Domestic violence is the willful act of abuse, battery, intimidation, physical and/or sexual assault perpetrated by one intimate partner against another within a systematic pattern of power and control.
Violence in intimate partner relationships is never equal. Even if a victim fights back, the abuser is always the primary and constant perpetrator of emotional and psychological abuse, and physical and sexual violence. Abuse and violence varies in frequency and severity depending on the type of relationship.
There are Six Types of Domestic Abuse, which primarily target a spouse, child, or elder in the home:
The most often used violence and abuse against women are Verbal/Nonverbal, Emotional, and Physical Abuse:
Mental, psychological, or emotional abuse can be verbal or nonverbal. Verbal or nonverbal abuse is often more subtle than physical abuse. While physical abuse might seem worse, verbal and emotional abuse cause deep scars. Some studies even indicate that verbal or nonverbal abuse can be more emotionally damaging than physical abuse.
Verbal or Nonverbal Abuse
Sexual abuse often is linked to physical abuse. Both may occur together or sexual abuse may follow physical abuse.
Stalking involves harassing a victim and/or threatening that victim, especially in a devious manner to haunts her psychologically and emotionally. Stalking of an intimate partner can occur during the relationship by intense monitoring of the partner’s activities. It often occurs after a partner or spouse has left the relationship. The stalker may try to get back their partner to harm her as punishment for leaving. Regardless of the motive, the victim is left constantly afraid for her safety.
Stalking occurs at or near the victim’s home, the workplace, on the way to the store or another destination. Stalking often involves using technology including the phone, surveillance systems, the Internet, email, or social media. A stalker may never show his face, or he may be everywhere in person.
Stalking is unpredictable and should always be considered dangerous. Stalking can end in violence whether or not the stalker threatens to use violence and whether or not the stalker has no history of violence. Those around the victim are also in danger of being hurt. A parent, spouse, or bodyguard trying to protect the victim may be hurt or killed as the stalker pursues the victim.
Cyberstalking is the deliberate, persistent, and personal harassment of a victim using all available technology. It may be in addition to other forms of stalking or it occurs on its own. The cyberstalker methodically finds and contacts the victim using the Internet, surveillance systems, phone and GPS tracking devices, texts, social media, and email to harass his victim.
The cyberstalker’s message may be disturbing and inappropriate, and often gets around the victim’s attempts to stop or block contact. The more the victim protests or responds, or doesn’t respond at all, causes different reactions by the stalker.
Cyberstalking falls into a grey area of law enforcement. Most state and federal laws require evidence of a direct threat of likely violence being committed against the victim. An implied threat is difficult to predict and prevent from escalating into actual violence. However, cyberstalking must be taken seriously because it can advance to physical violence.
Domestic violence has not always been a crime. Today the U.S. Department of Justice says domestic violence is “a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner.” It is a crime that can be prosecuted in court, and the person who commits the crime will face consequences. This is a dramatic change. Historically domestic violence has not only been tolerated by government, but encouraged.
The Criminal Justice Institute explains that in the Roman Empire (753 BC to 27 BC), the woman in a marriage was considered the property of her husband. She was subject to the threat of beating, divorce, or even murder if she did anything that might affect her husband’s honor or property rights. There were a number of things in the Roman Empire that a wife could do that would give her husband the legal right to kill her, including walking outside with her face uncovered or attending a public event without permission. Crimes the husband committed against the wife were considered private, not a matter for the government be concerned with.
However, the poison of domestic violence began long before Caesar wrote his first law. The website WomenSafe details the history of domestic violence beginning in ancient times. The Code of Hammurabi, dating back to 1800 BC, established a family system where the husband was superior to all other members of the household. Therefore the husband could inflict any punishment on family members, for virtually any reason
Brown University discusses how medieval law considered any misbehavior by the wife a serious crime, best punished publically. During the middle ages, which stretched from the 5th to the 15th century, punishments for an unfaithful wife were much more severe than for an unfaithful husband. Women who were guilty of adultery were cast from their homes, and were forced to parade through the streets with their heads shaven. According to Journal of International Women’s Studies, early 18th century London exhibited countless records of such punishments. This included a bridle to suppress the tongue, which the husband could put on his wife should she misbehave. Men who committed atrocities against women went unpunished by the state, as domestic violence was a well-established part of some patriarchal societies.
However, this long-standing practice of state-promoted abuse is not absolute. A law passed in colonial America in 1641 began to turn the tables. The “Body of Liberties” established in Massachusetts Bay declared “Every married woman shall be free from bodily correction or stripes by her husband, unless it be in his own defense upon her assault.” The Independent Women’s Forum discusses that under this law, husbands who beat their wives were subject to punishment, which could be fines, whipping, public “shaming” in church, or expulsion from the church congregation altogether.
This developed into the standard of law in the United States, and slowly other countries followed. That being said, in many countries prosecuting abusers is extremely complex. Police are often reluctant to put the abuser in jail, as the husband is often the primary breadwinner, and there was concern putting him in jail would leave the wife and children destitute. Police were not trained in how to handle the messy, complicated domestic abuse they were called to mediate in.
Analysis done by the Independent Women’s Forum examined how police inadequacies to prevent domestic violence led to lawsuits that provided a harsh wake up call. The example of Tracey Thurman served as a shock in 1984, when Tracey was repeatedly stabbed by her husband and police failed to intervene. The case reached the United States Supreme Court, and Thurman won $2.3 million in compensatory damages. Incidences like this jarred jurisdictions into empowering police to make warrantless arrests in domestic assault cases. This created the potential for a revolutionary way of responding to domestic abuse.
Today, the Washington Post estimates that there are only about 20 countries that have no laws protecting women from domestic violence. Europe and North America have the strongest laws against domestic abuse, while the rest of the world provides varying degrees of legal protection. It is incredibly difficult to estimate how much domestic abuse exists in the world today, and how effectively it is being prosecuted. These numbers show the strides that have been made towards gender equality, as well as the great gap in progress that still needs to be made.
The fundamental teachings of Christianity are against domestic violence. The Bible is the foundation of Christianity, and the core of all traditional Christianity’s beliefs. The Bible was written during a period in history when women were given scarcely more value than property, and were bought with a price in the form of a dowry. The culture of the ancient world allowed a man to divorce his wife for virtually any reason, and offered virtually no consequences for domestic abuse. The message of Christianity was radically different from the beliefs of the Jewish and Roman culture it was presented to.
Violence is depicted in the Bible as a reflection of humanity’s sin and fallen nature. Those who commit violence are not role models, but rather examples to learn from. One example is Psalm 11:5, written around 1062 BC, which says, “The Lord tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence.” An additional reference is Proverbs 3:31, which says “Do not envy a man of violence and do not choose any of his ways.”
The role model of marriage and family set up by the Bible for Christianity is one of mutual respect and love, with statements such as “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:2). Another passage, Colossians 3, elaborates even further by saying “Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them. Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.”
These Christian teachings do not by any means guarantee there will be no domestic violence in homes that claim to align with Christianity. It does mean, however, that instances of domestic abuse are against the core beliefs and practices of the Christian religion. Sue Bolin writes in her article for Bible.org that Jesus, as well as many other pivotal figures in Christianity, taught of treating women and children with love and respect; an idea that was radically counter-cultural at the time.
Judaism has always taken the approach to marriage and family that each family member serves a different, but equally important, role. These roles are clearly defined in traditional Judaism. Tracy Rich writes in her article for Judaism 101 that the role of women in Jewish culture has often been misunderstood, and misrepresented as being much lower than it is in reality. She argues that the Jewish God is neither male nor female, making the female half of the marriage equally important, but markedly different in the expectations and responsibilities she is given. By this logic, the man is not superior to the woman, and therefore does not have the right to abuse her.
However, in the time when the Torah and Tanakh were written, damage or violence against a woman was on the level of property damage. If someone hurt another man’s wife, he had to pay compensation to the husband. According to an article by Naomi Graetz on Domestic Violence and Jewish Law, some rabbis during the Middle Ages (884-1204) advocated for the beating of wives for “educational purpose.” It was typically taught that if a wife committed an offense worthy of divorce, such as “going out with uncovered head, spinning wool with uncovered arms in the street, conversing with every man.”
However, that was the teachings of Medeival rabbis, not the sacred texts of Judaism. The Faith Trust Institute explains how one of the sacred texts of Judaism, the Talmud, teaches very clearly that it is forbidden to raise a hand against another. It also forbids emotional abuse, as Jewish law prohibits belittling anyone through word or deed. The Talmud also instructs husbands to provide generously for their families, though today both partners often share this responsibility.
The religion of Islam has historically enforced a very different approach to gender roles than western religions, and as a result has a different approach to violence in the community and in the home. While many modern Muslim families do not represent the picture painted by the central figure of Islam, Muhammad, the core of the religious texts on gender roles impose male superiority. Examples includeQuran 2:228 “but the men have a degree above them [women]“, Quran 4:11 “The male shall have the equal of the portion of two females” (also see verse 4:176).
There are many verses such as these throughout the holy texts of Islam that are greatly debated among scholars and apologists today. However, stories throughout the Hadith and Sira that reinforce male superiority. In Sahih Muslim 4:1039, “A’isha said [to Muhammad] ‘You have made us equal to the dogs and the asses.’” These are the words of Muhammad’s favorite wife, complaining of the role assigned to women.
The sacred law of Islam, Sharia Law, is based on the Quran and the Hadith and contains no discouragement of household violence. In addition, under Sharia Law, it is not lawful for a woman to leave the house without the permission of her husband, or to deny him sexually for any reason. These are very specific forms of domestic abuse. In addition, under this law, when a woman “commits rebelliousness,” her husband is encouraged to hit her to train her not to do this again. This comes from Quran 4:34, which says “and leave them [women] alone in the sleeping-places and beat them.” Many contemporary scholars try to change the meaning of the word “beat” used in this verse, but it is the same word used in verse 8:12 and clearly means, “to strike,” as demonstrated by the Quranic Arabic Corpus.
The interpretation of these verses varies from sect to sect of Islam, and not all Muslims agree on the correct practice. While many Muslims choose to interpret this differently and have domestic-violence free home, many forms of domestic violence are legal under Sharia Law. One of the most important things to note regarding Islam and domestic violence is that family members are commanded to execute other family members who have turned away from the faith. Under Sharia Law, there is no punishment for a parent killing a child, and anyone who commits adultery is required to be stoned to death – usually by their spouse. National Geographic News estimates thousands of women are killed for the name of family honor annually. Fox News estimates that there are about 27 people killed each year in the United States alone by their own families, because they have done something that disgraced the Islamic faith. While crimes like this are prosecuted in most modern countries, Islamic countries ruled by Sharia Law not only allow such abuse and familial violence, but also encourage it.
More men than women are arrested for violent acts or for violating orders of protection.
Research shows that men’s overall rate of violence – domestic and non-domestic – is nine times greater than that of women.
97 percent of abusers are men who have female partners:
“heterosexual men’s domestic abuse is grounded in both inequalities in power and resources between women and men and social rules for male/female relationships. This context creates entitlement for men and vulnerability for women and makes men’s violence work very well to control their female partners.”
In America, the women who have been most physically abused by an intimate partner are estimated to be:
The National Coalition for Domestic Violence reports that nearly three in ten women and one in ten men in America:
“have experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner (or former partner) and reported at least one impact related to experiencing these or other forms of violence behavior in the relationship (e.g. feeling fearful, concern for safety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), need for health care, injury, crisis support, need for housing services, need for victim advocacy series, need for legal services, missed work or school).
The WHO identifies the physical, mental, and sexual and reproductive health effects directly linked to domestic violence include:
The consequences of domestic violence create significant problems for children living in a household of domestic violence. The U.S. Department of Justice reports that 1 in 15 children are exposed to intimate partner violence every year, with 90 percent as eyewitnesses to crimes.
Domestic violence survivors must recognize that they have no control over their partner’s violence. They do have control over how to respond to the abuser. They can find a safe place to live and work and have a hopeful future. Below are several guidelines to consider courtesy of the Clark County Prosecuting Attorney:
___________________________________ (day care staff),
___________________________ (Sunday School teacher),
The process of building a new life takes an incredible amount of courage and energy to succeed. Consider ways to conserve both by:
Because abusive relationships are based on power and control, the abuser will likely react in anger when you begin to regain control of your life.
Here are a few key points to keep in mind:
If you aren’t ready for an exit plan but want to try and improve unhealthy patterns of behavior, here are a few alternatives.
Be Prepared To Leave. Include In Your To-Go Bag:
“Coercive Control” abusers repeatedly implement a cycle of abuse that involves assault, degradation, isolation, manipulation, micromanagement, physical abuse, sexual coercion, stalking, threats of violence and punishment.
Violence is often cyclical:
It often follows a three-part pattern:
1. Tension Building: Tension builds over how to manage money, parent children or employment. Verbal abuse begins. The victim responds by trying to control the situation through appeasement– pleasing the abuser, giving in, or avoidance. None of these actions prevent or end violence. Eventually, the tension reaches a boiling point and physical abuse begins.
2. Acute Battering: Physical violence is usually triggered by an external event or the abuser’s emotional state — not by the victim’s behavior. Assault and battery can be unpredictable and is always beyond the victim’s control. However, some experts believe that in some cases victims may unconsciously provoke the abuse to release the tension, and move on to the honeymoon phase.
3. The Honeymoon: First, the abuser expresses shame and remorse for his behavior. He tries to minimize the abuse and might even blame it on the partner. He may next express loving, kind behavior, followed by apologies, generosity and helpfulness. He will genuinely attempt to convince his partner that he will not become abusive again. His loving and contrite behavior strengthens the bond between them and often convinces the victim, once again, that she does not need to leave him.
This cycle continuously repeats itself and helps explain why victims stay in abusive relationships. The physical violence may be horrific, but the promises offered during the honeymoon phase create the false belief that everything will be fine once again.
Most westerners, including otherwise honorable feminists, do not understand the difference between the types of domestic violence that occur in western societies, and honor killings. Many fear that by pointing out the differences may cause others to label them as ‘racist,’ because honor killings in the West are carried out mainly by Muslims and Muslims […]
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