What is Domestic Violence?
The term domestic violence is commonly defined as a behavior, or pattern of behaviors, that occurs between intimate partners with the aim of one partner exerting control over the other. Domestic violence may include psychological threats, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, and/or physical violence. This clinical definition is broader than the legal definition, which may be restricted to acts of physical harm. In the past twenty-five years, public awareness of the issue of domestic violence has grown tremendously. As the scope of the problem has become understood, domestic violence is now acknowledged as a significant legal and public health issue, not only a private family problem. There are laws in every state that make domestic violence illegal. There is also federal funding available in all states to provide shelter and services for victims of domestic violence.
Between 25 and 31 percent of US women report being a victim of domestic violence at some point in their lives (Collins, 1999; Tjaden & Thoennes, 2000). Domestic violence occurs across the spectrum of relationships, from dating teens to elderly couples, in both heterosexual and same-sex relationships. Although the majority of victims of domestic violence are women, it is important to acknowledge that men are also victims of domestic violence, and that in some situations both partners may engage in violent behavior.