How to Define Domestic Violence

It has been a subject of many news reports and talk shows: husbands accused of physically hitting their wives.  However, these wives would rather stay into the relationship either hoping to save their marriage or for the sake of their children.  These victims of domestic violence do not deserve to stay in such an abusive environment, and they have a choice to free themselves from the shackles of violence.

This article aims to empower its readers in knowing about domestic violence.

What is domestic violence?

Domestic violence happens when a family member, partner, or ex-partner attempts to physically or psychologically dominate another.  Although it often refers to violence between husband and wife, it can also include people living within the household as well as non-married intimate partners. 

Domestic violence occurs everywhere in the world, in various cultures, and affects people in all spectrums of society, regardless of economic status, and can be perpetrated by both men and women. 

Violence against a partner or a child is a crime in almost everywhere in the world, including the United States.  The National Violence Against Women Survey for 2000 reported that 25 percent of women and 7.6 percent of men reported being victims of violence committed by their intimate partner at some point in their lives. 

The report also states that 1.5 million women and 0.83 million men reported being victims of rape or physical abuse.

What are the forms of domestic violence?

Aside from the obvious physical abuse, there are different forms of domestic violence, including sexual abuse, emotional abuse, intimidation, economic deprivation, and threats of violence.

Physical violence

It is an intentional use of physical force intended to cause injury, harm, disability, or death.  This includes hitting, shoving, biting, restraint, kicking, or use of a weapon.  The violence that occurs between partners is called Intimate Partner Violence, or IPV.

Sexual violence and incest

Both involve the use of physical force to compel a person to engage in a sexual act against his or her will, whether or not the act is complete.  This even covers between spouses and intimate partners.  Incest, meanwhile, involves a perpetrator against a blood relative.

Sexual violence and incest are also defined as attempted or completed sexual act involving a person who is unable to understand the nature or condition of the act, unable to decline participation, or unable to communicate his or her unwillingness to engage in the sexual age.  This applies to victims who are underage, disabled, stricken with illness, under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or intimidated.

Emotional abuse

Also called psychological abuse or mental abuse, this can include humiliating the victim privately or publicly, controlling what the victim can and cannot do, holding information from the victim, deliberately doing something to make the victim feel diminished or embarrassed, isolating the victim from friends and family, and implicitly blackmailing the victim by harming others when the victim expresses independence or happiness. 

Most victims of emotional abuse are women, who feel as if they do not own themselves; rather, they may feel that their partner has nearly total control over them.  They also suffer from depression, putting them at an increased risk of suicide, eating disorders, and drug and alcohol abuse.

Economic abuse

This occurs when the abuser has complete control over the victim’s money and other economic resources.  This involves putting the victim on a strict allowance while withholding money at will, forcing the victim to beg for money until the abuser gives them some money. 

The victim usually receives less money as the abuse continues.  Economic abuse also includes preventing the victim from finishing education or obtaining employment, or intentionally squandering or misusing their shared resources.


Stalking was recently included among the types of IPV.  It generally refers to repeated behavior that causes victims to feel a high level of fear.

What causes domestic violence?

There are different theories as to why domestic violence occurs.  These theories range from psychological causes including personality traits and mental characteristics of the offender, as well as social theories which consider external factors of the offender’s environment like family structure, stress, and social learning.