Understanding the Impact of Domestic Violence
1 in 4 women and 1 in 9 men in the U.S. will experience intimate partner violence, making it a serious public health issue
April 17, 2023
Relationships, while meant to enrich our lives and those of our partners, can have a darker side that often goes unnoticed—or unaddressed. Domestic violence is a serious public health issue that impacts survivors on a physical and mental scale.
While the effects of violence can be devastating, they are preventable. We can all play a part to ensure that relationships are healthy, respectful, and nonviolent for everyone.
Keep Reading To Learn
- What domestic violence is
- How to recognize warning signs of abuse
- How to seek help for you or a loved one
- How we can all work towards preventing intimate partner violence
Understanding Domestic Violence
This article uses the term domestic violence to refer to any behavior occurring in a romantic relationship that causes physical, sexual, or mental harm, regardless of whether people live in the same household. Domestic violence can occur between any two partners, regardless of gender or sexual orientation.
Another term, intimate partner violence (IPV), is also often used to refer to violence that occurs between romantic partners, while the term domestic violence is sometimes reserved for violence that takes place in a household.
In either case, the abuser could be a current spouse, former spouse, or dating partner.
Domestic violence is not uncommon. One in four women and one in nine men in the United States have reported experiencing sexual violence, physical violence, and/or stalking in their lifetime.
The actual rate of domestic violence and sexual assault is unknown because many experiencing it are afraid to disclose or report it.
Abuse does not need to have multiple occurrences or be carried out over years to be considered domestic violence. Even one episode can have serious impacts and should not be overlooked.
Domestic violence includes any of the following:
- Physical violence: hitting, kicking, slapping, or other types of physical force that are intended to hurt the partner.
- Sexual violence: forced, or attempted forcing, of a partner to engage in sexual acts when the partner does not consent or isn’t capable of consenting. This includes both sexual events and non-physical events, like sexting.
- Psychological aggression: verbal and non-verbal communicating to erode a person’s self-worth, harm the partner mentally or emotionally, or exert control or power over the partner.
- Stalking: repeated, unwanted attention and/or contact that triggers fear or worry about partner safety, or the safety of others that are close to the victim. Stalking means the communication isn’t consensual and may include verbal, written, or implied threats.
Controlling behaviors are harmful to relationships and may point to more severe domestic abuse. Controlling behaviors are actions, whether verbal or physical, that limit a partner’s mobility or access to friends, family, or environments outside of the home. The victim may also be deprived of food, money, or access to health care.
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, reproductive coercion can also occur. This includes behavior in a relationship related to reproductive health and may happen with or without physical or sexual violence. This includes but is not limited to refusal to practice safe sex, intentional exposure to sexually transmitted infections, tampering with or sabotaging contraception, or controlling access to health services.
In addition, domestic violence can occur in younger persons and is often referred to as teen dating violence (TDV), which impacts millions of teens in the United States. Approximately 11 million women and 5 million men who reported experiences of intimate partner violence shared that they first experienced sexual or physical violence or stalking before the age of 18.