WHAT IS DOMESTIC VIOLENCE?
We define domestic violence as a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner.
Domestic violence can be physical, sexual, emotional, economic, or psychological actions or threats of actions that influence another person. This includes any behaviors that intimidate, manipulate, humiliate, isolate, frighten, terrorize, coerce, threaten, blame, hurt, injure, or wound someone.
Hitting, slapping, shoving, grabbing, pinching, biting, hair pulling, etc are types of physical abuse. This type of abuse also includes denying a partner medical care or forcing alcohol and/or drug use upon him or her.
Sexual Abuse: Coercing or attempting to coerce any sexual contact or behavior without consent. Sexual abuse includes, but is certainly not limited to, marital rape, attacks on sexual parts of the body, forcing sex after physical violence has occurred, or treating one in a sexually demeaning manner.
Emotional Abuse: Undermining an individual's sense of self-worth and/or self-esteem is abusive. This may include, but is not limited to constant criticism, diminishing one's abilities, name-calling, or damaging one's relationship with his or her children.
Economic Abuse: Is defined as making or attempting to make an individual financially dependent by maintaining total control over financial resources, withholding one's access to money, or forbidding one's attendance at school or employment.
Psychological Abuse: Elements of psychological abuse include - but are not limited to - causing fear by intimidation; threatening physical harm to self, partner, children, or partner's family or friends; destruction of pets and property; and forcing isolation from family, friends, or school and/or work
Domestic violence can happen to anyone regardless of race, age, sexual orientation, religion, or gender. Domestic violence affects people of all socioeconomic backgrounds and education levels. Domestic violence occurs in both opposite-sex and same-sex relationships and can happen to intimate partners who are married, living together, or dating.
Domestic violence not only affects those who are abused, but also has a substantial effect on family members, friends, co-workers, other witnesses, and the community at large. Children, who grow up witnessing domestic violence, are among those seriously affected by this crime.
Frequent exposure to violence in the home not only predisposes children to numerous social and physical problems, but also teaches them that violence is a normal way of life - therefore, increasing their risk of becoming society's next generation of victims and abusers.
Sources: National Domestic Violence Hotline, National Center for Victims of Crime, and WomensLaw.org.
DID YOU KNOW?
On average, 24 people per minute are victims of rape, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner in the United States — more than 12 million women and men over the course of a year.
Nearly 3 in 10 women (29%) and 1 in 10 men (10%) in the US have experienced rape, physical violence and/or stalking by a partner and report a related impact on their functioning.
Nearly, 15% of women (14.8%) and 4% of men have been injured as a result of IPV that included rape, physical violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime.
1 in 4 women (24.3%) and 1 in 7 men (13.8%) aged 18 and older in the United States have been the victim of severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime.
IPV alone affects more than 12 million people each year.[v]More than 1 in 3 women (35.6%) and more than 1 in 4 men (28.5%) in the United States have experienced rape, physical violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime.
Nearly half of all women and men in the United States have experienced psychological aggression by an intimate partner in their lifetime (48.4% and 48.8%, respectively).
Females ages 18 to 24 and 25 to 34 generally experienced the highest rates of intimate partner violence.
From 1994 to 2010, about 4 in 5 victims of intimate partner violence were female.
Most female victims of intimate partner violence were previously victimized by the same offender, including 77% of females ages 18 to 24, 76% of females ages 25 to 34, and 81% of females ages 35 to 49.
After living in an abusive marriage for 13 and a half years, to a chronic and violent alcoholic, the problem did not end when I and my son escaped the nightmare. My ex-husband's psychological and physical attacks left deep wounds that were difficult to heal. I was not a victim - I was a survivor, a fighter, refused to quit and now I am an advocate for others. Please understand, there is hope for survivors of domestic violence. Although difficult and painful, recovery from abuse is possible. The healing process starts with recognizing how domestic violence impacts its survivors.
- Pamela D. Wray Biron, Executive Director/Founder
The impact of abuse on survivors
Survivors of domestic violence recount stories of put-downs, public humiliation, name-calling, mind games and manipulations by the abuser.
Psychological scars left by emotional and verbal abuse are often more difficult to recover from than physical injuries. They often have lasting effects even after the relationship has ended. The survivor’s self-esteem is trampled in the course of being told repeatedly that she is worthless, stupid, untrustworthy, ugly or despised.
It is common for an abuser to be extremely jealous and controlling, and insist that the victim not see friends or family members. The victim may be forbidden to work or leave the house without the abuser. If the victim is employed, she often loses her job due to the chaos created by such relationships.
This isolation increases the abuser’s control over the victim and results in the victim losing any emotional, social or financial support from the outside world. This increases the victim’s dependence upon the abuser, making it more difficult to leave the relationship. If she does leave, she often finds herself totally alone and unable to support herself and her children.
A traumatic experience
Domestic violence is a traumatic experience for its victims. Traumatic experiences produce emotional shock and other psychological problems.
The American Psychiatric Association has identified a specific type of mental distress common to survivors of trauma called posttraumatic stress disorder or PTSD.
Common reactions to trauma include:
- Fear and anxiety — While normal responses to dangerous situations, fear and anxiety can become a permanent emotional state without professional help. Memories of the trauma can trigger intense anxiety and immobilize the survivor. Children may express their fears by becoming hyperactive, aggressive, develop phobias or revert to infantile behavior.
- Nightmares and flashbacks — Because the trauma is so shocking and different from normal everyday experiences, the mind cannot rid itself of unwanted and intrusive thoughts and images. Nightmares are especially common in children.
- Being in “danger mode” — Jitteriness, being easily startled or distracted, concentration problems, impatience and irritability are all common to being in a “heightened state of alert” and are part of one’s survival instinct. Children’s reactions tend to be expressed physically because they are less able to verbalize their feelings.
- Guilt, shame and blame — Survivors often blame themselves for allowing the abuse to occur and continue for as long as it did. Survivors feel guilty for allowing their children to be victimized. Sometimes others blame the survivors for allowing themselves to be victims. These emotions increase the survivor’s negative self-image and distrustful view of the world.
- Grief and depression — Feelings of loss, sadness and hopelessness are signs of depression. Crying spells, social withdrawal and suicidal thoughts are common when grieving over the loss and disappointment of a disastrous relationship.
Impact of Domestic Violence on Children
The tragic reality is that anytime a mother is abused by her partner, the children are also affected in both overt and subtle ways. What hurts the mother, hurts the children.
When a mother is abused, the children may feel guilty that they cannot protect her, or that they are the cause of the strife. They may themselves be abused, or neglected while the mother attempts to deal with the trauma. The rate of child abuse is 6-15 times higher in families where the mother is abused.
Children get hurt when they see their parents being yelled at, pushed, or hit. They may feel confusion, stress, fear, shame, or think that they caused the problem. Children grow up learning that it's okay to hurt other people or let other people hurt them. A third of all children who see their mothers beaten develop emotional problems. Boys who see their fathers beat their mothers are ten times more likely to be abusive in their adult intimate relationships.
Children may exhibit emotional problems, cry excessively, or be withdrawn or shy. Children may have difficulty making friends or have fear of adults. Children may suffer from depression and excessive absences from school. Children may use violence for solving problems at school and home.
Children may be at greater risk of being a runaway, being suicidal, or committing criminal acts as juveniles and adults. Children who are experiencing stress may show it indifferent ways, including difficulty in sleeping, bedwetting, over-achieving, behavior problems, withdrawing, stomach aches, headaches and/or diarrhea.
Children who grow up in violent homes have much higher risks of becoming drug or alcohol abusers or being involved in abusive relationships, as a batterer or a victim. Children do not have to be abused themselves in order to be impacted by violence in the home.
The only answer to this problem is to treat domestic violence for what it is - a crime. We must fight the societal values that reinforce the stereotypes that encourage men to act aggressively and use violence to solve problems; that women are weak and submissive and should accept male dominance as the norm. Children must be taught at an early age non-violent conflict resolution.
In homes where domestic violence occurs, fear, instability, and confusion replace the love, comfort, and nurturing children need. These children live in constant fear of physical harm from the person who is supposed to care for and protect them. They may feel guilt at loving the abuser or blame themselves for causing the violence.
Based on interviews with children in battered women's shelters, 85% of children had stayed twice with friends or relatives because of the violence, and 75% over the age of 15 had run away at least twice.
Children in homes where domestic violence occurs are physically abused or seriously neglected at a rate 1500% higher than the national average. National Woman Abuse Prevention Project, Washington, D.C.
Boys who witness family violence are more likely to batter their female partners as adults, and girls who witness their mother's abuse have a higher rate of being battered as adults. These common sense observations are fact, not myth.
Help for Abused Men
Escaping Domestic Violence by Women or Domestic Partners
If you're a man in an abusive relationship, it's important to know that you're not alone. It happens to men from all cultures and all walks of life.
Figures suggest that as many as one in three victims of domestic violence are male. However, men are often reluctant to report abuse by women because they feel embarrassed, or they fear they won't be believed, or worse, that police will assume that since they're male they are the perpetrator of the violence and not the victim.
An abusive wife or partner may hit, kick, bite, punch, spit, throw things, or destroy your possessions. To make up for any difference in strength, she may attack you while you're asleep or otherwise catch you by surprise. She may also use a weapon, such as a gun or knife, or strike you with an object, abuse or threaten your children, or harm your pets.
Of course, domestic abuse is not limited to violence. Your spouse or partner may also:
- Verbally abuse you, belittle you, or humiliate you in front of friends, colleagues, or family, or on social media sites.
- Be possessive, act jealous, or harass you with accusations of being unfaithful.
- Take away your car keys or medications, try to control where you go and who you see.
- Try to control how you spend money or deliberately default on joint financial obligations.
- Make false allegations about you to your friends, employer, or the police, or find other ways to manipulate and isolate you.
- Threaten to leave you and prevent you from seeing your kids if you report the abuse.
Many people have trouble understanding why a woman who is being abused by her husband or boyfriend doesn't simply just leave him. When the roles are reversed, and the man is the victim of the abuse, people are even more bemused. However, anyone who's been in an abusive relationship knows that it's never that simple. Ending a relationship, even an abusive one, is rarely easy.
You may feel that you have to stay in the relationship because:
- You want to protect your children. You worry that if you leave your spouse will harm your children or prevent you from having access to them. Obtaining custody of children is always challenging for fathers, but even if you are confident that you can do so, you may still feel overwhelmed at the prospect of raising them alone.
- You feel ashamed. Many men feel great shame that they've been beaten down by a woman or failed in their role as protector and provider for the family.
- Your religious beliefs dictate that you stay or your self-worth is so low that you feel this relationship is all you deserve.
- There's a lack of resources. Many men have difficulty being believed by the authorities, or their abuse is minimized because they're male, and can find few resources to help abused men.
- You're in a same sex relationship but haven't come out to family or friends, and are afraid your partner will out you.
- You're in denial. Just as with female domestic violence victims, denying that there is a problem in your relationship will only prolong the abuse. You may believe that you can help your abuser or she may have promised to change. But change can only happen once your abuser takes full responsibility for her behavior and seeks professional treatment.
Domestic violence and abuse can have a serious physical and psychological impact on both you and your children. The first step to stopping the abuse is to reach out. Talk to a friend, family member, or someone else you trust, or call a domestic violence helpline.
Admitting the problem and seeking help doesn't mean you have failed as a man or as a husband. You are not to blame, and you are not weak. As well as offering a sense of relief and providing some much needed support, sharing details of your abuse can also be the first step in building a case against your abuser and protecting your kids.
Domestic violence statistics are sobering. The issue is often hidden from view, but it is a health care problem with a very visible financial impact—costs to society run in the billions of dollars every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Here is a look at some domestic violence statistics–and the impact of domestic violence on health care costs in the United States.
The direct health care costs of domestic violence involve medical expenses. Of the 2 million women every year
who are physically assaulted by their partners, more than 145,000 suffer injuries that require hospitalization
. Many require multiple forms of care, including ambulance services, emergency room care, hospital stays and physical therapy, and most others are treated for less severe injuries that often are not identified as being the result of domestic violence.
Survivors face greater health care costs as well. A 2010 study by Ohio State University found that abused females’ average health care costs are $585 higher
than those of non-abused women during the period of abuse. In the first two years after the abuse ends, victims face costs more than $1,200 higher
than those for non-abused women and about $400 higher in the third year.
While researchers did not have data to explain why costs were higher after the abuse as opposed to during it, one suspected that women who are in an abusive relationship fear retaliation, and only after escaping the situation are they more willing to seek mental health services.
The CDC, using data for 1995, put the costs of domestic violence at $5.8 billion per year, of which $4.1 billion goes to medical costs. Experts use the 1995 data because, since the federal Violence Against Women Act was passed in 1994, domestic violence research has slowed, perhaps on the underlying belief that the law was enough.
In addition, data can be hard to come by because physicians are not trained to be advocates in cases of domestic violence—they are allowed to put the pieces together, but the pieces must be outwardly obvious—and survivors often don’t have the incentive to identify themselves as having been abused, for fear of retaliation. Of the $4.1 billion in medical costs, a little less than half was covered by private insurers. The victims paid about 29% of the expenses, and approximately 20% was covered by various public health plans. The rest was covered by free or low-income clinics or some other source.
Not only do victims of domestic violence require medical attention, they also tend to miss work more frequently. To illustrate the extent of this problem, the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, using data from 2007, found that victims lose almost 8 million days of paid work per year. That’s equal to more than 32,000 full-time jobs and nearly 5.6 million days of household productivity.
However, that’s not the only problem. The NCADV notes that there are 16,800 homicides due to domestic violence annually. Factoring this in, the true cost is $37 billion. Adjusting for inflation, it would be $41.9 billion in 2014. To put that into perspective, that exceeds the gross domestic product of more than half of all nations on Earth.