Understanding Domestic Violence
What is Domestic Violence and Abuse?
Domestic violence is the intentional and persistent physical or emotional abuse of a woman or of a woman and her children in a way that causes pain, distress or injury.
Women’s Aid believe that domestic violence is a pattern of deliberate, intentional behaviour used to exercise control and power by one person over another, which may take place over a prolonged period of time:
‘Repeated physical, psychological, sexual or financial violence that takes place within an intimate or family type relationship and forms a pattern of coercive and controlling behaviour’.
Who Experiences Domestic Violence?
While it is recognised that domestic violence can occur between other family members, in same sex relationships, and by women against male partners, Women’s Aid focuses on domestic violence where the violence is perpetrated by men towards women with whom they have, or have had, an intimate relationship. This represents the majority of cases reported. In addition it is women who are more likely to experience repeat victimisation and post-separation abuse, and to suffer injuries requiring medical attention and emotional harm as a result of domestic violence.
There are no accurate incidence and prevalence figures of domestic violence. However, research has suggested that 1 in 4 women experience domestic violence at some point in their lives, and it accounts for 23% of reported violent crime. Women are vulnerable to violence and abuse regardless of age, race, class, sexuality, physical or mental ability; and that violence and abuse can be hidden, condoned or colluded with by family, community members and service providers themselves.
Children have been called the ‘hidden victims’ of domestic violence, since statutory agencies have often viewed the abuse of children as separate from the abuse of their mothers. However, evidence has shown that children suffer from their exposure to violence perpetrated against their mothers in a range of ways. For example in 90% of instances of physical violence, children are in the same or next room, and a third of children present during an incident of violence will try to intervene and protect their mother from the abuse.