What is domestic violence?

Domestic violence and abuse stem from the desire of an individual to gain and maintain power & control over an intimate partner. Partners in the relationship may be married or not married; heterosexual, gay, or lesbian; living together, separated or dating. Victims can be of any age, sex, race, culture, religion, education, employment or marital status. Although both men and women can be abused, women are the most likely victims.

Abuse takes many forms and can happen all the time or periodically:

  • Physical Violence: Actual or threatened physical harm.

  • Sexual Violence: sexual assault, rape

  • Emotional & Psychological Abuse: intimidation, stalking, verbal name calling, isolation - keeping a partner from contacting their family or friends,

  • Economic Abuse: Withholding money, stopping a partner from getting or keeping a job

  • Media Abuse: Controlling cell phone use, email accounts, and social media.

Who is affected by domestic violence?

The devastating of effects of domestic violence permeate beyond the pain that’s experienced by the victim:

  • Children, even if they are not abused or do not witness it directly

  • Families and friends

  • Coworkers

  • The health care system

  • The criminal justice system

  • Society

Why do victims remain in abusive relationships?

The Battered Person Syndrome, a documented three-stage psychological syndrome, can usually explain why people stay in abusive relationships.

  1. Denial: The inability to admit abuse is occurring or that a “problem” exists.

  2. Guilt: Acknowledgement of the problem, but blames himself/herself for the abuse. They feel they “deserve” the abuse.

  3. Enlightenment: He/she no longer takes responsibility for the abuse and realizes no one deserves to be beaten. However, they remain in the relationship in an effort to work things out. Often, their choice to remain and work things out -- instead of leaving -- is driven by their belief the situation can/will get better, their love for the abuser, lack of resources to leave, etc.

These stages tend to be cyclical, and help illustrate why victims may remain in the relationship. For example, the “Enlightenment” stage should signal the end of the cycle, but the victim’s choice to stay in the relationship and “work it out”, shows their return to the “Denial” stage.

Sources for information used within this page include: (

Department of Justice (