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What is Domestic Violence?

Articles of Interest

A society’s definition of domestic violence is greatly influenced by geography, history, culture, economic status, religion, and the law. Behavior which would be normal and expected in one culture may be unacceptable and illegal in another. This is especially true with the most common form of domestic abuse, wife beating. The acceptability of wife beating is directly related to the status of women in culture and society. In many countries men occupy a superior economic and social status and women are expected or required to be submissive and obedient. In such countries, it is unlikely that police or legal authorities concern themselves with domestic violence or even understand the concept.

In countries where women have the opportunity for equal education, are able to vote and free to apply themselves in any vocation, society and the law accept equality of the sexes and physical and emotional abuse less and less acceptable. As time passes, the concept of domestic violence has expanded to include violence or threats of violence between intimate partners, family members and even roommates.

In a legal context, participants are classified as perpetrators (the offender) and the victim. While the offenders are predominately male and the victims are female, society is also beginning to recognize male domestic violence victims.

In assessing a domestic situation to identify the perpetrator, look for patterns of behavior intended to control, dominate and manipulate the other person. Such behaviors include: intimidation such as physical or sexual abuse, threats of physical violence, acts by one household member against another that causes the other member physical or emotional harm, harassment such as stalking, financial control by depriving the victim of money, depriving the victim of food or sleep, control through neglect, verbal or psychological abuse or emotional insults intended to destroy the victim’s self confidence and self-esteem.

It's important to remember that the perpetrator-victim roles are not assigned by sex. Either partner in a domestic violence relationship can be the perpetrator/offender or the victim. Domestic violence can be male to male, female to female, female to male, or male to female.

The Domestic Abuse Intervention Project in Duluth, Minnesota produced materials that included a domestic violence wheel of power and control graphic illustration. The eight sections of the wheel presented the concept that these individual behaviors have no specific order—one just goes round and round. They are presented below.

Power and Control

Using Male Privilege:

Treating her like a servant • making all the big decisions • acting like the “master of the castle.” • being the one to define men’s and women’s roles.

Using Economic Abuse:

  • Preventing her from getting or keeping a job
  • Making her ask for money
  • Giving her an allowance
  • Taking her money
  • Not letting her know about or have access to family income

Using Coercion and Threats:

  • Making and/or carrying out threats to hurt her
  • Threatening to leave her
  • Threatening to report her to welfare
  • Making her drop legal charges
  • Making her do illegal things

Using Intimidation:

  • Making her afraid by using looks, actions, gestures
  • Yelling
  • Throwing furniture
  • Smashing things
  • Destroying her property
  • Abusing pets
  • Displaying weapons

Using Emotional Abuse: 

  • Putting her down
  • Yelling
  • Putting her down
  • calling her names
  • making her think she’s crazy
  • playing mind games
  • humiliating her
  • making her feel guilty

Using Isolation:

  • Controlling what she does, who she sees and talks to
  • what she reads
  • where she goes
  • limiting her outside involvement
  • using jealousy to justify actions

Minimizing, Denying and Blaming:

  • Making light of the abuse and not taking her concerns about it seriously
  • saying the abuse didn’t happen
  • shifting responsibility for abusive behavior
  • saying she caused it

Using Children:

  • Making her feel guilty about the children
  • using the children to relay messages
  • using visitation to harass her
  • threatening to take the children away

To more domestic violence links

Domestic Violence Perpetrator

Counseling - Washington State

In Washington State the counseling of persons convicted of domestic violence and sentenced to treatment must take place in a "Certified Domestic Violence Perpetrator Treatment Program."

Northwest Association of Domestic Violence Treatment Professionals provides a list of agencies that are certified by the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services to perform domestic violence perpetrator treatment.

Address Confidentiality Program

If you are a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking who has chosen not to register to vote because you are afraid the perpetrator will track you down, the Office of the Secretary of State has a program that might be able to help you. The Address Confidentiality Program (ACP) works together with community domestic violence and sexual victims with a substitute mailing address that can be used when the victim works with the state and local government agencies. The ACP also provides crime victims with confidential voter registration. All ACP participants must be referred to the program by a local domestic violence or sexual assault advocate who can help the victim develop a comprehensive safety plan.
For more information about the ACP and the phone number of victim resources in your community, call the ACP at (360) 753-2972 or visit http://www.secstate.wa.gov/acp/. [This information is published in the State of Washington VOTERS' PAMPHLET, Edition 20, November 2004, published by the Secretary of State.]

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