Domestic violence (also named domestic abuse, battering, or family violence) is a pattern of behavior which involves violence or other abuse by one person against another in a domestic setting, such as in marriage or cohabitation.
It may be termed intimate partner violence when committed by a spouse or partner in an intimate relationship against the other spouse or partner, and can take place in heterosexual or same-sex relationships, or between former spouses or partners. Domestic violence may also involve violence against children or the elderly. It takes a number of forms, including physical, verbal, emotional, economic, religious, reproductive, and sexual abuse, which can range from subtle, coercive forms to marital rape and to violent physical abuse such as choking, beating, female genital mutilation and acid throwing that results in disfigurement or death. Domestic murders include stoning, bride burning, honor killings, and dowry deaths.
Globally, the victims of domestic violence are overwhelmingly women, and women tend to experience more severe forms of violence. In some countries, domestic violence is often seen as justified, particularly in cases of actual or suspected infidelity on the part of the woman, and is legally permitted. Research has established that there exists a direct and significant correlation between a country’s level of gender equality and rates of domestic violence. Domestic violence is among the most underreported crimes worldwide for both men and women. Due to social stigmas regarding male victimization, men face an increased likelihood of being overlooked by healthcare providers.
Domestic violence occurs when the abuser believes that abuse is acceptable, justified, or unlikely to be reported. It may produce intergenerational cycles of abuse in children and other family members, who may feel that such violence is acceptable or condoned. Very few people recognize themselves as abusers or victims because they may consider their experiences as family disputes that just got out of control. Awareness, perception, definition and documentation of domestic violence differs widely from country to country. Domestic violence often happens in the context of forced or child marriage.
In abusive relationships, there may be a cycle of abuse during which tensions rise and an act of violence is committed, followed by a period of reconciliation and calm. Victims of domestic violence may be trapped in domestic violent situations through isolation, power and control, cultural acceptance, lack of financial resources, fear, shame, or to protect children. As a result of abuse, victims may experience physical disabilities, chronic health problems, mental illness, limited finances, and poor ability to create healthy relationships. Victims may experience psychological problems, such as post-traumatic stress disorder. Children who live in a household with violence often show psychological problems from an early age, such as dysregulated aggression which may later contribute to continuing the legacy of abuse when they reach adulthood.
In 1993, The United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women defined domestic violence as:
Physical, sexual and psychological violence occurring in the family, including battering, sexual abuse of female children in the household, dowry-related violence, marital rape, female genital mutilation and other traditional practices harmful to women, non-spousal violence and violence related to exploitation
The term intimate partner violence is often used synonymously with domestic abuse or domestic violence, but it specifically refers to violence occurring within a couple relationship (i.e., marriage, cohabitation, or non-cohabitating intimate partners). To these, the World Health Organization (WHO) adds controlling behaviors as a form of abuse. Intimate partner violence has been observed in opposite and same-sex relationships, and in the former instance by both men against women and women against men. Family violence is a broader term, often used to include child abuse, elder abuse, and other violent acts between family members.
Domestic violence can take many forms, including physical aggression or assault (hitting, kicking, biting, shoving, restraining, slapping, throwing objects, battery), or threats thereof; sexual abuse; controlling or domineering; intimidation; stalking; passive/covert abuse (e.g., neglect); and economic deprivation. It can also mean endangerment, criminal coercion, kidnapping, unlawful imprisonment, trespassing, and harassment