Frequently Asked Questions About Domestic Violence
1. What is domestic violence?
Domestic violence is a pattern of physical and psychological abuse, threats, intimidation, isolation, or economic coercion used by one person to exert power and control over another person in the context of a dating, familial, or household relationship. Domestic violence is maintained by societal and cultural attitudes, institutions, and laws which are not consistent in naming this violence as wrong in any and all cases (Wright, 1998).
- 1 in 4 women have been the victim of severe physical violence during their lifetime. 1 in 7 men experienced severe physical violence by an intimate partner.
2. What resources are available for victims?
There are many options and resource available to help victims. These include orders of protection, shelter or other housing options, toll-free numbers, support groups, counseling, childcare, and legal remedies.
- State of Illinois Domestic Violence Help Line
Confidential referrals and resources covering services available throughout the State. Calls can be taken in over 150 languages thanks to the AT&T Language Line.
1.877.TO END DV (1.877.863.6338)
- U. S. National Domestic Violence
Confidential and anonymous support by phone
- U.S. National Teen Dating Abuse Hotline
Confidential and anonymous support for teens and young adults
Or online chat
- National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV)
- Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence (ICADV)
- For Chicago Area Service Providers, please click here.
3. Why don’t victims just leave their abusers or return once they’ve left?
This is an interesting question to ask as it shifts the focus to the victim, instead of asking “why does the abuser choose to use violence?”
It is very difficult for a victim to leave for many reasons:
- Studies show that the battered person’s life is at the greatest risk when they attempt to leave or have recently left. The victim may remain because violence was used the last time they unsuccessfully tried to leave.
- They may not know of any available resources to assist them. Even if they know of the resources, they may feel as though those resources won’t work for them, are not accessible to them, or have failed them in the past.
- They are financially dependent on their partner and if they leave, especially with children, will face severe hardships.
- Various Social and Justice systems encountered may have been unresponsive, insensitive, or ineffective in the past.
- Religious, cultural, or family pressers may make them believe it is their duty to withstand violence and keep their marriage together at all costs.
- Abusers have often neared perfection in the art of charming outsiders and creating an environment in which victims believe that the abuse is their fault. Victims often believe that they can stop the violence if they are the cause of it. Additionally, abusers use isolation, minimization, attacks to self-confidence, amongst other, tactics to control their victims.
- Emotional ties to their partner may remain strong, keeping their hope alive that the last time violence was used is the “last time” and the violence will end. For most of us, the decision to end a relationship is not easy – even more so when fear, dependence, and/or manipulation are involved (CMBWN, 2009).
- More than 1 in 5 women reported being concerned for their safety, or at least one post-traumatic symptom as a result of violence experienced.
4. Isn’t domestic violence caused by impulse control problems in abusers?
Simply put “there is no excuse for domestic violence.” Abusers act deliberately and with forethought. Abusers choose whom to abuse. For example, an abuser has enough control to selectively batter their significant other, but not their boss. Many abusers will only batter in particular ways, hitting certain parts of the body. Others will only abuse in private. Some will only break the victim’s possessions, not their own. Perpetrators make choices about what they will or will not do to the victim, even when they claim that they had “lost it” or were “out of control.” Such decision-making indicates abusers are actually very in-control of their behaviors (CMBWN, 2009).
- In 2000, intimate homicide accounted for 33.5% of the murders in women.
…Anger management problems in abusers?
Domestic violence is a pattern and not individual isolated events. In some episodes, abusers use tactics of control calmly, while in others displays of anger are often used to intimidate victims. Expressions of anger can be quickly altered when the abuser thinks it is necessary.
- Studies of domestic violence have identified abusers whose heart rates actually drop before instances of abuse, suggesting a calm preparation rather than an out-of-control or angry response.
…Drugs and alcohol abuse problems in abusers?
The simple fact is that most drugs do not cause non-violent people to become violent. Many people use or abuse drugs without ever battering a family member or partner. Research indicates that the patterns of coercive behaviors that comprise domestic violence are not cause by the particular chemicals in alcohol and other system depressants. Yet, there is some contradictory research regarding whether certain drugs (PCP, speed, cocaine, or crack) chemically react with the brain to cause violent behavior or possibly induce paranoia or psychosis which then leads to violent behavior.
Research studies have found a high correlation between aggression and the consumption of various substances, but there is no data to prove a cause-and-effect relationship. There have been instances of substance abusers who have become less abusive and/or controlling toward partners without giving us their addictions, indicating no simple cause-and-effect relationship between chemical and violent behavior.
Even with a high correlation between certain drugs and violent behavior, there is a need to identify whether that violence is expressed outwardly or targeted toward specific people, such as a significant other (CMBWN, 2009).
- Drugs and alcohol can increase the danger level and have been present in at least 50% of domestic violence cases. However, many alcoholics or drug users do not batter, and many batterers do not use drugs and alcohol.
…Stress problems in abusers?
Stress does not “cause” people to act in certain ways. They react to stress in ways they have observed as working in the past or anticipate will work in the present. A stress-reduction theory of violence does not explain why individuals feeling stress from employment, racism, or illness would direct their violence specifically to their intimate partners, rather than toward the sources of their stress. Regardless, it is important to hold people responsible for the choices that they make regarding stress reduction. Just as we would not excuse a robbery by a stranger because the perpetrator was “stressed,” we cannot excuse the perpetrator of domestic violence for choosing to use violence blamed on stress (CMBWN, 2009).
- Testimony before Congress indicated that 50% of abusive husbands batter their pregnant wives. There is no excuse.
5. What can I do to help?
Everyone can speak out against domestic violence! Domestic violence will continue until we join together to say that we are tired of the families destroyed, lives lost, and toll taken on us all and WE WILL TOLERATE DOMESTIC VIOLENCE NO LONGER.
As a member of the general public, you can also:
- Call your local, state, and federal elected officials and demand support for survivors and the programs that offer them support. Keep updated about specific laws and monetary allocations via The Network’s advocacy page.
- Provide spoken and monetary support to your local domestic violence programs.
- Name violence as wrong every chance that you get: when someone tells an offensive joke, when talking to children, when chatting with neighbors, etc.
Brown, A. When Battered Women Kill. New York: The Free Press, (1987). Bureau of Justice Statistics Crime Data Brief, Intimate Partner Violence, 1993-2001.
(2003). Chicago Metropolitan Battered Women’s Network. 40-Hour Domestic Violence Training Manual. Chicago: Various Authors, (assembled 2009).
Wright, J. Self-created. Chicago Metropolitan Battered Women’s Network, (1998).