Domestic Violence

  • Medical Author:
    Roxanne Dryden-Edwards, MD

    Dr. Roxanne Dryden-Edwards is an adult, child, and adolescent psychiatrist. She is a former Chair of the Committee on Developmental Disabilities for the American Psychiatric Association, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, and Medical Director of the National Center for Children and Families in Bethesda, Maryland.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

How is intimate partner abuse legally addressed?

Laws against domestic abuse are essential in the effort to protect battered men and women from their abusers. Federal law, like the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) that was passed in 1994 and renewed in 2000 and in 2013, as well as federal anti-stalking and anti-cyber-stalking legislation, provide significant prison terms and fines of up to more than $200,000 to discourage abusive behaviors. The Federal Gun Control Act and federal firearm offenses now include provisions for domestic violence-related crimes. Limitations of this protection include the enforcement of legal protections for all victims, as well as the omission of legal protection for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) victims of intimate partner violence. Although all 50 states and the District of Columbia have laws against stalking, less than one-third have laws that address cyber-stalking. Also, stalking can be difficult to define, since it can take the form of virtually any pattern of harassing behaviors. Furthermore, most stalking laws require that a credible threat of harm be made toward the victim or the victim's immediate family.

Some form of mandatory reporting, now the legal requirement in 47 states, requires that health professionals report suspected instances of domestic violence to the police; it is a somewhat controversial legal intervention for domestic violence. While mandatory reporting may result in some partner violence victims and perpetrators receiving the treatment they need, it is thought by some to place the victim at risk for experiencing a worsening of the abuse as a result of angering the abuser is angered by being reported. Another criticism of mandatory reporting includes the violation of doctor-patient confidentiality that is important for effective treatment to occur.

What is the prognosis for domestic violence?

Since the prognosis for victims of intimate partner violence is better for individuals who have a strong support system, support group participation is often encouraged. Enhancing the supports received by the family marred by domestic violence can even decrease the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that is often associated with intimate partner abuse.

GLBT people who are abused in an intimate relationship face multiple obstacles to getting help. Misperceptions that GLBT victims of domestic violence participate in mutually abusing each other and that abuse is part of what some perceive to be an inherently dysfunctional relationship can result in health-care and law-enforcement professionals failing to appropriately respond to GLBT abuse sufferers. The inexperience that professionals have in managing intimate partner violence in GLBT relationships can also interfere with victims and batterers receiving appropriate and timely interventions.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/5/2016

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