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Understanding Domestic Violence

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Domestic violence is commonly known as spousal abuse or intimate partner violence. Relationship violence is the most apt term because domestic violence is violence directed against any family member or member of the household. It’s not limited to romantic relationships. Domestic violence can happen to anyone across different cultural backgrounds, socioeconomic classes, at any age, and to a person of either gender.

Abuse Defined

Domestic violence is a form of control. The abuser uses violence to deter the victim from engaging in unwanted behaviors or to force the victim into performing acts against the victim’s will. Often, violence is accompanied by manipulation and emotional or psychological abuse. Abusers threaten the victim’s loved ones or use financial dependence and alienation to trap the victim in a cycle of abuse. 

  • Defining Domestic Violence in the U.S. – Domestic violence is defined as any behavioral pattern with the intent of controlling or manipulating a member of the family or household.

  • Men Can Be Victims, Too – Men are often ashamed to report domestic violence because of the perception that only women can be victims of domestic violence and only men can be abusers.

  • Children as Victims – Even if children are not the direct targets of domestic violence, living in a domestic violence-filled environment affects children psychologically and emotionally.

  • Hidden Rural Dangers – The bucolic, peaceful nature of rural communities is undermined by domestic violence. Close-knit communities sometimes protect the abuser. When law enforcement has close connections with the abuser, the victim has nowhere to turn.


Why Do People Abuse?

People abuse others as a means of control and may be carried out for so many different reasons. There are environmental, cultural, mental illness, gender role stereotypes, personal history, and other reasons why an abuser might resort to violence against a family member or intimate partner, none of which are ever acceptable. Oftentimes, there is a cycle of violence and abuse in the personal history of the abuser. Exposure to and being a victim of domestic violence and abuse may contribute to one turning to similar methods of control in adult situations later in life.

People who face domestic violence should seek help from an attorney to understand all of their legal rights.

Why Do People Stay in Abusive Relationships?

It’s not easy to leave an abusive relationship. Some say it’s impossible. Experts have agreed that the most dangerous time for the victim is when they inform the abuser that it’s time to leave the relationship. The abuser could step up his behavior. Victims are afraid of being killed by their abusers if they leave. In some cases, they can’t survive financially without the abuser. The abuser isolates the victim so that they have very few resources to draw upon for support when they try to leave.

LGBTQ Abuse

LGBTQ people are more susceptible to abuse because their gender identity could be used against them. Authorities sometimes discriminate against LGBTQ people, and the abuser takes advantage of that to convince the victim that going to the police or social services will not be helpful. If the victim is still “in the closet”, the abuser could threaten the victim with “outing” them to family members who are still unaware of the victim’s sexual orientation.

Abuse and Immigrants

Immigrants are also more likely to be abused because they have more barriers to seeking help. The language barrier may hamper victims from communicating the seriousness of their plight and the gravity of the situation. 911 calls may seem more intimidating than living with the abuser day in and day out. Immigrants without legal status fear that reporting the abuser could lead them to be detained or deported. Undocumented immigrants are very reluctant to call the police when they are in an abusive situation.

What is a Healthy Relationship?

A healthy relationship doesn’t involve physical, verbal, or emotional abuse. Both parties trust and respect each other. The lines of communication are open. Either person can engage in constructive criticism without fear of reprisals. If one person wants something, they ask for it. The other can reject the request without suffering abuse or degradation. There’s no fear or trepidation in a healthy relationship. Other relationships with family members and friends are complementary to the healthy relationship. Neither party feels threatened by the other’s legitimate relationships with other people.

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