Article 1: Domestic Violence

Partner Violence: Does It Pertain to Me?

Copyrighted 2004

By Judith Rand, Ph.D.

What is intimate violence?

Stories about domestic violence dominate the national headlines. We readily recognize the most
severe cases, those of Nicole Brown Simpson or Laci Peterson, as domestic violence. It is more
difficult to identify less severe cases and those closer to home as domestic violence. What is
domestic violence and how do we know when it is happening to us or to someone close to us?

Although it is well documented that random violence is on the rise in our society, women of all
ages and children are still at the greatest risk of physical violence from their current or former
partners, parents or parental figures, and other family members. Teenage women often
experience violence in the context of dating relationships. Relationship violence pertains to
violence that occurs within the context of any intimate, dating, or family relationship.

The two most important aspects about intimate violence are the actual act and the intention
behind the act. Violence is any act carried out with the intention of physically hurting another
person. Hurting implies causing pain or other injury. The victim must believe she or he is
being physically hurt or will be physically hurt by the actions of the abuser. An act is
considered violent if the intention to hurt is there regardless of whether it results in injury or

The act of violence can range from a few slaps to the use of lethal weapons. The resulting
physical hurt can range from slight pain to severe injury or even death. Professionals
recommend measuring violence and physical injuries separately because a measure of
injuries often greatly underestimates the level of violence in a relationship. The absence of
bruises of broken bones does not always accurately reflect the severity of violence.
Whether or not the violence results in injury may depend entirely on the accuracy of the
abuser’s aim, the ability of a bystander to intercept the blow, or other circumstances.
The act of pointing a gun and firing at one’s wife is considered violent whether or not she
is unharmed, injured to some extent, or killed.

Even seemingly minor incidents of violence or infrequent violence should be a cause of
concern because they have the potential to escalate to more severe forms of violence
and can change the dynamics of the relationship. A single act or threat of violence is
often enough to establish unreasonable dominance and control over the victim. The
impact of the violence is the establishment of fear and the loss of a sense of safety with
one’s partner. Fear leads to the loss of trust. When trust is lost, it is very difficult to

Who are the victims?

The strongest risk factor for being a victim of partner violence is being female. The
only other consistent risk factor identified to date is exposure to violence between
one’s own parents or caregivers while growing up. There is no other single set of
characteristics that identify potential victims of partner violence. Violence in intimate
relationships occurs at all levels of society and battered women come from every
demographic group: urban or rural, rich or poor, black or white. Domestic violence
discriminates along gender lines rather than class lines in American society.

How common is it?

For women and children, the family is the most violent group to which they are
likely to belong. Battering is one of the primary causes of injury to women in the
United States. During an average year, an assault against a woman by her male
partner occurs in almost 35 of every 100 couples. Nearly one in every three
adult women experience at least one physical assault by a partner during
adulthood. About two thirds of all men who batter repeat their violence during a
given year. Many women who have been battered once are battered again within
6 to 12 months after their partner is arrested for the violence if there is no
further intervention such as counseling.

Myths about partner violence

Many people believe that intimate violence ends when the woman leaves the
relationship. The violence often does not stop when the relationship is
terminated. Women are especially vulnerable during periods of separation and
divorce. The risk of serious or lethal violence may actually increase after
separation. The greatest risk of serious injury or death is at the point of
separation or at the time when the woman makes the decision to leave. At
least 70% of reported injuries occur after the separation of the couple as
opposed to before the separation. Wives who leave violent relationships are
at a 75% greater risk of being killed by their husbands than those who stay.

Many people believe that intimate violence “takes a break” when the
woman becomes pregnant. Abuse does not necessarily stop when the
woman is pregnant. Pregnant women who have been battered prior to
their pregnancy are at high risk to be battered during their pregnancy. The
proportion of battered women who report abuse continues during
pregnancy has been estimated to be as high as 36%. For some women
the first incidence of battering occurs during their pregnancy. The
prevalence of physical abuse during pregnancy ranges from 8 to 17%.

What it all means

Secrecy and isolation are the greatest deterrents to ending the violence
in intimate relationships. Research must rely on reported events from
those women who do seek assistance outside their homes because the
population of abused women who remain with their abusing partners
and who do not seek assistance from public agencies is unknown.

Historically, the stories and issues related to partner violence are
similar; only the barriers to leaving the relationship have been different,
depending on the resources the woman has had to support herself and
her children on her own. Today, battered women do not need to suffer
alone or to feel “stuck” in their relationships. Education of the public,
new laws such as the Violence Against Women Act, battered
women’s shelters, the Domestic Violence Hot Line, and the Crime
Victim’s Compensation Fund** are among the resources available to
assist all battered women who make the decision to leave.

The greatest resource in dealing with intimate violence is social
support; let someone who can help know what is happening to you or to
someone you love. Help is just a phone call away. To discuss your
concerns related to intimate violence in an anonymous way, please call:
If you are in immediate danger, please dial 911.

At The Family Prosperity Institute, we are often contacted when women
suspect they may be victims of intimate violence but are not quite sure.
Sometimes they experience angry outbursts by the men in their lives, 
but are able to attribute them to “having a bad day” or “being under a lot
of stress.” We provide a safe and confidential place for women to check
out their hunches and to determine whether a situation is an isolated event
or part of a developing pattern of intimate violence. When a woman determines
that intimate violence is present, we will connect her with the resources she
needs to overcome the isolation she may feel. We will work with her to begin
the process of positive change as she defines it.

**To discuss your concerns related to intimate violence in an anonymous way, please call: THE NATIONAL DOMESTIC VIOLENCE HOT LINE at 1-800-799-SAFE. If you are in immediate danger, please dial 911 or visit your nearest emergency room.**

**If you are the victim of violence, Dr. Rand will assist you in applying to the Crime Victims' Compensation Fund in order to pay for counseling and other services and expenses.**

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