About Domestic Violence

Definition of Domestic Violence

Domestic Violence:

A pattern of coercive tactics used by perpetrators to establish and maintain power and control over the victim.

Acting with Intent

The coercive tactics can include:

  • emotional abuse
  • physical abuse
  • sexual abuse
  • economic abuse
  • psychological abuse

Abuse is any behavior that seeks to deprive its victim of the independence
and respect that the abuser demands for him/herself in the relationship.

Domestic Violence (DV) is also referred to as Intimate Partner Violence (IPV)

Domestic Violence Does Not Discriminate

No one is immune to domestic violence or dating abuse.

A victim can be:

  • From any socio-economic group
  • From any cultural, racial, ethnic group
  • From any religious or non-religious group
  • Highly educated or not
  • Gay or straight
  • Male, female, or transgender
  • Any age group

Domestic Violence Statistics

Disproportionate Impact on Women

While anyone can be a victim of domestic violence, there is a disproportionate impact on women and girls.

  • Women are 84% of spouse abuse victims and 86% of victims abused by other intimate partners. (U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2008)
  • Nearly 1 in 4 women in the U. S. reports violence by a current or former spouse or boyfriend at some point in her life. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2008)
  • Women experience two million injuries from intimate partner violence each year. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2008)
  • At least 1 of every 3 women globally will be beaten, raped or otherwise abused during her lifetime. (United Nations Development Fund for Women, 2003)
  • On average more than 3 women a day are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends in the United States. (U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2007)
  • American Indian and Alaska Native women experience the highest rates of intimate partner violence. (U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2007)

Domestic Violence and Health

  • Women who have experienced domestic violence are 80% more likely to have a stroke, 70% more likely to have heart disease, 60% more likely to have asthma and 70% more likely to drink heavily than women who have not experienced intimate partner violence. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2008)

Impact on Pregnant and Postpartum Women

  • Homicide is the second leading cause of traumatic death for pregnant and postpartum women in the US, accounting for 31% of maternal injury deaths. (American Journal of Public Health, 2005)
  • Pregnant women are 60.6% more likely to be beaten than non-pregnant women. Violence is cited as a pregnancy complication more often than diabetes, hypertension or any other serious complication. (Midwifery Today 19, 1998)

Impact on Younger Women

  • Women of all ages are at risk for domestic and sexual violence. Those age 20 to 24 are at the greatest risk of experiencing nonfatal intimate partner violence. (U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2007)
  • Approximately 1 in 3 adolescent girls in the United States is a victim of physical, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner. (The National Council on Crime and Delinquency Focus, 2008)
  • Approximately one in five female high school students reports being physically and/or sexually abused by a dating partner. (Silverman et al, 2001)

Domestic Violence and Children

  • 15.5 million U.S. children live in families in which partner violence occurred at least once in the past year, and seven million children live in families in which severe partner violence occurred. (McDonald et al, 2006)
  • In a single day in 2008, 16,458 children were living in a domestic violence shelter or transitional housing facility. (The National Network to End Domestic Violence, 2009)
  • A study of low-income pre-schoolers finds that children who have been exposed to family violence suffer symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, such as bed-wetting or nightmares, and are at greater risk than their peers of having allergies, asthma, gastrointestinal problems, headaches and flu. (Graham-Bermann and Seng, 2005)
  • Children who experience childhood trauma, including witnessing incidents of domestic violence, are at a greater risk of having serious adult health problems including tobacco use, substance abuse, obesity, cancer, heart disease, depression and a higher risk for unintended pregnancy. (Anda, Block and Felitti, 2003)
  • Boys who witness domestic violence are twice as likely to abuse their own partners and children when they become adults. (Strauss, Gelles, and Smith, 1990)
  • 63% of young men (ages 11 – 20) serving time for homicide killed their mother’s abuser. (March of Dimes, 1992)

Financial Impact of Domestic Violence

  • Victims of intimate partner violence lost almost 8 million days of paid work – the equivalent of more than 32,000 fulltime jobs. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2003)
  • The cost of intimate partner violence exceeds $5.8 billion each year, $4.1 billion of which is for direct medical and mental health services. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2003)

Domestic Incident Reports

As one indicator, here are the number of domestic incident reports (DIR’s)
filed with police departments in Westchester County:

  • 2000: 7,754
  • 2006: 10,229
  • 2008: 10,783
  • 2010: 12,971
  • 2012: 11,381

Yet, many victims never report the crime.
Last year, only 43% of victims served by Hope’s Door had ever reported their abuse to the police.

Signs of a Healthy Relationship

  • Respect
  • Equality
  • Communication
  • Trust
  • Boundaries
  • Compromise
  • Support

Think about your partner when you consider these issues and questions:

  • Does he/she encourage you to have other friends?
  • Do you make decisions together?
  • How do you handle disagreements in the relationship?
  • Do you expect him/her to meet all of your needs?
  • Is there equal time for talking and listening for both people?
  • Does he/she accept the way you dress, talk, and act?

Think about your partner when you consider these issues and questions:

  • Do you accept how they dress, talk and act?
  • Do you trust and believe them? Do they trust and believe you?
  • How do you feel when you have different opinions on something important to you?
  • Do you TALK OUT or TAKE OUT your problems on each other?
  • Is your relationship based on choices, not pressure?
  • I respect him/her because…
  • I know she/he respects me because…

Tactics of Power and Control

Abuse is a choice. It’s not about an abuser losing control – it’s about an abuser doing whatever it takes to maintain power and control.

Power and Control Wheel English

Here are tactics of abuse:

Using intimidation

Making victim afraid by using looks, actions, gestures, smashing things, destroying victim’s property, abusing pets, displaying weapons.

Using emotional abuse

Putting victim down, making victim feel bad about her/himself, calling victim names, making victim think she/he is crazy, playing mind games, humiliating victim, making victim feel guilty.

Using isolation

Controlling what victim does, who victim sees and talks to, what victim reads, where victim goes, limiting victim’s outside involvement, using jealousy to justify actions.

Using children

Making victim feel guilty about the children, using the children to relay messages, using visitation to harass victim, threatening to take children away.

Using male privilege

Treating victim like a servant, making all the big decisions, acting like the “master of the house,” being the one to define men’s and women’s roles.

Using economic abuse

Preventing victim from getting or keeping a job, making victim ask for money, giving victim an allowance, taking victim’s money, not letting victim know about or have access to family income.

Using coercion and threats

Making and/or carrying out threats to hurt victim or children, threatening to leave victim, to commit suicide, to report victim to welfare/immigration/child protection, making victim drop charges, coercing victim to do illegal things.

Minimizing, denying, and blaming

Making light of the abuse and not taking victim’s concerns about it seriously, saying the abuse didn’t happen, shifting responsibility for abusive behavior, saying victim caused it.

Warning Signs of Abuse

Ask yourself – Does your intimate partner…

  • Isolate you from family and friends?
  • Embarrass you or put you down?
  • Try to control what you do, spend, say or wear?
  • Deny you access to money or financial assets?
  • Blame you for everything wrong in the relationship?
  • Accuse you over and over of being unfaithful?
  • Force you into sex when — or in ways — you don’t want?
  • Threaten you, the children, family, pets — or self?
  • Shove, hit, kick, bite, slap, punch or hurt you?

Do you often find yourself…

  • Constantly making excuses or blaming yourself for your partner’s behavior?
  • Believe you can help your partner change if only you changed something about yourself?
  • Trying not to do anything that would cause conflict or make your partner angry?
  • Feeling like no matter what you do, your partner is never happy with you?
  • Staying because you are afraid to leave?
  • Returning because things got worse after you left?
  • Feeling alone and isolated from friends and family?
  • Asking for permission to do the simplest things?
  • Doing what your partner wants — never what you want?
  • Feeling afraid of how your partner will act?
  • Having to justify everything you do?

The Cycle of Violence


Love – Hope – Fear

Love/Hope/Fear keep the cycle in motion.

  • Love for the partner (the relationship has its good points, it’s not all bad)
  • Hope that it will change (the relationship didn’t begin like this)
  • Fear (that the threats to harm or even kill you or your family will become a reality)

The Wrong Question to Ask

Why doesn’t she just leave?

The Right Question to Ask

Why doesn’t he stop?

Barriers to Leaving and Safety

Understand the dynamics of abuse and avoid victim-blaming statements, such as:

  • “Why don’t you just leave?”
  • “If you’re staying, it must not really be that bad.”
  • “What did you do to provoke the situation?”

There are many reasons why someone might stay in the relationship. For example:

  • Fear
  • Economic dependence
  • Concerns about children
  • Confusion
  • Cultural and religious constraints
  • Gender roles
  • Fear of police, courts, criminal justice system
  • Guilt, embarrassment, shame
  • Isolation
  • Peer pressure
  • Self-doubt
  • Love
    • She wants him to change.
    • She thinks she can change him.
    • She doesn’t want the relationship to end.
    • She wants the abuse to end.

Separation Violence

Asking “why doesn’t she just leave?” implies that the abuse is the victim’s problem and that the victim needs to solve it. It puts the blame on her shoulders and not where it should be – on the abuser. This question also assumes that leaving will end the violence. Victims need to be aware that the risk of serious or lethal violence increases when leaving the relationship.
“Of 57 domestic homicides in New York State between 1990 and 1997, 75% of the victims were women who ended the relationship or stated an intention to do so.” (New York State Commission on Domestic Violence Fatalities, 1997) We encourage victims to call a domestic violence hotline to discuss their options or to have additional protections before proceeding. Call Hope’s Door at 888.438.8700.

The Effects of Domestic Violence on Children

Children take responsibility for the abuse:

  • Like their mothers, children feel that if they could be “better,” the abuse would stop.

Constant Anxiety:

  • Children live in fear of the next abusive incident.


  • Children feel guilty for not being able to stop the abuse and for loving their abusive father.

Fear of abandonment:

  • Children worry that their mother will be killed. Many batterers threaten to leave or tell their partner to leave. The children feel vulnerable to being left without either parent.

Stress-related illness:

  • Children frequently have stress-related ailments, such as ulcers, rashes, sleep disturbances, headaches, or stomach aches.

Disruption of eating and sleeping patterns:

  • Children can suffer from inadequate rest and nutrition.

Behavioral impact:

  • Children can become aggressive, angry and lack emotional control. Or they might be unusually passive, fearful, and withdrawn.

About Abusers

Acting with Intent

Despite misconceptions, abusers act with intent. The purpose of their abuse is to get or to maintain power and control.

The abusers are not:

  • Out of control
  • Reacting to stress
  • Venting anger
  • Suffering from poor communication skills
  • Responding to provocation
  • Experiencing a loss of control due to alcohol or substance use/abuse

These are excuses abusers use to minimize, deny or justify their actions.

Abusers seek to externalize the responsibility for their behaviors by blaming others,
or they blame factors they perceive to be outside of their control.

Consider the abuser’s victims. If the only victims are their intimate partners,
then ask yourself why the abuser can avoid victimizing everyone else.

Translating Abuser Remarks

Minimizing Behavior

  • It’s only happened once or twice and besides she bruises easily.
  • May acknowledge “problems” but will deny any violence.

Citing Basic Good Intentions

  • I just wanted her to listen to me.
  • She was hysterical, so I slapped her to calm her down.

Alcohol or Drug Abuse is Really Responsible

  • I don’t know what happened. I was really wrecked / smashed /…

Claiming Loss of Control

  • I just lost it.
  • A man can only take so much.

Blaming Others

  • He is the “real” victim in the family.
  • I’m under a lot of pressure at work or at school

Blaming Her

  • She drove me to it.
  • If she’d only do what I tell her to do – when I tell her to do it.
  • She really knows how to push my buttons, pull my chain…

LGBTQ Domestic Violence

Intimate partner violence in lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) relationships occurs at roughly the same rate as in heterosexual relationships.

LGBTQ victims experience tactics of power and control, similar to those used in heterosexual relationships and face additional risks related to homophobia, threats to out, isolation, solidarity with other LGBTQ, and lack of support, among other vulnerabilities.

Helping a Victim

The best thing you can do for a victim is to link her or him with a domestic violence agency, such as Hope’s Door. If you or a friend or family member needs help, you can contact:

The Hope’s Door Hotline at


The National Domestic Violence Hotline:


Other Tips

  • Listen
  • Don’t judge
  • Don’t blame the victim
  • Be supportive even if they stay
  • Encourage them to seek help
  • Don’t gossip
  • Help with safety planning
  • Do NOT confront the abuser