About Domestic Violence Against Women

By: Michael G. Conner, Psy.D

Revised: May 21, 2014

Domestic Violence Is Against The Law In Most States

Statistics About Domestic Violence

Statistics about the actual occurrence of domestic violence are not exact, but the incidence is so high that we can be certain that it is a significant health problem.

  • Battering is the leading cause of injury or hospitalization for women in this country.

  • Every nine seconds, a woman is abused by her husband or intimate partner. That translates to almost 4,000,000 injuries to women each year.

  • Women are victims of domestic violence more often than for burglary, muggings, or other physical crimes combined.

  • Forty-two percent of murdered women are killed by their intimate male partners.

  • Injuries received by victims of domestic violence are at least as serious as those suffered in (90% of violent felonies.)

  • Domestic abuses are the most frequently reported cases in the history of American policing.

What Is Domestic Abuse?

Physical Abuse:  is a crime and includes hitting, shoving, slapping, punching, burning, bruising, twisting, choking, pulling hair, preventing access to an exit or using a weapon.

Mental And Emotional Abuse:  is harm to a partner’s ability to think, reason or have feelings, intimidation, degradation and humiliation, or demonstrations of omnipotence. Emotional abuse takes the form of systematic degrading of the victim’s self-worth. This may be accomplished by withholding of affection; name-calling; using put-downs,, making threats, abusing pets, discussing love affairs, refusing to talk, showing extreme jealousy, taking anger with mate out on the children, refusing a partner friends, time, money and interests of their own, and acting in other ways that imply that the victim is crazy. Emotional abuse can be the hardest for women to identify.

Sexual Abuse:  includes forcing sex when a partner does not want it, is sick or is hurt by it, sexual name calling, scaring a partner during sex, insisting on unwanted sexual practices, not revealing a sexually transmitted disease or failing to protect a partner from it, or forbidding birth control. It is characterized by physical attacks on the breast and/or genital area, rape with objects and includes marital rape.

Economic Abuse:  includes preventing others from making any financial decisions, having to justify all legitimate spending, unjustified blame for financial problems, withholding of financial information and access to finances, and not allowing the partner to work outside home.

What Is Battering?

Battering is defined as a series of physical attacks that occur repeatedly. Battery It is not as prevalent as other forms of abuse.  An estimated 90% of all married couples who seek counseling have engaged in physical abuse. Battering is almost always associated with control over an intimate or family member in order to coerce services and obedience.

Psychological battering involves all of these features of emotional abuse, but also consists of a least one violent episode or attack on the victim to maintain the impending threat of additional assaults. Destruction of property is violence directed at the victim even though no physical contact is made between the batterer and the victim This includes destroying personal belongings, family heirlooms, or even the family pet. This destruction is purposeful and the psychological impact on the victim may be as devastating as a physical attack.

Why Do Women Stay In Domestic Violence Situations?

The relationship between men and women involved in domestic violence is extremely dependent.  Despite this extreme mutual dependence women often feel they have some control over the situation. Their perception of being in control is an illusion.   As long as women feels their is hope for the relationship, she will remain in the relationship even if she and her children are being abused.  The average length of time in which women will stay in a domestic violence situations has shortened since shelters, 24 hour hotlines and other community resources have become readily available.

To leave domestic violence , a woman needs:

  • A place to live

  • A source of income

  • Child care arrangements

  • Transportation

In most cases,  battered women and children will remain at risk because:

  • They believe they need the resources of person who is battering them

  • They believe there will be no further acts of violence.

What Is The Cycle Of Violence?

In a battering relationship, the cycle of violence includes three distinct phases.

  1. Tension Building.  Minor abusive incidents occur and tension escalates. The victim usually tries to control the onset of any abuse by apologizing, accepting blame, making promises and trying to "smooth" over the situation.

  2. Attack. Tension escalates until there is further abuse and eventually violence.  The victim who attempts to avoid abuse and violence can usually report what happened and the perpetrator cannot.  The abused person will often minimize or sincerely deny the severity of the injuries to sooth the perpetrator and to help insure against the risk of further violence.

  3. Apology and Forgiveness.  The abuser acts sorry and confused by the behavior. They may sincerely try to make up and promise to never act abusive or violent again. The victim wants to believe it is over and focuses on how nice and how loving the batterer can be.

When the cycle is first beginning, the perpetrator does not necessarily want to hurt the woman.  He believes that he merely wants an intolerable situation to stop. 

Sometimes, the cycle will shorten to only two phases. The buildup of tension and then an attack. In these situations the victim will soon  feel trapped or  imprisoned.  Once they have felt trapped or imprisoned, and are able to escape, victims are less likely to go back to the perpetrator.

After an acute battering phase, there is usually what is called the "Honeymoon Phase". The batterer may genuinely be sorry for the pain he has caused. He will apologize and ask forgiveness.  He will attempt to make up for his behavior and the victim will make a sincere effort to believe the situation will change. However wrong it may be, a victim will usually feel partially responsible for the abuse and somewhat responsible for their abusive partner’s well being.

What Are Characteristics Of Batterers?

  • Most batterers are needy human beings who can be loveable and loving.

  • They use violence to get their way with intimate partners but can often behave normally toward other family members, work associated and others.

  • They are often extremely insecure in their ability to trust others. They have difficulty establishing close friendships.

  • They tend to be critical or jealous of their partners.

  • They often deny responsibility for their behaviors and can often deny that the abuse occurred. They minimize the impact of their assaultive behavior and blame their partners for there behavior.

  • They need to control. Batterers choose to abuse and their purpose is to control.

How Can You Respond To An Adult Who Reveals Domestic Violence

Ask; "Are you afraid of anyone?"

"How can I help you?"

Provide numbers of hotlines to access specific strategies; i.e. safety plans for them and their children.

Ask a local shelter how you can help.

Remember perpetrators are making a choice. Abuse is not anger. Don’t accept excuses.

Emphasize no one should be afraid of someone they love.

Am I Involved In Domestic Violence?

In nearly all domestic violence situations there is an identifiable pattern of abusive, controlling and coercive behaviors. These behaviors often include withholding money, destroying a person's self esteem, and threatening and engaging in physical violence.  In many cases, abuse has the same impact as brainwashing.   A person's sense of what is real, what happened, or will happen becomes distorted.  There is usually increased isolation from people and resources. Perpetrators will often threaten to withdrawal privileges or support, or threaten abandonment and physical abuse.  These behaviors are all used to control the victim through fear.

  • HUMILIATION destroys self-esteem and can be devastating, especially if done in front of others.

  • CONTROL is gradually taken over; decision-making, activities, and moment-to-moment behavior of the victim are taken.

  • TRIVIAL DEMANDS are make to exhaust the victim and diminish her energy to seek alternatives or resist.

  • OCCASIONAL INDULGENCE is given to preserve the victim’s hope that things will change, remind the victim that the abuser is capable of good behavior, and reinforce her suspicion that if she changes her behavior in just the right way she can earn more good treatment more often.

  • DEMONSTRATIONS OF POWER teach the victim that she is helpless in the relationship.

  • DEPENDENCE develops as the victim loses control over her time, resources, activities, choices, and eventually thoughts and opinions.

What Will Happen If I Involve The Police?

Law enforcement officers will use the criminal justice system to help protect you and will work for the abused person's benefit. It used to be that officers responding to domestic situations would attempt to calm things down and arrange for one party to leave the home for the evening. Police officers in many towns are trained differently in their response to domestic violence. They have shifted from merely keeping the peace to arresting the offenders, protecting victims and referring battered women to shelters and other community resources that are available to help victims of domestic abuse. They have an understanding that domestic abuse takes many forms and that violence is not usually a mutual combat. Domestic abuse is about one person dominating and controlling another by force, threats, or physical violence.

Does Domestic Violence Effect The Children In The Home?

Under Construction

Who Can Help If You’re In A Domestic Violence Situation?

National Domestic Violence Hotline   1 (800)  799 - SAFE
National Child Abuse Hotline   1 (800)  4 - A - CHILD
Portland Women's Crisis Line   1 (503)  235 - 5333

Safety During An Explosive Incident

Stay in an area where you have access to an exit. Stay away from kitchen, bathrooms, bedrooms, or anywhere weapons might be available.

  • Practice getting out of your home safely. Which doors, windows and exits are available?

  • Keep a packed bag at a relative’s or friend’s home in order to leave quickly.

  • Tell trustworthy neighbors about the violence. Ask them to call the police if they hear or see any disturbance.

  • Devise a code word to use with your children, family, friends, and trustworthy neighbors when you need the police.

  • Plan where you will go if you have to leave home.

Steps To Take When Preparing To Leave

Begin establishing your independence.

  • Open savings and credit accounts if possible in your name only.

  • Leave money, extra keys, copies of important documents, extra medicines and clothes with someone you trust.

  • Determine who can help you with housing, finances, and child care.

  • Keep hotline phone numbers and change or a calling card on you at all times. Most crisis lines do accept collect calls, and 911 is free.

What You Should Take When You Leave


  • Driver’s license

  • You and your children’s birth certificates

  • Social security card

  • Welfare identification


  • Money and/or credit cards

  • Bank books

  • Checkbooks and/or ATM cards


  • Your protective order

  • Lease, rental agreement, house deed

  • Car registration and insurance papers

  • Health and Life insurance papers

  • Medical records for you and children

  • work permits/Green card/VISA

  • Passport

  • Divorce papers

  • Custody papers


  • House and car keys

  • Medications

  • Small saleable objects

  • Jewelry

  • Address book

  • Phone card

  • Pictures of you, your children and your abuser

  • Children’s small toys


The following is based in part on handouts published by:

  • The Domestic Violence Resource Center

  • The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, July 1997 v66 n7 p13(6)

  • The book The Hitting Habit; Anger Control for Battering Couples, by Jeanne P. Deschner