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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 or 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.


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.
  • In 2010, 7 million women and 5.7 million men are reported being assaulted by an intimate 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.
  • Every year, about 2,000 women are murdered by their current or former male partners in the U.S.

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