Understanding Domestic Violence

About DV: Questions & Answers

Adapted from the National Network to End Domestic Violence:  Frequently Asked Questions About Domestic Violence. Available at [http://www.nnedv.org/resources/stats/faqaboutdv.html] (Accessed September 20, 2013)

What is domestic violence?

  • Domestic violence is a pattern of coercive, controlling behavior that can include physical abuse, emotional or psychological abuse, sexual abuse or financial abuse (using money and financial tools to exert control).
  • Domestic violence is a pervasive, life-threatening crime that affects millions of individuals across the United States regardless of age, economic status, race, religion or education.
  •  High-profile cases of domestic violence will attract headlines, but thousands of people experience domestic abuse every day. They come from all walks of life.
  •  In a 24-hour survey, NNEDV found that U.S. domestic violence programs served nearly 65,321 victims and answered more than 23,045 crisis hotline calls in one day alone. [1]
  •  Batterers make it very difficult for victims to escape relationships. Sadly, many survivors suffer from abuse for decades.
  • It’s important for survivors to know that the abuse is not their fault, and they are not alone. Help is available for those who suffer from domestic violence.

Why do victims sometimes return to or stay with abusers?

  •  A better question is, “Why does the abuser choose to abuse?”
  • The deck is stacked against the victim when confronted with leaving or not.
  • Abusers work very hard to keep victims in relationships.
  • In fact, a victim’s risk of getting killed greatly increases when they are in the process of leaving or have just left. [2]
  •  On average, three women die at the hands of a current or former intimate partner every day. [3]
  •  We, as a community, must do more to ensure the safety of victims when they leave.
  • Batterers are very good at making victims think that the abuse is their fault. Victims often believe that if they caused the violence, they can also stop it.
  •  Victims say because they are made to think they cannot survive on their own, financially or otherwise. Often abusers create a financial situation that makes leaving nearly impossible.
  • Survivors sometimes want the abuse to end, not the relationship.
  • A survivor may return to the abuser because that’s the person the survivor fell in love with, and they believe their promises to change. It’s not easy for anyone to let go of hopes and dreams.

Do abusers show any potential warning signs?

  •  There is no way to spot an abuser in a crowd, but most abusers share some common characteristics.
  • Some of the subtle warning signs include:
    •  They insist on moving quickly into a relationship.
    • They can be very charming and may seem too good to be true.
    • They insist that you stop participating in leisure activites or spending time with family and friends.
    •  They are extremely jealous or controlling.
    • They do not take responsibility for their actions and blame others for everything that goes wrong.
    • They criticize their partner’s appearance and make frequent putdowns.
    • Their words and actions don’t match.
  • Any one of these behaviors may not indicate abusive actions, but it’s important to know the red flags and take time to explore them.

 Is it possible for abusers to change?

  • Yes, but they must make the choice to change.
  • It’s not easy for an abuser to stop abusive behavior, and it requires a serious decision to change. Once an abuser has had all of the power in a relationship, it’s difficult to change to a healthy relationship with equal power and compromises.
  •  Sometimes an abuser stops the physical violence, but continues to employ other forms of abuse – emotional, sexual, or financial. Some abusers are able to exert complete control over a victim’s every action without using violence or only using subtle threats of violence. All types of abuse are devastating to victims.

Are men victims of domestic violence?

  • Yes, men can be victims of domestic violence.
  • A 2001 U.S. study revealed that 85 percent of victims were female with a male batterer. The other 15 percent includes intimate partner violence in gay and lesbian relationships and men who were battered by a female partner. [4]
  • One in four women will be the victim of domestic violence at some point in her lifetime. [5]
  •  Women are 90-95 percent more likely to suffer domestic violence than are men. [6]
  •  When we talk about domestic violence, we’re not talking about men versus women or women versus men. We’re talking about violence versus peace. We’re talking about control versus respect.
  • Domestic violence affects us all, and all of us – women, children and men – must be part of the solution.

Does the economy affect domestic violence?

  •  A sour economy does not cause domestic violence but can make it worse. It’s like throwing gasoline on a fire.
  • The severity and frequency of abuse can increase when factors associated with a bad economy are present.
  • Job loss, housing foreclosures, debt, and other factors contribute to higher stress levels at home, which can lead to increase violence.
  • As the violence gets worse, a weak economy limits options for survivors to seek safety or escape.
  •  Domestic violence programs need more staff and funding to keep up with the demand for their services.
  •  Victims may have a more difficult time finding a job to become financially independent of abusers.

What can I do to help?

  • Everyone can speak out against domestic violence. The problem will continue until society stands up with one resounding voice and says, “no more!”
  •  Members of the public can donate to local, statewide or national anti-domestic violence programs or victim assistance programs.
  • We can teach our children how healthy relationships look by example and by talking about it.
  • You can call on your public officials to support life-saving domestic violence services and hold perpetrators accountable.
  • Take the first step. Make the call. Call the Domestic Violence Resource Center crisis line (toll free 1.866.469.8600 or local 503.469.8620) and talk to the staff about your concerns. They can give you information and help you discern how best to assist victims of abuse and their children.
  • Become informed. Utilize our website (www.dvrc-or.org) to learn more about this issue. Visit all the links on our website for additional resources and information.
  • Listen. Be supportive. Letting your friend know you care and are willing to listen may be the best help you can offer. Remind him/her that everyone deserves to be in a healthy and safe relationship and you're concerned about her/his well-being. Don't bad-mouth the abuser; they may want the abusive behavior to stop but they may want to stay in the relationship. Never blame her/him for what's happening and never assume you know what's best for him/her to do.
  • Be discreet: Sharing resources is so important, but remember that your friend may be in serious danger. Before you do anything, talk to a local domestic violence program about the best way to handle the situation.
  • Promote safety. Encourage your friend to call the Domestic Violence Resource Center crisis line (toll free 1.866.469.8600 or local 503.469.8620). Advocates there can help your friend plan for her/his safety and help identify her/his options.

[1] National Network to End Domestic Violence. Domestic Violence Counts 2009: A 24-hour census of domestic violence shelters and services. (March 8, 2010).
[2] Bachman, R. and Salzman, L., U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics. Violence Against Women: Estimates From the Redesigned Survey 1. (January 2000).
[3] U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics. Homicide Trends in the U.S. from 1976-2005. U.S. Department of Justice (2008).
[4] Rennison, C.M., U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics. Crime Data Brief, Intimate Partner Violence, 1993-2001. (2003).
[5] U.S. Department of Justice. Violence by Intimates: Analysis of Data on Crimes by Current or Former Spouses, Boyfriends, and Girlfriends. (1998).
[6] Rennison, C.M. and Welchans, S., U.S. Department of Justice. Intimate Partner Violence. (2000).