What is Domestic Violence?
Domestic violence is a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship characterized by unequal power dynamics and the use and abuse of that power. Domestic violence can be physical, sexual, emotional, economic, or psychological actions or threats of actions that influence another person.
- A 2013 global review by the World Health Organization, 35 per cent of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence.i
- 1 in 3 women (30%) women report being a victim of domestic violenceii
- On average, 20 people per minute are victims of physical violence by an intimate partner in the United States. Over the course of a year, that equals more than 10 million women and men.iii
- 60% of Americans know a victim of either or both domestic violence or sexual assaultiv
- Almost one-third of female homicide victims that are reported in police records are killed by an intimate partner.v
Some examples of behavior that constitutes abuse:
- Causing or threatening to cause any physical injury or harm to you or anyone close to you
- Isolating you from your family and friends making you feel like no one cares for you except them
- Restricting your movement and monitoring your interactions
- Depriving you of food or sleep
- Damaging property
- Abusing, insulting, humiliating or belittling you
- Obsessive jealousy or extreme possessiveness
- Forcing you to do anything you don’t want to
- Aggressive or intimidating behavior
- Sexual and reproductive coercion (making you feel obligated to have sex or refusing to wear a condom or let you take birth control is coercion )
- Emotional blackmail
- Denying you access to finances, refusing to contribute to household expenses, using savings or money in joint account without your permission
- Using technology or social media to bully or harass you
- Being disrespectful of relationship boundaries
- Makes you feel that you are responsible for his socially unacceptable behavior
The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence has created a check list of behavior that could amount to domestic violence, it also provides information about the dynamics of abuse and how it is cyclical, experiences of the victim, characteristics of an abuser and signs of abuse. All this information is available here, please do go through it carefully.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline uses the Power and Control wheel to describe tactics that an abusive partner uses to maintain control over the relationship using not only the obvious physical and sexual violence but also more subtle measures like emotional abuse, isolation, coercion and threats, economic abuse, using entitlement and male privilege, using children denying he abuse of minimizing it by blaming the victim. More information is available here.
(Source: the National Domestic Violence Hotline and National Coalition Against Domestic Violence)
If any of these situations are happening in your relationship, please talk to someone you trust, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline (available 24/7/365): 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE) or the Police. Shelters can be found at domesticshelters.org. A detailed list of resources are available on the resources tab.
A healthy relationship is based on non-violence and equality. It involves non-threatening behavior, respect, trust and support, honesty and accountability, responsible parenting, shared responsibility, economic partnership negotiation and fairness.
Leaving an abusive relationship is dangerous and has many repercussions Battering is about the exercise of power and control and leaving signifies a loss of control to the offender. It is a volatile time and you could be at higher risk. You need all the support you can get from your family, friends, coworkers and local domestic violence coalitions. You need a proper plan to ensure your safety. Some plans are available below. In addition to these make a list of all the resources available and gather all your essential documents and belongings. Keep these handy as you never know when you will need them.
If you feel unsafe, it is essential to approach law enforcement. An option is to apply for a restraining order/ order of protection /stay away order wherein the court will direct the offender to stop harming you or threatening you. In many cases the perpetrator will be prohibited from contacting you or being within close proximity to you, your home, workplace, children’s school and any other areas you may visit. If the perpetrator violates the restraining order and threatens or even contacts you, it could be treated as a felony that is punishable under criminal law.
Tips and information about approaching law enforcement are available on the Womenslaw.org website.
Unfortunately, sometimes orders of protection are violated, and batterers inflict retributive violence against their partners for trying to leave, or seeking help in the justice system. Violations are not always taken seriously by the justice system, but they must be. Violations of restraining orders are signs of increased danger and possible lethality to a woman who faces domestic violence. Studies reveal that around a quarter of all orders of protection are violated and that those violations commonly go unpunished, leaving the women to fend for themselves. More information about the concept of retribution assault is available here.
There are ways to measure this danger and resources available to protect endangered women. Domestic violence homicide is the most predictable, and therefore preventable, type of homicide.
Studies of domestic violence homicides indicate that the use of danger assessments to identify high-risk cases in combination with GPS electronic monitoring to make sure the offender does not violate protection order and harm the victim and the creation of high risk teams can effectively stop the violence.
Danger assessments are instruments that help law enforcement agencies identify high-risk cases of domestic violence. Each risk factor instrument lists a variety of factors proven to increase the likelihood of a repeat attack. More.
The Danger Assessment is an instrument that helps to determine the level of danger a woman is of being seriously harmed by her intimate partner. Developed by Jacquelyn Campbell in 1986 the tool has two parts: a calendar and a risk factor scoring instrument.vii
Danger assessments help law enforcement agencies identify high-risk cases of domestic violence. Each risk factor instrument lists a variety of factors proven to increase the likelihood of a repeat attack. The person filling out the questionnaire checks the factors that apply to the offender in question. Studies have shown that several consistent lethality factors are present in most domestic homicides and attempted murders. Analyzing these lethality indicators and other features of domestic violence attacks help domestic violence workers predict the chance of a future lethal attack in a relationship. Some common lethality indicators include: whether the abuser has threatened to kill the victim, whether the abuser owns a weapon, whether the abuser has threatened to commit suicide, whether the victim is attempting or has attempted to leave the abuser, strangulation, violence to children or pets, and previous violence or threats to the victim.viii
The risk factor instrument is available here
We recommend doing the danger assessment while on the phone with the National Domestic Violence Hotline, an advocate or contacting a local resource center. Doing the danger assessment with an advocate also has the added advantage of them being able to be your witness in court proceedings. It also can be used by the prosecutor as evidence while arguing your case.
A system of danger assessments is best implemented through a team of professionals working together. Separation from the abuser is one of the most dangerous times for a victim of domestic violence. The risk during that period can be further escalated by a trigger event, such as: the arrest of the abuser, an upcoming court date, or the victim beginning a new relationship. Victims have reported that having a risk assessment team, dramatically improved their ability to leave an abusive situation because they felt they had a support system.ix
Using GPS monitoring technology to track a domestic violence offender has proven to be extremely useful. By shifting the burden of responsibility of their actions to the offender this system creates geographic exclusion zones that the offender is forbidden from entering. It can include the victim’s residence, place of work, her children’s schools, or other places that she frequents. GPS devices will track the offender’s movements to ensure that they are obeying the terms of the order of protection. If an offender enters an excluded zone, the authorities and the victim are automatically notified. This provides sufficient evidence to show violation of the court’s order and, it can order imprisonment, a fine, or both. More.
High Risk Teams
High Risk Teams are made up of representatives from advocacy groups, law enforcement, probation or parole, batterer intervention, prosecution, and others. Centered on a continuing danger assessment of high-risk cases, it is an outstanding example of community involvement in providing real safety to victims by holding the offender accountable for the violence. The Team uses stronger containment methods such as GPS monitoring of the offender to promote victim safety.
An example of this is the national acclaimed Domestic Violence High Risk Team Model created by the Jeannie Gieger Crisis Centers in Newbury Port MA. In the eight years since the implementation they have had a record of success in improving the region’s rate of domestic violence related deaths compared to prior periods. During the first six years of operation, they screened in 106 high risk victims with a 100% success rate.
- 93% of high risk victims remain in the community (rather than being forced to flee to shelters)
- 92% of the survivors have reported there has been no subsequent re-assault
- 74% of cases have had criminal justice intervention
- There have been 0 homicides
What you can Do
- Three quarters of Americans (75%) say they would step in and help if they saw a stranger being abused, but fewer actually help when faced with a situation of abuse.
- 70% of women domestic violence survivors report telling someone what has happened to them, yet more than half of those who told someone (58%) report that no one helped them.
A safety plan to help friend, family member or co-worker who is a victim of domestic violence and other resources are available here (NCADV).
‘Be Safe, Be Sensible, Be Prepared’ Steps to Safety, prepared by the American Bar Association Commission on Domestic Violence & Tort Trial Insurance Practice Session.
i“Global and Regional Estimates of Violence against Women: Prevalence and Health Effects of Intimate Partner Violence and Non-Partner Sexual Violence,” World Health Organization, (2013) available at http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/85239/1/9789241564625_eng.pdf?ua=1.
iiNO MORE, “Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Survey of Attitudes and Experiences of Teens and Adults” (2013) available at http://nomore.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/VIEW-THE-FULL-DATA-REPORT.pdf
iiiCDC. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/nisvs/
ivNO MORE, “Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Survey of Attitudes and Experiences of Teens and Adults” (2013) available at http://nomore.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/VIEW-THE-FULL-DATA-REPORT.pdf
vFederal Bureau of Investigation, Uniform Crime Reports “Crime in the United States, 2000,” (2001).
viBureau of Justice Statistics, http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/homicide/intimates.htm (2004).
viiiDiane Rosenfeld, “GPS Monitoring Systems for Batterers: Exploring a New Paradigm of Offender Accountability and Victim/Survivor Safety,” 2007
ixGreater Newburyport Domestic Violence High Risk Response Team Report, Jeanne Geiger Crisis Center, Inc., (2005-2007)
xNO MORE, “Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Survey of Attitudes and Experiences of Teens and Adults”(2013) available at http://nomore.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/VIEW-THE-FULL-DATA-REPORT.pdf
- Tips for safety plans when you are still in the relationship are available here and here.
- Safety plans when getting ready to leave are available here and while ending the relationship here
- A safety plan for a friend, relative, or co-worker who is being abused by an intimate partner is available here.
- A safety plan for victims of technology abuse in the US is available here (NNED)
Domestic violence is widespread and systemic. It is extremely difficult to leave an abusive relationship, however, threatening behavior can indicate a seriousness that should not be taken lightly. Approximately three women a day are killed in the US by their intimate partners.vi Yet domestic violence homicide is the most predictable, and therefore preventable, type of homicide.
If you have left the relationship you have completed your first step towards safety. However, if you still feel you are unsafe, it is essential to approach the law enforcement. An option is to apply for a restraining order/ order of protection /stay away order wherein the court will direct the offender to stop harming you or threatening you. In many cases the perpetrator will be prohibited from contacting you or being within close proximity to your home, workplace and children’s school. If the perpetrator violates the restraining order and threatens you, it could be treated as a felony and the perpetrator will be punished under criminal law.
- Tips while approaching law enforcement are available on the Womenslaw.org website here.
Unfortunately, sometimes orders of protection are violated, and batterers inflict retributive violence against their partners for trying to leave, or seeking help in the justice system. Violations are not always taken seriously by the justice system, but they must be. Violations of restraining orders are signs of increased danger and possible lethality to a woman who faces domestic violence.
There are ways to measure this danger and resources available to protect endangered women.
Studies of domestic violence homicides by the Harvard University Gender Violence Program indicates that the use of danger assessments to identify high-risk cases in combination with GPS electronic monitoring and other offender containment options can effectively stop the violence. The use of GPS electronic monitoring for batterers to ensure his compliance with the terms of the order of protection.