Domestic Violence

Medical Author:
Medical Editor:

Domestic violence facts

  • Domestic violence is also called intimate partner violence, domestic abuse, and intimate partner abuse and is any form of maltreatment that takes place in a heterosexual or homosexual romantic relationship between adults or adolescents.
  • Intimate partner violence is a major public-health problem, due to its affecting more than 2 million women and 800,000 men and resulting in homelessness of victims, billions of dollars in health-care costs, and lost work productivity.
  • Intimate partner abuse has been and in some ways continues to be endorsed in all societies through legal sanctioning of the subjugation of women and lack of legal protections for GLBT victims.
  • While domestic abuse strikes couples of all races, religions, social economic status, and sexual orientations, risk factors for men or women becoming victims or abusers include poverty, lack of a high school education, witnessing family violence as a child, and attitudes of male domination and substance abuse, especially alcohol abuse.
  • Warning signs for individuals to consider if they suspect they are the victim of intimate partner violence include feeling demeaned, assaulted, or excessively controlled by their partner.
  • Warning signs friends, family members, and coworkers can look for if they wonder whether the person they care about is the victim of domestic abuse include frequent absences from school or work, numerous injuries the victim tries to explain, low self-esteem, a change in their personality, fear of conflicts, passive-aggressive behavior, blaming him- or herself, isolation from others, or stress-related physical symptoms.
  • Health professionals unfortunately only screen for intimate partner abuse in about 20% of the patients seen. Domestic violence is most effectively assessed when the professional asks questions that call for more than a "yes" or "no" answer and do not directly inquire about domestic abuse, at least earlier during any assessment interview.
  • Domestic abuse is treated by establishing and maintaining the safety of the victim, providing appropriate legal consequences to the batterer, addressing the emotional impact on the victim and the problems of the abuser, particularly if one of the problems includes alcohol or other substance abuse.
  • The prognosis of domestic violence can be quite negative if it goes on untreated, in that the emotional and physical consequences of continued abuse can be severe and even end in homicide. Treatment can improve prognosis.
  • Prevention of domestic violence involves providing economic opportunity, mentors, role models, organized community programs for youth and families, a school environment that promotes prevention of abusiveness in any relationship, and adult family members who are nurturing and who provide consistent, structured support.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/6/2014

Patient Comments

Viewers share their comments

Domestic Violence - Warning Signs and Symptoms Question: What types of domestic abuse did you or a friend experience, and what were the warning signs?
Domestic Violence - Safety Plans Question: As a victim of domestic violence, a safety plan is essential. What is yours or your friend's?
Domestic Violence - Laws Question: Please discuss legal action or protection that has assisted you with partner abuse.
Domestic Violence - Prevention Question: In what ways have you helped prevent domestic abuse, either personally or for a friend or relative?
Domestic Violence - Getting Help Question: Which groups or organizations have helped you or a friend get support for domestic violence?