuse can be quite transparent even as they set the stage for further abuse seeming normal. Finally, inconsistent definition of what domestic violence is makes strong conclusions hard to reach when compiling the available studies. Both men and women have been arrested and convicted of assaulting their partners in both heterosexual and homosexual relationships. The bulk of these arrests has been men being arrested for assaulting women, but that has been shifting somewhat over time.
The general consensus seems to be that male on female domestic violence is more likely to result in serious injury and death. Men on average have more upper body strength and socialization that predisposes them to resort to violence more than women do, and that can give them a higher average lethality than women. However, women determined to cause harm to their male partners can use weapons to equalize whatever deficit in physical power which may be present, and can also use social constraints against men hitting women, even in self-defense, to provide them with sufficient lethality to be dangerous in conflict situations.
Publically available resources for dealing with domestic violence are predominately for women and their children who are in or are leaving violent men. Most of the remainder are for men who have been arrested for assaulting women in their lives, and generally these are made available to the men for a fee (intentionally, as part of holding them accountable for their actions), where victims resources are usually offered free of charge.
Gender roles and expectations can and do play a role in abusive situations, and exploring these roles and expectations can be helpful in addressing abusive situations, as do factors like race, class, religion, sexuality and philosophy. None of these factors cause one to abuse or another to be abused.
Some feel that no discussion of domestic violence is complete without the airing of some statistics.
Effects of Domestic Violence
More will be added in the space.
Well-known Individuals Involved in Documented Reports of Domestic Violence
- O.J. Simpson and Nicole Brown Simpson
- Ryan O'Neal and Farrah Fawcett
- Mike Tyson and Robin Givens
- Tommy Lee and Pamela Anderson
- James Brown
- Ike Turner and Tina Turner