Domestic and family violence is defined as any type of physical, emotional or sexual abuse between romantic partners or their family members. The impact of this violence is felt both immediately and over the long term, as victims must cope with the mental and emotional trauma suffered due to the abuse and how it has impacted the other members of the family. Preventing and detecting family violence begins with education, observation and the willingness to report assault to those in a position to help. Victims often remain silent due to fear or shame, but must be encouraged to come forward and offered the support and protection they need.
Forms of Family Violence
The Centers for Disease Control has five defined forms of intimate partner violence, which are as follows.
- Physical violence— this form of family violence includes shoving, hitting, slapping, use of restraints, use of weapons and any other type of assault that can result in physical injury or death. Those who are physically assaulted are often threatened and abused verbally or emotionally as well.
- The threat of harm— while threats are not as serious as physical action, they are tools perpetrators often use to coerce their victims into meeting their demands. Even if the victim was never actually assaulted, the use of threats to intimidate him or her is still considered family violence.
- Emotional violence— the use of humiliation, coercion, isolation, control of finances and controlling who the victim can interact with all fall under emotional abuse, according to the CDC. In many cases, this type of violence is paired with physical or sexual assault.
- Sexual assault— sexual abuse can occur through unwanted or aggressive touching, overpowering the victim or using drugs and alcohol to put the person in a more docile state where he or she cannot resist. If the victim does not consent to any sexual activity, it is considered sexual assault.
- Stalking— many victims of domestic violence are also victims of stalking. The stalker may send the victim unsolicited gifts, use social media to track his or her location or activities, spread rumors to alienate the victim from friends and family or post sensitive information on the internet. Most of the time, this behavior is meant to coerce or blackmail the victim into doing what the perpetrator wants.
The Negative Impact of Family Violence
Domestic abuse affects the whole family and the victim and children can suffer from conditions just as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic pain syndromes, physical injuries and thoughts of suicide. It can also increase the risk of gastrointestinal disorders, result in sexually transmitted diseases or be the cause of unwanted pregnancies.
Studies performed across the world revealed that at least 40% of female murder victims were killed by their significant others and that many of them were in abusive relationships preceding their murders. These relationships were often ongoing.
If you suspect that someone you love is in an abusive relationship, it is important to be supportive and nonjudgmental. Unless the victim decides to leave the relationship on his or her own, there is a strong chance that he or she will return to the abuser. It is important for you to let your loved one know that you are on his or her side and he or she can come to you immediately if he or she needs to get away from the abuser.
Prevention of Family Violence
Education and emotional support are the two most powerful weapons in the fight against family violence. Teaching your children about the subject and setting an example on what constitutes acceptable behavior in a loving relationship is key. For more information on how to prevent and detect violence in the home, you can refer to the following resources.