Domestic violence

Domestic violence


  Domestic violence is also equally referred to a spouse or domestic abuse and is defined as a behavioral pattern where one partner in an intimate relationship abuses their counterpart. The intimate relationships can be in the form of legal or formal marriage, cohabitation or even within a family set up where a member of a family abuses another. Sanders (1997), states that expression of domestic violence can take varied forms including physical assault, threats, and display of aggression which is aimed at inflicting damaging impacts such as psychological and sexual abuse, deprivation, neglect or intimidation.

Even though domestic violence is mainly perceived as physical abuse, it can equally be used to refer to coercion, threats of endangerment, kidnapping or trespassing. Domestic violence cases are committed and suffered by people from all kinds of background regardless of whether they are in a heterosexual or homosexual union. Most of the time, abusive partners use domestic violence as a tool for controlling their counterparts. It does not matter the racial or ethnic background, age group or economic status because domestic violence cases have been reported by people from all walks of life. Despite the fact that women are mainly the victims of domestic violence, men too have been abused emotionally or verbally and this culminates as domestic abuse.

Complexities and Multifaceted Nature of Domestic Violence and Assessment of Institutional, Community and Individual Responses

            Murray (1997) states that the term “domestic violence” can be defined in diverse ways and refers to different forms of violence meted out under different circumstances and contexts. Although there are distinct individual and societal perceptions and definitions of different forms of domestic violence, scholars have studied and classified the varied forms of domestic violence to include: physical, sexual, intimate partner, emotional, economic, verbal and community-based domestic violence.

In intimate partner form of domestic violence occurs in the context of an intimate relationship when a partner abuses his/her counterpart and gains full control over him/her. According to Scheeringa (1995), this type of domestic violence can take four different shapes based on the intentions of the perpetrator as well as social contexts under which abuse occurs. The first is the Common Couple Violence and this occurs when intimate partners lash out at each other and engage in physical fights with one another during personal arguments. The second face of intimate domestic violence is Intimate Terrorism and this occurs when a partner develops a controlling pattern over their counterpart. Violent Resistance is a form of retaliation by the victims of domestic violence against their abusive counterparts. Mutual Violent Control happens when both partners in an intimate relationship perpetrate violent acts against one other as each seeks to gain ultimate control over the other.

On the other hand, physical abuse is a form of domestic violence where a person uses physical contact against the other in a relationship with the main aim of causing the victim injury, bodily harm or pain. Murray (1997) states that physical abuse as a form of domestic violence can take various physical actions including hitting, strangling, slapping, burning, or firmly gripping among other things that may result in physical and psychological injury to the victim.

Sexual violence which is another form of domestic abuse happens when a person forces or coerces his or her victim to engage in sexual activity with them without their consent. Sexual violence can also occur in the form of threats of forced sexual activities. Additionally, sexual violence can also occur in marital relationships if a partner forces their spouse to have sex without their consent. Although this concept has been widely debated, Murray explains that it has received a lot of condemnation and even been criminalized in many countries following consistent occurrences and reports of this type of rape.

Also referred to as psychological abuse, emotional violence is used by partners in an intimate relationship to inflict psychological torture and stress on the victim. It can be meted out in different forms including humiliation of a partner, restriction of what a partner can do or places they can go, withholding of important information from the victim and isolating them with the aim of embarrassing them. Blackmail and harm of significant people who are valued by the victim can also be classified as emotional violence.

Verbal abuse is used often in many intimate relationships and is usually characterized by the use of strong or offensive language by a partner with the aim of expressing aggression or threatening their counterpart. This form abuse can be perpetrated in the form of calling names, criticizing and ridiculing the victim with the aim of humiliating, manipulating or controlling them.

Economic abuse occurs when a partner prevents or limits access to economic resources by the victim. This is done in order to control the victim and is mostly perpetrated by the partner who has more financial prowess.

Domestic violence has led to different initiatives being undertaken by varied communities, institutions, and individuals to deal with the problem. Scheeringa (1995) states that justice systems across the world have been the primary channels through which responses to domestic violence have been initiated. In particular, justice systems have been established in many communities across the world to help women who are the major victims of domestic violence seek redress through legal avenues.

Different communities have also established domestic violence shelters which provide refuge and assistance to victims of domestic abuse. Additionally, various medical institutions across the world now provide counseling and treatment for both physical and psychological trauma suffered during domestic violence incidents. According to Sanders (1997), communities have also taken up various coordinated initiatives and steps to curb domestic violence and these include reporting domestic violence perpetrators to relevant authorities, restraining perpetrators from physically abusing their victims in public arena and referring victims shelters where they can be assisted.

Knowledge of Research and Theory in Relation to the Scope of Domestic Violence to Dispel Commonly Held Misconceptions

There have been intense debates on the subject of domestic violence. According to Murray (1997), 62% of the total reported cases of domestic violence have affected female victims and women are thus more affected by this issue than their male counterparts. Research shows that cases of domestic violence against men have been much lower unlike those reported by women and many scholars have attempted to explain these findings. Murray explains that scholars have found out that unlike women, men do not report cases of violence meted out against them on a frequent basis. Furthermore, scholars have also revealed that most of the cases of physical violence perpetrated by women against men are done in self-defense and hence cannot be classified as domestic violence against men.

Further research reveals that most of the cases of domestic violence are reported by people in heterosexual relationships and this has resulted in the neglect of victims and cases of domestic violence in homosexual unions. Although it is obvious that homosexual partners are as susceptible to domestic violence incidents just like people in heterosexual relationships, many scholars have focused on studying and analyzing violence cases in heterosexual unions.

Resources relevant to issues of domestic violence to effect social change

For effective interventions that can successfully deal with the issue of domestic violence and bring about social change to occur it is important for society to comprehend the wide scope of the problem. It is necessary to veer off from traditional perceptions of domestic violence as a personal problem that should be dealt with at family level. In fact, there is an urgent need for integrated solutions which involve communities, legal and healthcare systems for proper assistance to be offered to the victims of domestic violence. Scheeringa (1995) explains that medical response is essential in managing physical and psychological wounds inflicted during incidents of domestic violence.

Besides treating the victims, medics can also counsel the perpetrators of violence and help them curb this vice. Law enforcers, on the other hand, can reduce domestic violence by prosecuting perpetrators of physical abuse and enforce restraining orders that protect victims. Community-based organizations can be instrumental in promoting social change and curbing domestic violence. These organizations can provide domestic violence shelters for victims and carry out sensitization and awareness campaigns on domestic violence issues. They can also intervene in domestic violence incidents and protect victims from further violence.


    In conclusion, domestic violence is not a new concern and it has continued to attract large public debates in different parts of the globe due to the increased number of reported cases. Diverse response mechanisms to curb this issue and promote positive social change have been undertaken by institutions, communities, and individuals in different societies.



Sanders, P.K. (1997). Assaultive Violence in the Community: Psychological Responses of Adolescent Victims and Their Parents. Journal of Adolescent Health, 21(2): 356-365.

Scheeringa, M.S. (1995). Symptom Expression and Trauma Variables in Children Under 48 Months of Age, journal of Infant Mental Health, 16 (1): 259-270.

Murray, T. (1997). Media Violence and Youth: In Children in a Violent Society, New York: Guildford Publications.


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