Crime Overview Domestic Violence

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According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, approximately 33 million U.S. adults have been a victim of domestic violence. Furthermore, 6 in 10 adults claim that they know someone personally who has experienced domestic violence.

Over the past 30 years, domestic violence and domestic abuse laws have undergone many significant changes on the state and prosecutorial levels. Historically, many cases of domestic violence or abuse were not prosecuted, as police were not inclined to get involved in what they considered family disputes. However, women's organizations have raised awareness of the crime, thereby drastically changing the way domestic violence is viewed. In many states, a domestic charge can be pursued even without the supporting statements of a victim.

Domestic violence occurs when a family member, partner, or ex-partner attempts to physically or psychologically control or dominate another. Domestic violence can occur between spouses, co-habitants and non-married partners. Domestic violence can be perpetrated by both men and women in both opposite-sex and same-sex relationships. Statistics verify that women are more likely to be victims of domestic abuse.

Physical violence is not the only form of domestic violence. Domestic violence can include sexual abuse, emotional abuse, intimidation, economic deprivation and threats of violence. Domestic violence can occur in cycles, and there is evidence that pregnancy is often one of the trigger events in a violent relationship. Domestic violence has detrimental consequences, since victims may not only suffer from bruises and broken bones, but also adverse effects on their emotional and psychological well being.

In the instance where the abuse is taking place within a family or a household, the victim is not the only one who is affected. If children are present in the household they can be negatively affected emotionally and psychologically as well. There have been numerous studies showing that children who grow up in at atmosphere of abuse and/or domestic violence have a great incidence of becoming violent or abusive as adults.

Stalking is often interconnected with, and sometimes included among the types of, domestic abuse. Stalking usually refers to repeated tracking of an individual to the point where it instills fear. Domestic violence is cyclical, in that often a person is abused multiple times before seeking help. Even after an arrest is made, the victim will sometimes come to the aid or defense of the abuser. Victims of domestic violence can move from one abusive relationship to another. Abusers often continue to inflict domestic violence on their subsequent partners. Many times both the abuser and the victim grew up in a household witnessing domestic violence. Because of repetitive nature of both the abuser and the victim, it is important that both parties seek psychological therapies to stop the cycle of violence.

While most of the attention given to domestic violence has focused on women, men's rights activists have argued that domestic violence against men is also a noteworthy social issue. According to a 2000 study conducted jointly by the Department of Justice and the Centers for Disease Control, "Approximately 23 percent of the men who had lived with a man as a couple reported being raped, physically assaulted, and/or stalked by a male cohabitant, while 7.4 percent of the men who had married or lived with a woman as a couple reported such violence by a wife or female cohabitant. These findings provide further evidence that intimate partner violence is perpetrated primarily by men, whether against male or female intimates."

Many cases of domestic violence go unreported. The Center for Disease Control has identified domestic violence as a serious preventable public heath problem, affecting more than 32 million Americans. Domestic violence crimes are usually handled through a variety of agencies. Law enforcement agencies can arrest the offender and secure the safety of the victim, at least temporarily. Social service agencies can also be involved in helping the abuser to received psychological help and anger management skills. Social service agencies can also assist the victim in finding safe housing and the psychological support necessary to break free from the cycle of domestic violence. The court system, including corrections and probation agencies, are also involved to rehabilitate the offender.