If you’re looking for a standard definition of domestic violence and possible ways to help someone experiencing this form of violence: Domestic Violence (DV) involves a pattern of assaultive and coercive behaviors that current or former intimate adults or adolescents use against their partners. It can take on the form of physical abuse, psychological or emotional abuse, sexual assault, stalking, isolation and/or the controlling of the victim’s money, time, shelter, food, etc. At the center of domestic violence is power and control (Duluth Model). In case someone is wondering: Power and control, the side affects and potential aftermath is the reason many victims stay and return.
If someone is trying to leave a controlling, unsafe or otherwise unhealthy relationship, one of the best things to do is suggest they create their own (or offer to help them with a) safe-exit strategy, or safety plan, prior to leaving. Outside of that, listen compassionately and be prepared to offer a few kind words and resources if they’re open to receive them.
If you’re looking for broader language related to domestic violence you can include: The CDC’s definition of Intimate-Partner Violence (IPV), intra-family violence, spouse battering, marital rape, child abuse, incest (child sexual abuse), sibling abuse, family elder abuse and abuse of parents by children. You could also include: Dating or engagement relationships, people related by marriage or common-law marriage, co-parents (individuals who have a child in common) and similar household members (current or former).
If you’re looking for a way to connect the definition with reality, you could remember the number nine (9). For many years the number nine would come up whenever an advocate wanted to talk about domestic violence. Numbers resonate with donors and grant managers. Today we seem to arrive at more open and honest conversations when we talk about nine people we are actually connected with (in our families and communities) and/or those we see in print/media (celebrities) who made the news because of domestic violence.
So where did/does the number nine come in? Every nine seconds, a woman is battered in the United States (American Medical Association, 1991). That reference was shared in “Domestic violence: The nine-second rule,” an article released by the St. Louis Healthy Living Examiner (SLHLE) October 7, 2009. Numbers change and that was then.
The year 2014 was then; that was when Vice President Joe Biden and Jada Pinkett Smith sparked solutions for victims of DV that are still relevant – and this is now. Now we’re cognizant of and careful to include all victims/survivors of domestic violence. Over the last several years we’ve been talking about men who are abused by their partners and individuals who identify with other genders or communities (LGBTQ). If we redefine domestic violence (or at least our perceptions of it), we just might work harder to end it.