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The Facts About Domestic Violence

Domestic violence is a pattern of abusive behaviors used by one individual intended to exert power and control over another individual in the context of an intimate or family relationship.

Pattern: Domestic violence involves more than one or even several isolated incidents of violence. It involves an interrelated pattern that includes a wide variety of abusive behaviors and usually increases in frequency and intensity over time.

The Cycle of Violence

The cycle of violence can happen many times in an abusive relationship. Each stage lasts a different amount of time in the relationship, with the total cycle taking from a few hours to a year or more to complete. Emotional abuse is present in all three stages.

Learn more about the cycle of violence.

Abusive Behaviors: Abusive or coercive behaviors may include, but are not limited to, physical assaults, verbal assaults, threats, intimidation, use of weapons, isolation, destruction of property, violence toward other significant people or pets, sexual manipulation and control over economic resources.

Examples of emotional, physical, sexual and financial abuse.

Intent: The pattern of behaviors is not a matter of coincidence or the result of a time-limited crisis. Rather, it is an ongoing pattern in the relationship whereby the abuser acts to control the other person.

See the Power and Control Wheel.

Domestic Violence: The Facts

  • Around the world, at least one in every four women has been beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused during her lifetime. (The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and The National Institute of Justice, Extent, Nature, and Consequences of Intimate Partner Violence, July 2000)
  • Intimate partner violence is primarily a crime against women. In 2001, women accounted for 85 percent of the victims of intimate partner violence (588,490 total) and men accounted for approximately 15 percent of the victims (103,220 total). (Bureau of Justice Statistics Crime Data Brief, Intimate Partner Violence, 1993-2001, February 2003)
  • The price tag each year for intimate partner rape, physical assault and stalking women is more than $5.8 billion, which includes medical and mental health services and lost productivity. (“Costs of Intimate Partner Violence in the United States.” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, 2003)
  • In 2000, 1,247 women were killed by an intimate partner. The same year, 440 men were killed by an intimate partner. (Bureau of Justice Statistics Crime Data Brief, Intimate Partner Violence, 1993-2001, February 2003)
  • An abuser will hit their partner an average of 35 times before police are notified for the first time. (Bureau of Justice Statistics Crime Data Brief, February 2003)
  • More than 80 percent of women stalked by a current or former intimate partner are also physically assaulted by that partner. More than 30 percent of women stalked by a current or former intimate partner are also sexually assaulted by that partner. Intimate partners that stalk are four times more likely than intimate partners in the general population to physically assault their victims and six times more likely to sexually assault their victims. (Tjaden, Patricia and Thoennes, Nancy, April 1998, Stalking in America: Findings From the National Violence Against Women Survey, July 2007).

Domestic Violence and the Connection to Homelessness

When a person leaves an abusive relationship, they often have nowhere to go. For many, the only choices are staying in the abusive environment, going to a shelter or living on the street. Studies show a connection between domestic violence to homelessness, particularly among families with children. Some studies have found domestic violence to be the leading cause of homelessness among women with children. Shelters provide immediate safety, respite and supportive services. Unfortunately, shelters are frequently filled to capacity and often turn away women and their children. It is estimated that, in one year in Virginia, 2,000 women seeking shelter from domestic violence were turned away due to lack of space or resources.

View a list of local, state, and national resources.