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Domestic Violence

Domestic Violence Introduction

Domestic violence is a well-known and often-used term. Although it may describe various violent relationships, such as child abuse, elder abuse, it is most commonly applied to an intimate relationship between two adults in which one partner uses a pattern of assault and intimidating acts to assert power and control over the other partner. Only recently recognized as a major public health issue, domestic violence has a long, dark past and is firmly entrenched in many societies. Although domestic violence usually includes violent attacks, it is not limited to physical acts of violence, but may include psychological, economic, and sexual abuse as well as attempts to isolate the partner.

History

To fully understand the roots of domestic violence in our society, it is helpful to review some historical points. Unfortunately, abuse of an intimate partner has been a part of many cultures for many generations.

  • British common law once allowed a man to "chastise" his wife with "any reasonable instrument."
  • In the United States, throughout the 1800s, state laws and cultural practices continued to support a man's right to discipline his wife. In fact, it wasn't until 1895 that a woman could even divorce her husband on grounds of abuse.
  • The perception that it is not possible for individuals involved in same-sex relationships to be involved in domestic violence remains a pervasive myth.
  • In 1994, the Violence Against Women Act was adopted. This act encouraged research into domestic abuse and generated the legal and financial support for law enforcement and social services to protect battered women.

Scope of Domestic Violence

The extent of the problem of domestic violence is illustrated by the following statistics:

  • Women in the U.S. are more likely to have been injured, raped, or murdered by a male partner than by all other types of attackers.
  • Every year, 2-4 million women are assaulted by a male partner in the U.S.
  • The incidence of domestic violence in gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender relationships has been found to be comparable to that which occurs between heterosexual partners.
  • More than 800,000 cases of domestic violence perpetrated by women against men are reported annually.
  • Twice as many women report sexual assault by their husbands as report assault by strangers.
  • Every year, about 2,000 women are murdered by their current or former male partners in the U.S.
  • One in seven women going to the doctor's office have a history of partner abuse.
  • One in four women has been abused at some point in her life.
  • One in four women seeking care in the emergency department for any reason is a domestic-violence survivor.
  • Some 2-5% of women who are treated in a hospital's emergency department are there for an injury from domestic violence.
  • One in six pregnant women is abused during pregnancy.
  • One in four women who attempt suicide is being abused.
  • Acts of physical aggression between domestic partners occur in one in six U.S. homes.

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