A Guide to Domestic Abuse Information And Resources On The Web

Although it often occurs behind closed doors, domestic abuse is one of the most widespread forms of violence facing America today. Domestic abuse can be mental or physical, and occurs when one person in a relationship seeks to control the other through physical assault, sexual abuse, stalking, or psychological manipulation.

The vast majority of abuse victims are females who suffer at the hands of their male partners. However, any type of relationship can turn abusive, be it heterosexual, gay, married, single, dating, separated, or involving a parent and child. Because of its private nature, domestic violence often goes unreported. Consequently, understanding how to recognize and prevent it becomes all the more vital. The following article offers statistics, myths, resources, and treatment options for those suffering from domestic abuse.

Statistics on Domestic Abuse

  • 95% of all victims of domestic abuse are female. (The Riley Center)
  • An estimated 1.3 million people women suffer from domestic violence every year (American Bar Association)
  • At some point in their lives, approximately 1 in 3 American women will suffer physical or sexual abuse at the hands of a husband or boyfriend.
  • Domestic abuse costs approximately $1.4 billion annually in medical bills, and an additional $900 million in mental health treatment.
    (The Riley Center)
  • Of the men who abuse women, 40-60% also abuse children. (DomesticViolence.org)
  • In 1996, a third of all female murder victims where killed by boyfriends or husbands (DomesticViolence.org).

Types of Domestic Abuse

Abuse takes many forms, and can range from a single incident to frequent episodes. The most common types of abuse include:

  • Physical Abuse: Physical abuse is any type of violence, including assault, battery, and inappropriate bodily restraint, that leads to injury, pain, or impairment. From a pinch to a punch, any level of unwanted physical force is abuse. Sometimes violence leaves visible marks, such as a bruise or a black eye, but all too often the signs go unnoticed and unreported. Victims become expert at making up excuses for their various bumps and bruises. Many abused women are threatened or manipulated into not reporting abuse, while abused men can feel too ashamed to report it. (Mama’s Health)
  • Sexual Abuse: Sexual abuse, assault, or rape refers to any situation in which one person forces another to participate in unwanted, unsafe, or degrading sexual acts. Any type of forced sex, even between intimate partners who have had consensual sex in the past, qualifies as abuse. Even if incidents only occur once or twice in a relationship, any sexual abuse at all increases the likelihood of ongoing aggression and violence.
    (Breaking the Silence: a Handbook for Victims of Violence in Nebraska)
  • Emotional Abuse: As with physical abuse, emotional abuse allows an abuser to exert control over their victim. Verbal abuse, threats, intimidation, and controlling behavior are all tactics employed to chip away at a victim’s feelings of independence and self-worth. Financial abuse also falls under the umbrella of emotional abuse, and can occur when a perpetrator rigidly controls a victim’s finances, withholds money or basic necessities, and/or sabotages the victim’s job. Although the scars of emotional abuse are invisible, they run deep; emotional abuse can be just as damaging sometimes even more so as physical abuse. (Help Guide)
  • Stalking: It is estimated that 70-80% of all stalking cases occur within a domestic context, while only 10-20% involve strangers. Stalking in a domestic relationship usually takes place after one partner attempts to sever ties with the other. Driven by an attitude of If I can’t have you, no one will, the stalker cannot accept that the relationship is over, and will continue to follow, watch, harass, and intimidate his or her ex. Stalking is illegal, but as a series of often-legal actions including making phone calls, sending unwanted gifts, and gathering information it can be especially hard to prosecute. Taken alone, none of these actions qualify as abuse; such behavior becomes clearly abusive when it is frequently repeated over time, often in violation of a restraining order or direct request to cease and desist. ( Stalking Behavior )

Myths of Domestic Abuse(DomesticViolence.org) :

  • Myth: Domestic violence only happens to other people.
    Reality: Some people believe that domestic abuse only occurs in other communities, to other people. However, a study by the Department of Justice finds that in their lifetime nearly 25% of women and 7.6% of men will suffer rape and/or physical assault at the hands of a partner. (Commission on Domestic Violence)
  • Myth: Some victims deserve it. Reality: The only person responsible for abuse is the perpetrator. Even if a victim’s behavior seems to provoke an attack, physical violence, even among family members, is always illegal.
  • Myth: Domestic abuse occurs because of stress, mental illness, or alcohol and drug abuse.
    Reality: While these factors may exacerbate abuse, they do not cause it. Abusive behavior is a choice, and abusers often admit to using these excuses to justify their violent acts.
  • Myth: Domestic abuse is a personal problem between husband and wife.
    Reality: Domestic violence is not limited to married couples. It cuts across all age groups and demographics, and abusive behavior in the privacy of the home can easily translate into other relationships.
  • Myth: It should be easy for victims to leave their abusers.Reality: Attempting to leave an abusive situation can be just as dangerous as staying. In fact, the Department of Justice’s National Crime Victim Survey states that abused women are in the most danger when they try to leave, as the action oftentimes provokes the abuser. There are many reasons why a victim may stay in a violent relationship, but it does not mean that he or she accepts the situation or wants to be abused.

The Cycle of Violence

Domestic abuse regularly falls into a common pattern, known as the cycle of violence. Under this model, each episode of abuse escalates and resolves in a series of stages. The first stage is abuse , in which the aggressor uses violence or aggressive behavior to assert his power. Abuse is followed by guilt , but not over what an abuser has done. Rather, the abuser feels worried about the possibility of being caught. In an effort to regain control and keep his partner in the relationship, the batterer will revert to normal behavior , and/or excuses . He may apologize, make loving gestures, and promise that it will never happen again, or he may blame the victim for causing the abuse, or deny the incident altogether. Soon enough normal behavior gives way to fantasy and planning : the abuser begins to consider what the victim has done wrong and how he can make her pay. The final stage of the cycle, before it begins again, is set-up . The abuser creates a situation in which he can justify abusing his victim again.

Depending on the circumstances of a relationship, this cycle can take anywhere from a few hours to a few years to complete, with each stage lasting a different amount of time. Not every domestic violence relationship fits the model, but many display at least some of its characteristics.
(Help Guide)

General Resources on Domestic Abuse

  • American Bar Association : The American Bar Association has a Commission on Domestic Violence. Their site contains recent survey statistics, featured publications, information on stalking, sexual assault, and trafficking, and links to other sites that have pertinent information.
  • The Violence Wheel : DomesticViolence.org’s violence wheel shows the various tactics taken by abusers to gain power and control. The chart also illustrates the relationship of physical violence to other forms of abuse.
  • Department of Justice, Office of Violence Against Women : The Office on Violence Against Women (OVW), a part of the U.S. Department of Justice, provides national resources in reducing violence against women. In addition to preventative passing legislation, OVW funds special initiatives, and provides education about domestic abuse, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking.
  • National Coalition Against Domestic Violence : NCDAV brings together survivors, advocates, activists, service providers, and allies to fight domestic violence through public policy, education, and support.
  • Corporate Alliance to End Partner Violence : The Corporate Alliance to End Partner Violence is a national nonprofit dedicated to reducing the impact of domestic abuse on victims’ careers. In addition to various programs, policies, and legislation, CAEPV also provides information, materials and advice.
  • Women’s Law : Women’s Law provides clear legal information and resources to victims and survivors of sexual assault or domestic violence. In addition, the site includes a state-by-state guide to resources for abused women.
  • Family Violence Prevention Fund : FVPF works to end violence against women and children around the world by promoting community abuse prevention efforts. The nonprofit organization offers specific information related to children and families, immigrant women, health care, teens, the workplace, and the judicial system.
  • Stop Family Violence : Stop Family Violence seeks to spark social change by organizing a national movement against domestic violence. Through education and support, the organization empowers individuals to take action at the local, state, and national level to ensure better protection for those who suffer domestic abuse.
  • Help Guide : Help Guide presents a useful overview of domestic abuse, and all its variations. In addition to information on the cycle of violence, the site has tips and facts on recognizing and preventing emotional, physical, and sexual abuse, understanding the sources of domestic violence, and recognizing warning signs.
  • AARDVARC : AARDVARC stands for An Abuse, Rape and Domestic Violence Aid and Resolution Center. The site is designed to help victims of abuse, as well as their friends and families, build healthier lives. The website provides general educational material on abusive relationships, sexual violence, and stalking, as well as a nationwide directory of support services.
  • DomesticViolence.org : DomesticViolence.org is a guide to the personal and legal measures that can be taken to address and prevent abusive relationships. The site also provides a profile of typical victims and abusers, which can be used to help recognize and address abuse.

General Resources on Sexual Assault and Rape

  • AWARE : Arming Women Against Rape and Endangerment (AWARE) trains women in verbal and physical self-defense skills that can guard against dangerous situations. The website also contains a wealth of information resources on rape and sexual assault, and provides referrals to experts and lawyers.
  • National Sexual Violence Resource Center : The NSVRC serves as the nation’s primary resource center for all issues of sexual assault, offering both prevention and intervention strategies for sexual violence.
  • RAINN: Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network : RAINN is a nonprofit organization that operates a sexual assault hotline, meets frequently with the media to help raise awareness on sexual assault, lobbies for stronger laws against abuse, holds fundraisers for abuse victims, and much more. The site also has a great deal of information on all types of abuse.

General Resources on Emotional Abuse

  • EQI.org : EQI.com’s section on emotional abuse offers a detailed discussion of the different types of emotional abuse, including warning signs and authority-based relationships.
  • Symptoms of Emotional Abuse : With a separate guide for men and women , this site details emotion abuse warning signs, including the common characteristics of abusers.

General Resources on Stalking

  • Cyberangels : The Cyberangels Internet Safety Prgroam provides support groups and preventative tips for victims of cyberstalking and online harassment.
  • The National Center for Victims of Crime : The National Center for Victims of Crime’s Stalking Resource Center has information on stalking victimization, the impact stalking has on victims, what the latest stalking laws are, and what you can do if you know somebody who is being stalked.
  • Stalking Awareness Month : January is national stalking awareness month, but the National Stalking Awareness Month site offers year-round resources on stalking and stalking prevention.
  • Stalking Behavior : The Stalking Behavior site provides a thorough definition of stalking, and also offers resources on how to recognize a stalker, and what to do and what not to do to deal with the problem. Various links connect to informative legal resources for victims of stalking.

Places to Get Help

  • Domestic Violence Safety Plan : The American Bar Association’s Domestic Violence Safety Plan is a step-by-step guide to protecting yourself and your children from abuse in the home, outside the home, at work, and in court.
  • FindCounseling.Org : FindCounseling.org provides a detailed overview of the behaviors that constitute emotional, physical, and sexual abuse, as well as information on how to avoid and report domestic violence. The site also offers a state-by-state list of domestic violence crisis-lines and hotlines.
  • The Joyful Heart Foundation : The Joyful Heart Foundation aims to educate, empower, and heal survivors of abuse and assault through programming, workshops, and education.
  • Mayo Clinic : The Mayo Clinic’s informative guide summarizes the patterns of domestic violence, and how to recognize them. It offers additional information on creating a safety plan, a plan of escape for individuals who find themselves in abusive situations.
  • The National Domestic Violence Hotline : NDVH is a nonprofit organization that has a confidential phone service operating 24-hours a day that gives assault victims somebody to talk to and a place to receive further information on how to get help.
  • Learning Disabilities Association of America : This nonprofit organization goes over medications used to commonly treat the disease and what age groups are generally given each medication. The site also has links and advice that offer further information on treatment.
  • National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline : A specialized website for teens who find themselves in violent relationships, the National Teen Dating Abuse Hotline presents the warning signs of abuse, and a list of steps to take to find help. The site also connects users to Peer Advocates, who are available to talk and answer questions confidentially.
  • State Coalition List : A state-by-state list of contact information for domestic abuse support and protection agencies.