This lesson defines domestic violence and gives examples of what domestic abuse can be. The effects of domestic violence for adults, children, adolescents, and families are also discussed.
What Is Domestic Violence?
Imagine living in a home where you are in constant fear of being physically injured, emotionally manipulated, or verbally assaulted. Domestic violence is defined by the National Domestic Violence Hotline as a forced 'pattern of behavior in any relationship that is used to gain or maintain power and control over an individual.' This behavior is considered abusive because it is unwanted and often unwarranted by the person who is being abused. Such abuse can come in the form of physical, sexual, emotional, financial, or psychologically damaging actions that negatively influence another person. This includes any behaviors that are meant to threaten, intimidate, frighten, manipulate, harm, humiliate, or falsely accuse.
Domestic violence can happen to anyone regardless of age, race, or gender. Socioeconomic status and education attainment are not barriers to domestic violence. It is most often associated with adults, especially those who are married or partnered. However, it can occur between adults and children as well.
Effects of Domestic Violence
Family members who are abused often suffer from a variety of physical and mental problems. It is believed that physical violence occurs more often than rape, auto accidents, or robberies. Those who are abused are often hypervigilant, or extremely alert and easily startled because they live in continual fear and isolation. Suffering repeated physical injuries can cause medical difficulties as the abused person ages. Furthermore, the emotional and psychological effects of such abuse sometimes have more of a negative effect than the effects of physical abuse. Children and adolescents who witness on-going domestic abuse are more likely to use violence for problems solving as adults.
Children who live in in abusive homes are likely to develop behavioral problems, regress in maturity, or imitate abusive behaviors. Repetitive domestic violence is normalized, making many children think that violence is an acceptable behavior within family and intimate relationships. This can lead to continuing the cycle of either becoming an abuser or being abused. Such children may bend the truth in order to avoid confrontation or negative attention. Younger children sometimes wet the bed, suffer from nightmares, have difficulty trusting authority, or demonstrate difficulty becoming attached to other people. Adolescents from abusive families often have academic difficulties, drop out of school, and some will struggle with substance abuse.
Domestic violence is often kept a family secret. Victims are embarrassed about what's going on in their home. There is a constant concern about keeping family members safe or protected from further abuse because victims have difficulty maintaining control over their home life. Supportive friends and/or extended family members are usually isolated from the victim or victims. Children and adolescents may purposely stay away from home to avoid this lifestyle. Research suggests females who are victims or witnesses of such abuse may tolerate being abused as adults. The good news is that the future prognosis of everyone improves if there are early interventions by social services, law enforcement, and programs against domestic violence.
Domestic violence can occur regardless of age, gender, or race. It can take the form of emotional, psychological, physical, sexual, or financial abuse. Children who suffer from it have behavioral or academic issues. Domestic violence victims may also exhibit drug abuse tendencies.