What is domestic violence? 30.11.07
What is domestic violence?
In Women's Aid's view domestic violence is physical, sexual, psychological or financial violence that takes place within an intimate or family-type relationship and that forms a pattern of coercive and controlling behaviour. This can include forced marriage and so-called 'honour crimes'. Domestic violence may include a range of abusive behaviours, not all of which are in themselves inherently 'violent'.
Does domestic violence only happen in certain cultures or classes?
Research shows that domestic violence is most commonly experienced by women and perpetrated by men. Any woman can experience domestic violence regardless of race, ethnic or religious group, class, disability or lifestyle.
Domestic violence can also take place in lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender relationships, and can involve other family members, including children.
What is the official definition of domestic violence?
The Government defines domestic violence as "Any incident of threatening behaviour, violence or abuse (psychological, physical, sexual, financial or emotional) between adults who are or have been intimate partners or family members, regardless of gender or sexuality." This includes issues of concern to black and minority ethnic (BME) communities such as so called 'honour killings'.
Why does it happen?
All forms of domestic violence - psychological, economic, emotional and physical - come from the abuser's desire for power and control over other family members or intimate partners. Although every situation is unique, there are common factors involved. Find out more about the causes.
What are the signs of domestic violence?
- Destructive criticism and verbal abuse: shouting/mocking/accusing/name calling/verbally threatening
- Pressure tactics: sulking, threatening to withhold money, disconnect the telephone, take the car away, commit suicide, take the children away, report you to welfare agencies unless you comply with his demands regarding bringing up the children, lying to your friends and family about you, telling you that you have no choice in any decisions.
- Disrespect: persistently putting you down in front of other people, not listening or responding when you talk, interrupting your telephone calls, taking money from your purse without asking, refusing to help with childcare or housework.
- Breaking trust: lying to you, withholding information from you, being jealous, having other relationships, breaking promises and shared agreements.
- Isolation: monitoring or blocking your telephone calls, telling you where you can and cannot go, preventing you from seeing friends and relatives.
- Harassment: following you, checking up on you, opening your mail, repeatedly checking to see who has telephoned you, embarrassing you in public.
- Threats: making angry gestures, using physical size to intimidate, shouting you down, destroying your possessions, breaking things, punching walls, wielding a knife or a gun, threatening to kill or harm you and the children.
- Sexual violence: using force, threats or intimidation to make you perform sexual acts, having sex with you when you don't want to have sex, any degrading treatment based on your sexual orientation.
- Physical violence: punching, slapping, hitting, biting, pinching, kicking, pulling hair out, pushing, shoving, burning, strangling.
- Denial: saying the abuse doesn't happen, saying you caused the abusive behaviour, being publicly gentle and patient, crying and begging for forgiveness, saying it will never happen again.
Is it a crime?
Domestic violence may comprise a number of different behaviours and consequences, so there is no single criminal offence of “domestic violence”. However, many forms of domestic violence are crimes – for example, harassment, assault, criminal damage, attempted murder, rape and false imprisonment. Being assaulted, sexually abused, threatened or harassed by a partner or family member is just as much a crime as violence from a stranger, and often more dangerous.
Successful prosecutions for domestic violence cases rose from 46% (of all cases brought before the courts) in a December 2003 'snapshot' to 65% during the whole of 2006-07.
Not all forms of domestic violence are illegal, however; for example, some forms of emotional abuse are not defied as crimes. Nevertheless, these types of violence can also have a serious and lasting impact on a woman’s or child’s sense well-being and autonomy.
What is the cost of domestic violence?
The estimated total cost of domestic violence to society in monetary terms is £23 billion per annum. This figure includes an estimated £3.1 billion as the cost to the state and £1.3 billion as the cost to employers and human suffering cost of £17 billion. (Walby 2004). The estimated total cost is based on the following:
- The cost to the criminal justice system is £1 billion per annum. (This represents one quarter of the criminal justice budget for violent crime including the cost of homicide to adult women annually of £112 million).
- The cost of physical healthcare treatment resulting from domestic violence, (including hospital, GP, ambulance, prescriptions) is £1,220,247,000, i.e. 3% of total NHS budget.
- The cost of treating mental illness and distress due to domestic violence is £176,000,000.
- The cost to the social services is £0.25 billion.
- Housing costs are estimated at £0.16 billion.
- The cost of civil legal services due to domestic violence is £0.3billion.
The statistics collated by Walby above are recognised as an under-estimate because public services don't collect information on the extent to which their services are used as a result of domestic violence. The research doesn't include costs to those areas for which it was difficult to collect any baseline information - for example cost to social services work with vulnerable adults, cost to education services, the human cost to children (including moving schools and the impact this has on their education), and it excludes the cost of therapeutic and other support within the voluntary sector.
The cost of domestic homicide is estimated by the Home Office at over one million pounds: a total of £1, 097, 330 for each death, or £112 million per year.
Domestic violence is very common. Research shows that it can affect one in four women in their lifetimes, regardless of age, social class, race, disability or lifestyle. Domestic violence accounts for between 16% and one quarter of all recorded violent crime. In any one year, there are 13 million separate incidents of physical violence or threats of violence against women from partners or former partners. (Home Office, 2004; Dodd et al., 2004; Dobash and Dobash, 1980; Walby and Allen, 2004) Also view a summary which states the number of women and children who use a domestic violence service on a typical day in England.