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The definition essay is an often short piece of writing that aims to define a word. Although this sounds simple, students should bear in mind that the word they will be defining in unlikely to be a straight forward word like towel. Usually the word will be an abstract word like love, honour, bravery etc.
Domestic violence (also named domestic abuse or family violence) is violence or other abuse by one person against another in a domestic setting, such as in marriage or cohabitation. It may be termed intimate partner violence when committed by a spouse or partner in an intimate relationship against the other spouse or partner, and can take place in heterosexual or same-sex relationships, or between former spouses or partners. Domestic violence can also involve violence against children, parents, or the elderly, and may be done for self-defense. It takes a number of forms, including physical, verbal, emotional, economic, religious, reproductive, and sexual abuse, which can range from subtle, coercive forms to marital rape and to violent physical abuse such as choking, beating, female genital mutilation and acid throwing that results in disfigurement or death. Domestic murders include stoning, bride burning, honor killings, and dowry deaths.
Globally, the victims of domestic violence are overwhelmingly women, and women tend to experience more severe forms of violence. In some countries, domestic violence is often seen as justified, particularly in cases of actual or suspected infidelity on the part of the woman, and is legally permitted. Research has established that there exists a direct and significant correlation between a country's level of gender equality and rates of domestic violence. Domestic violence is among the most underreported crimes worldwide for both men and women. Due to social stigmas regarding male victimization, men face an increased likelihood of being overlooked by healthcare providers.
Domestic violence occurs when the abuser believes that abuse is an entitlement, acceptable, justified, or unlikely to be reported. It may produce intergenerational cycles of abuse in children and other family members, who may feel that such violence is acceptable or condoned. Very few people recognize themselves as abusers or victims because they may consider their experiences as family conflicts that got out of control. Awareness, perception, definition and documentation of domestic violence differs widely from country to country. Domestic violence often happens in the context of forced or child marriage.
In abusive relationships, there may be a cycle of abuse during which tensions rise and an act of violence is committed, followed by a period of reconciliation and calm. Victims of domestic violence may be trapped in domestic violent situations through isolation, power and control, cultural acceptance, lack of financial resources, fear, shame, or to protect children. As a result of abuse, victims may experience physical disabilities, dysregulated aggression, chronic health problems, mental illness, limited finances, and poor ability to create healthy relationships. Victims may experience severe psychological disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder. Children who live in a household with violence often show psychological problems from an early age, such as avoidance, hypervigilance to threats, and dysregulated aggression which may contribute to vicarious traumatization.
Etymology and definitions
The first known use of the term domestic violence in a modern context, meaning violence in the home, was in an address to the Parliament of the United Kingdom by Jack Ashley in 1973. The term previously referred primarily to civil unrest, violence from within a country as opposed to violence perpetrated by a foreign power.[nb 1]
Traditionally, domestic violence (DV) was mostly associated with physical violence. Terms such as wife abuse, wife beating, and wifebattering were used, but have declined in popularity due to efforts to include unmarried partners, abuse other than physical, female perpetrators, and same-sex relationships.[nb 2] Domestic violence is now commonly defined broadly to include "all acts of physical, sexual, psychological or economic violence" that may be committed by a family member or intimate partner.
The term intimate partner violence is often used synonymously with domestic abuse or domestic violence, but it specifically refers to violence occurring within a couple relationship (i.e., marriage, cohabitation, or non-cohabitating intimate partners). To these, the World Health Organization (WHO) adds controlling behaviors as a form of abuse. Intimate partner violence has been observed in opposite and same-sex relationships, and in the former instance by both men against women and women against men.Family violence is a broader term, often used to include child abuse, elder abuse, and other violent acts between family members.
In 1993, The United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women defined domestic violence as:
Physical, sexual and psychological violence occurring in the family, including battering, sexual abuse of female children in the household, dowry-related violence, marital rape, female genital mutilation and other traditional practices harmful to women, non-spousal violence and violence related to exploitation.
Prior to the mid-1800s, most legal systems viewed wife beating as a valid exercise of a husband's authority over his wife. One exception, however, was the 1641 Body of Liberties of the Massachusetts Bay colonists, which declared that a married woman should be "free from bodilie correction or stripes by her husband."
Political agitation during the 19th century led to changes in both popular opinion and legislation regarding domestic violence within the United Kingdom, the United States and other countries. In 1850, Tennessee became the first state in the United States to explicitly outlaw wife beating.[need quotation to verify] Other states soon followed. In 1878, the UK Matrimonial Causes Act made it possible for women in the UK to seek legal separation from an abusive husband. By the end of the 1870s, most courts in the United States had rejected a claimed right of husbands to physically discipline their wives. By the early 20th century, it was common for police to intervene in cases of domestic violence in the United States, but arrests remained rare.
In most legal systems around the world, the issue of DV has been addressed only from the 1990s onwards; indeed, before the late-20th century, in most countries there was very little protection, in law or in practice, against DV. In 1993, the UN published Strategies for Confronting Domestic Violence: A Resource Manual. This publication urged countries around the world to treat DV as a criminal act, stated that the right to a private family life does not include the right to abuse family members, and acknowledged that, at the time of its writing, most legal systems considered DV to be largely outside the scope of the law, describing the situation at that time as follows: "Physical discipline of children is allowed and, indeed, encouraged in many legal systems and a large number of countries allow moderate physical chastisement of a wife or, if they do not do so now, have done so within the last 100 years. Again, most legal systems fail to criminalize circumstances where a wife is forced to have sexual relations with her husband against her will. [...] Indeed, in the case of violence against wives, there is a widespread belief that women provoke, can tolerate or even enjoy a certain level of violence from their spouses."
In recent decades, there has been a call for the end of legal impunity for domestic violence, an impunity often based on the idea that such acts are private. The Istanbul Convention is the first legally binding instrument in Europe dealing with domestic violence and violence against women. The convention seeks to put an end to the toleration, in law or in practice, of violence against women and DV. In its explanatory report it acknowledges the long tradition of European countries of ignoring, de jure or de facto, these forms of violence. At para 219, it states: "There are many examples from past practice in Council of Europe member states that show that exceptions to the prosecution of such cases were made, either in law or in practice, if victim and perpetrator were, for example, married to each other or had been in a relationship. The most prominent example is rape within marriage, which for a long time had not been recognised as rape because of the relationship between victim and perpetrator."
There has been increased attention given to specific forms of domestic violence, such as honor killings, dowry deaths, and forced marriages. India has, in recent decades, made efforts to curtail dowry violence: the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act (PWDVA) was enacted in 2005, following years of advocacy and activism by the women's organizations.Crimes of passion in Latin America, a region which has a history of treating such killings with extreme leniency, have also come to international attention. In 2002, Widney Brown, advocacy director for Human Rights Watch, argued that there are similarities between the dynamics of crimes of passion and honor killings, stating that: "crimes of passion have a similar dynamic [to honor killings] in that the women are killed by male family members and the crimes are perceived as excusable or understandable".
Historically, children had few protections from violence by their parents, and in many parts of the world, this is still the case. For example, in Ancient Rome, a father could legally kill his children. Many cultures have allowed fathers to sell their children into slavery. Child sacrifice was also a common practice. Child maltreatment began to garner mainstream attention with the publication of "The Battered Child Syndrome" by pediatric psychiatrist C. Henry Kempe. Prior to this, injuries to children—even repeated bone fractures—were not commonly recognized as the results of intentional trauma. Instead, physicians often looked for undiagnosed bone diseases or accepted parents' accounts of accidental mishaps such as falls or assaults by neighborhood bullies.:100–103
See also: Outline of domestic violence § Forms
Not all domestic violence is equivalent. Differences in frequency, severity, purpose, and outcome are all significant. Domestic violence can take many forms, including physical aggression or assault (hitting, kicking, biting, shoving, restraining, slapping, throwing objects, beating up), or threats thereof; sexual abuse; controlling or domineering; intimidation; stalking; passive/covert abuse (e.g., neglect); and economic deprivation. It can also mean endangerment, criminal coercion, kidnapping, unlawful imprisonment, trespassing, and harassment.
Main article: Physical abuse
Physical abuse is that involving contact intended to cause fear, pain, injury, other physical suffering or bodily harm. In the context of coercive control, physical abuse is to control the victim. The dynamics of physical abuse in a relationship are often complex. Physical violence can be the culmination of other abusive behavior, such as threats, intimidation, and restriction of victim self-determination through isolation, manipulation and other limitations of personal freedom. Denying medical care, sleep deprivation, and forced drug or alcohol use, are also forms of physical abuse. It can also include inflicting physical injury onto other targets, such as children or pets, in order to cause emotional harm to the victim.
Strangulation in the context of DV has received significant attention. It is now recognized as one of the most lethal forms of DV; yet, because of the lack of external injuries, and the lack of social awareness and medical training in regard to it, strangulation has often been a hidden problem. As a result, in recent years, many US states have enacted specific laws against strangulation.
Homicide as a result of domestic violence makes up a greater proportion of female homicides than it does male homicides. More than 50 percent of female homicides are committed by former or current intimate partners in the US. In the United Kingdom, 37 percent of murdered women were killed by an intimate partner compared to 6 percent for men. Between 40 and 70 percent of women murdered in Canada, Australia, South Africa, Israel and the United States were killed by an intimate partner. The World Health Organization states that globally, about 38% of female homicides are committed by an intimate partner.
During pregnancy, a woman is at higher risk to be abused or long-standing abuse may change in severity, causing negative health effects to the mother and fetus. Pregnancy can also lead to a hiatus of domestic violence when the abuser does not want to harm the unborn child. The risk of domestic violence for women who have been pregnant is greatest immediately after childbirth.
Acid attacks, are an extreme form of violence in which acid is thrown at the victims, usually their faces, resulting in extensive damage including long-term blindness and permanent scarring. These are commonly a form of revenge against a woman for rejecting a marriage proposal or sexual advance.
In the Middle East and other parts of the world, planned domestic homicides, or honor killings, are carried out due to the belief of the perpetrators that the victim has brought dishonor upon the family or community. According to Human Rights Watch, honor killings are generally performed against women for "refusing to enter into an arranged marriage, being the victim of a sexual assault, seeking a divorce" or being accused of committing adultery. In some parts of the world, where there is a strong social expectation for a woman to be a virgin prior to marriage, a bride may be subjected to extreme violence, including an honor killing, if she is deemed not to be a virgin on her wedding night due to the absence of blood.[nb 3]
Bride burning or dowry killing is a form of domestic violence in which a newly married woman is killed at home by her husband or husband's family due to their dissatisfaction over the dowry provided by her family. The act is often a result of demands for more or prolonged dowry after the marriage. Dowry violence is most common in South Asia, especially in India. In 2011, the National Crime Records Bureau reported 8,618 dowry deaths in India, but unofficial figures estimate at least three times this amount.
Main articles: Sexual abuse, Marital rape, and Sexual violence by intimate partners
Sexual abuse, is defined by World Health Organization as any sexual act, attempt to obtain a sexual act, unwanted sexual comments or advances, or acts to traffic, or otherwise directed, against a person’s sexuality using coercion. It also includes obligatory inspections for virginity and female genital mutilation. Aside from initiation of the sexual act through physical force, sexual abuse occurs if a person is verbally pressured into consenting, unable to understand the nature or condition of the act, unable to decline participation, or unable to communicate unwillingness to engage in the sexual act. This could be because of underage immaturity, illness, disability, or the influence of alcohol or other drugs, or due to intimidation or pressure.
In many cultures, victims of rape are considered to have brought 'dishonour' or 'disgrace' to their families and face severe familial violence, including honor killings. This is especially the case if the victim becomes pregnant.
Female genital mutilation is defined by WHO as "all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons." This procedure has been performed on more than 125 million females alive today, and it is concentrated in 29 countries in Africa and Middle East.
Incest, or sexual contact between an adult and a child, is one form of familial sexual violence. In some cultures, there are ritualized forms of child sexual abuse taking place with the knowledge and consent of the family, where the child is induced to engage in sexual acts with adults, possibly in exchange for money or goods. For instance, in Malawi some parents arrange for an older man, often called "hyena", to have sex with their daughters as a form of initiation. The Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse was the first international treaty to address child sexual abuse occurring within the home or family.
Reproductive coercion (also called "coerced reproduction") are threats or acts of violence against a partner's reproductive rights, health and decision-making; and includes a collection of behaviors intended to pressure or coerce a partner into becoming a parent or ending a pregnancy. Reproductive coercion is associated with forced sex, fear of or inability to make contraceptive decision, fear of violence after refusing sex, and abusive partner interference with access to healthcare.
In some cultures, marriage imposes a social obligation for women to reproduce. In northern Ghana, for example, payment of bride price signifies a woman's requirement to bear children, and women using birth control face threats of violence and reprisals. WHO includes forced marriage, cohabitation, and pregnancy including wife inheritance within its definition of sexual violence. Wife inheritance, or levirate marriage, is a type of marriage in which the brother of a deceased man is obliged to marry his widow, and the widow is obliged to marry her deceased husband's brother.
Marital rape is non-consensual penetration perpetrated against a spouse. It is under-reported, under-prosecuted, and legal in many countries, due in part to the belief that through marriage, a woman gives irrevocable consent for her husband to have sex with her when he wishes. In Lebanon, for instance, while discussing a proposed law that would criminalize marital rape, Sheik Ahmad Al-Kurdi, a judge in the Sunni religious court, said that the law "could lead to the imprisonment of the man where in reality he is exercising the least of his marital rights." Feminists have worked systematically since the 1960s to criminalize marital rape internationally. In 2006, a study by the United Nations found that marital rape was a prosecutable offense in at least 104 countries Once widely condoned or ignored by law and society, marital rape is now repudiated by international conventions and increasingly criminalized. The countries which ratified the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, the first legally binding instrument in Europe in the field of violence against women, are bound by its provisions to ensure that non-consensual sexual acts committed against a spouse or partner are illegal. The convention came into force in August 2014.
Main article: Emotional abuse
Emotional abuse (or psychological abuse) is a pattern of behavior that threatens, intimidates, dehumanizes or systematically undermines self-worth. According to the Istanbul Convention, psychological violence is "the intentional conduct of seriously impairing a person’s psychological integrity through coercion or threats".
Emotional abuse includes minimising, threats, isolation, public humiliation, unrelenting criticism, constant personal devaluation, repeated stonewalling and gaslighting.Stalking is a common form of psychological intimidation, and is most often perpetrated by former or current intimate partners. Victims tend to feel their partner has nearly total control over them, greatly affecting the power dynamic in a relationship, empowering the perpetrator, and disempowering the victim. Victims often suffer from depression, putting them at increased risk of eating disorders,suicide, and drug and alcohol abuse.
Main article: Economic abuse
Economic abuse is a form of abuse when one intimate partner has control over the other partner's access to economic resources.Marital assets are used as a means of control. Economic abuse may involve preventing a spouse from resource acquisition, limiting what the victim may use, or by otherwise exploiting economic resources of the victim. Economic abuse diminishes the victim's capacity to support themselves, increasing dependence on the perpetrator, including reduced access to education, employment, career advancement, and assets acquirement. Forcing or pressuring a family member to sign documents, to sell things, or to change a will are forms of economic abuse.
A victim may be put on an allowance, allowing close monitoring of money is spent, preventing spending without perpetrator consent, leading to the accumulation of debt or depletion of the victim's savings. Disagreement about money spent can result in retaliation with additional physical, sexual or emotional abuse. In parts of the world where women depend on husbands' income in order to survive (due to lack of opportunities for female employment and lack of state welfare) economic abuse can have very severe consequences. Abusive relations have been associated with malnutrition among both mothers and children. In India, for example, the withholding of food is a documented form of family abuse.
Domestic violence occurs across the world, in various cultures, and affects people of all economic statuses; however, indicators of lower socioeconomic status (such as unemployment and low income) have been shown to be risk factors for higher levels of domestic violence in several studies.
There continues to be some debate regarding gender differences with relation to domestic violence. Limitations of methodology that fail to capture context (e.g., conflict tactics scale), disparate sampling procedures, respondent reluctance to self-report, and differences in operationalization all pose challenges to existing research.Normalization of domestic violence in those who experience covert forms of abuse, or have been abused by multiple partners, for long periods of time, reduces the likelihood of recognizing, and therefore reporting domestic violence.
Hamby's (2009) report found that both men and women use IPV for coercive control, but define and use control differently: women use control to gain autonomy in abusive relationships, whereas men use control to assert authority over their partner. A 2010 systematic review of the literature on women's perpetration of IPV concluded that with male partners, women's use of IPV is overwhelmingly in response to their partner’s violence either in self-defense or in retaliation.
A 2011 review by researcher Chan Ko Ling from the University of Hong Kong found that perpetration of minor partner violence was equal for both men and women but more severe partner violence was far likelier to be perpetrated by men. His analysis found that men were more likely to beat up, choke or strangle their partners while women were more likely to throw objects, slap, kick, bite, punch, or hit with an object. Researchers have also found different outcomes for men and women in response to intimate partner violence. A 2012 review from the journal Psychology of Violence found that women suffered disproportionately as a result of intimate partner violence, especially in terms of injuries, fear, and posttraumatic stress. The review also found that 70% of female victims in one study were "very frightened" in response to intimate partner violence from their partners, but 85% of male victims reported "no fear". The review also found that IPV mediated the satisfaction of the relationship for women but not for men. Researchers report that male violence causes great fear, "fear is the force that provides battering with its power" and "injuries help sustain the fear."
A 2013 review examined studies from five continents and the correlation between a country's level of gender inequality and rates of domestic violence. The authors found that when partner abuse is defined broadly to include emotional abuse, any kind of hitting, and who hits first, partner abuse is relatively even. They also stated if one examines who is physically harmed and how seriously, expresses more fear, and experiences subsequent psychological problems, domestic violence is significantly gendered toward women as victims. Many organizations have made efforts to use gender-neutral terms when referring to perpetration and victimization. For example, using broader terms like family violence rather than violence against women.
Laws on domestic violence vary by country. While it is generally outlawed in the Western world, this is not the case in many developing countries. For instance, in 2010, the United Arab Emirates's Supreme Court ruled that a man has the right to physically discipline his wife and children as long as he does not leave physical marks. The social acceptability of domestic violence also differs by country. While in most developed countries domestic violence is considered unacceptable by most people, in many regions of the world the views are different: according to a UNICEF survey, the percentage of women aged 15–49 who think that a husband is justified in hitting or beating his wife under certain circumstances is, for example: 90% in Afghanistan and Jordan, 87% in Mali, 86% in Guinea and Timor-Leste, 81% in Laos, 80% in Central African Republic. Refusing to submit to a husband's wishes is a common reason given for justification of violence in developing countries: for instance 62.4% of women in Tajikistan justify wife beating if the wife goes out without telling the husband; 68% if she argues with him; 47.9% if she refuses to have sex with him.
See also: Violence against women § Domestic violence
The United Nations Population Fund found violence against women and girls to be one of the most prevalent human rights violations worldwide, stating that "one in three women will experience physical or sexual abuse in her lifetime." Violence against women tends to be less prevalent in developed Western nations, and more normalized in the developing world.
Wife beating was made illegal nationally in the United States by 1920. Although the exact rates are disputed, there is a large body of cross-cultural evidence that women are subjected to domestic violence significantly more often than men. In addition, there is broad consensus that women are more often subjected to severe forms of abuse and are more likely to be injured by an abusive partner, and this is exacerbated by economic or social dependence.
The United NationsDeclaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women (1993) states that "violence against women is a manifestation of historically unequal power relations between men and women, which has led to domination over and discrimination against women by men and to the prevention of the full advancement of women, and that violence against women is one of the crucial social mechanisms by which women are forced into a subordinate position compared with men". The Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women classifies violence against women into three categories: that occurring in the family (DV), that occurring within the general community, and that perpetrated or condoned by the State.
The Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment, and Eradication of Violence against Women defines violence against women as "any act or conduct, based on gender, which causes death or physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, whether in the public or the private sphere". Similarly with the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women, it classifies violence against women into three categories; one of which being DV – defined as violence against women which takes place "within the family or domestic unit or within any other interpersonal relationship, whether or not the perpetrator shares or has shared the same residence with the woman".
The Maputo Protocol adopted a broader definition, defining violence against women as: "all acts perpetrated against women which cause or could cause them physical, sexual, psychological, and economic harm, including the threat to take such acts; or to undertake the imposition of arbitrary restrictions on or deprivation of fundamental freedoms in private or public life in peace time and during situations of armed conflicts or of war".
The Istanbul Convention states: ""violence against women" is understood as a violation of human rights and a form of discrimination against women (...)". (Article 3 – Definitions). In the landmark case of Opuz v Turkey, the European Court of Human Rights held for the first time that gender-based domestic violence is a form of discrimination under the European Convention.
According to one study, the percentage of women who have reported being physically abused by an intimate partner vary from 69% to 10% depending on the country. In the United States, it is estimated that intimate partner violence accounts for 15% of all violent crime. The latest research (2017) by the CDC found that over half of all female homicides are committed by intimate partners, 98 percent of whom are men.
Femicide is usually defined as the gender-based killing of women by men, although the exact definitions vary. Femicides often occur in the context of DV, such as honor killings or dowry killings. For statistical purposes, femicide is often defined as any killing of a woman. The top countries by rate of femicide are El Salvador, Jamaica, Guatemala, South Africa and Russia (data from 2004–09). However, in El Salvador and Colombia, which have a very high rate of femicide, only three percent of all femicides are committed by a current or former intimate partner, while in Cyprus, France, and Portugal former and current partners are responsible for more than 80% of all cases of femicide.
Main article: Domestic violence against men
Domestic violence against men includes physical, emotional and sexual forms of abuse, including mutual violence. Male domestic violence victims may be reluctant to get help for various reasons. One study investigated whether women who assaulted their male partners were more likely to avoid arrest even when the male contacts police, and found that, "police are particularly unlikely to arrest women who assault their male partners." The reason being that they "assume that the man can protect himself from his female partner and that a woman's violence is not dangerous unless she assaults someone other than her partner". Another study concluded there is "some support for qualitative research suggesting that court personnel are responsive to the gendered asymmetry of intimate partner violence, and may view female intimate violence perpetrators more as victims than offenders." Despite this, arrests of female victims who fight back remains a widespread problem.
A consistent finding throughout the literature is that the majority of women arrested for IPV perpetration against male partners are victims using violence to resist and defend themselves against their batterers.
See also: Parental abuse by children
Adolescents and young adults
Main article: Teen dating violence
Among adolescents, researchers have primarily focused on heterosexual Caucasian populations. The literature indicates that rates are similar for the number of girls and boys in heterosexual relationships who report experiencing intimate partner violence (IPV), or that girls in heterosexual relationships are more likely than their male counterparts to report perpetrating IPV. Ely et al. stated that, unlike domestic violence in general, equal rates of IPV perpetration is a unique characteristic with regard to adolescent dating violence, and that this is "perhaps because the period of adolescence, a special developmental state, is accompanied by sexual characteristics that are distinctly different from the characteristics of adult." Wekerle and Wolfe theorized that "a mutually coercive and violent dynamic may form during adolescence, a time when males and females are more equal on a physical level" and that this "physical equality allows girls to assert more power through physical violence than is possible for an adult female attacked by a fully physically mature man."
While the genders engage in IPV at about equal rates, females are more likely to use less dangerous forms of physical violence (e.g. pushing, pinching, slapping, scratching or kicking), while males are more likely to punch, strangle, beat, burn, or threaten with weapons. Males are also more likely to use sexual aggression, although both genders are equally likely to pressure their partner into sexual activities. In addition, females are four times more likely to respond as having experienced rape and are more likely to suffer fatal injuries inflicted by their partner, or to need psychological help as a result of the abuse. Females are more likely to consider IPV a serious problem than are their male counterparts, who are more likely to disregard female-perpetrated IPV. Along with form, motivations for violence also vary by gender: females are likely to perpetrate violence in self-defense, while males are likely to perpetrate violence to exert power or control. The self-defense aspect is supported by findings that previous victimization is a stronger predictor of perpetration in females than in males. Other research indicates that boys who have been abused in childhood by a family member are more prone to IPV perpetration, while girls who have been abused in childhood by a family member are prone to lack empathy and self-efficacy; but the risks for the likelihood of IPV perpetration and victimization among adolescents vary and are not well understood.