What Is Domestic Violence?

What Is Domestic Violence?
Domestic violence is a pattern of behavior used by someone to establish power and control over another person in a relationship through violence, fear and intimidation. It is a pattern of assaultive and coercive behaviors that may include the following:
  • physical abuse (hitting, shoving, grabbing, biting, hair-pulling)
  • sexual abuse (coercing or attempting to coerce sexual contact)
  • emotional abuse (name-calling or criticism to damage self-esteem)
  • psychological (fear by intimidation, threats, and isolation from family and friends)
  • economic (withholding or controlling money to establish financial dependency)

SCPD provides an escape button on this page in the event you are interrupted by your abuser while visiting this site.

Domestic violence is rarely a one-time event, and it usually gets worse and happens more often. Victims are sometimes reluctant to come forward and seek help. It is a very complex issue based on the nature of the established relationship between the victim and the batterer. It also tends to follow a predictable cycle, with the relationship continually revolving through the following stages:

Stage 1: Tension Building
· The batterer finds fault with minor issues, and the victim attempts to smooth over the disagreements.
· The victim feels tense and afraid, like “walking on eggshells.”
· The batterer becomes edgy and has minor explosions.
· The victim feels helpless, and becomes compliant and accepting of blame.
· The batterer may recognize their own behavior as wrong, and fears the victim may leave the relationship.
· The victim may withdraw in order to avoid triggering more abuse, inadvertently reinforcing the batterer’s fear of abandonment.
· The tension in the relationship rises.

Stage 2: Explosion
· The tension escalates into a violent or abusive incident.
· The longer the abuse has been occurring, the more severe the explosion tends to be.
· The victim will often deny or minimize the injuries they receive in order to soothe the batterer so the explosion stage will end.
· The victim may seek out help at this time.

SCPD provides an escape button on this page in the event you are interrupted by your abuser while visiting this site.

Stage 3: Honeymoon
· The batterer may be apologetic, promising that the abuse will not occur again.
· The batterer displays charming and loving behavior such as giving gifts or flowers, and doing special things for the victim.
· The victim wants to believe the batterer will change, and uses the honeymoon behavior as a justification for remaining in the relationship.
· Tension in the relationship eventually begins to build, and the cycle begins again.

Domestic violence can happen to anyone regardless of race, age, sexual orientation, religion, or gender. Domestic violence affects people of all socioeconomic backgrounds and education levels. Domestic violence happens in both opposite-sex and same-sex relationships, and can occur between intimate partners who are or have previously been married, living together or dating. Victims neither “cause” nor are they to blame in any way for the violence inflicted upon them.

SCPD provides an escape button on this page in the event you are interrupted by your abuser while visiting this site.

Domestic violence not only affects those who are abused, but also has a significant impact on other family members, neighbors, friends, co-workers, witnesses, and the community. Children who witness domestic violence are particularly at risk, with fear, instability and confusion often replacing the love, stability and nurturing that children need (“Domestic Violence, Understanding a Community Problem”, National Women Abuse Prevention Fund). Frequent exposure to violence in the home teaches children that violence is a normal part of life, which increases their risk of becoming the next generation of victims and abusers.

Many people believe that a victim should “just leave,” and separate from the abuser. This fails to take into account the many barriers that a victim can face. It also fails to recognize that leaving may not put an end to the violence, and an abuser will sometimes escalate their violent behavior once they learn the victim is leaving. The time surrounding a separation is potentially very dangerous, and it requires strategic planning and perhaps legal intervention to avert separation violence and safeguard the victim. Escaping from domestic abuse is a process, one that may go on for months or years. Working in partnership with law enforcement and advocates can help the victim minimize risk when the decision is made to leave the relationship.

Portions adapted from information provided by the Centre County Women’s Resource Center (www.ccwrc.org), and online resources from the U.S. Department of Justice, Office on Violence against Women (www.usdoj.gov/ovw).

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