Domestic violence is a systematic pattern of behaviors that include physical battering, coercive control, economic abuse, emotional abuse, and/or sexual violence. It is intended to gain or maintain power and control over a romantic or intimate partner to intimidate, frighten, terrorize, humiliate, blame, or injure. It can happen to anyone of any age, race, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender, religion, education level, or socioeconomic background; regardless of whether couples are married, living together, dating, or hooking-up.
Couple conflict is distinct from domestic violence – all relationships experience conflicts, disagreements, fights, angry arguments, harsh words, unwilling compromises, resentments, selfish decisions, pain and anguish. In healthy relationships, couples use a variety of behaviors and strategies to cope with or resolve their conflicts without resorting to domestic violence.
- Studies from different countries show that 15-71% of women 15-49 years old have experienced physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime.
WHO: Violence against Women: The Health Sector Responds (2013)
- Among ever-partnered men, 26-80% have perpetrated physical and/or sexual partner violence in their lifetime.
WHO: Violence against Women: The Health Sector Responds (2013)
- In a six-year period, 160 cases of domestic violence related homicide resulted in 226 fatalities, of which 78% of victims were women and girls.
Shattered Lives: Homicides, Domestic Violence, and Asian Families (2010)
- 56% of Filipinas and 64% of Indian or Pakistani battered women report intimate sexual violence.
- 68% of Filipinas and 50% of Indian or Pakistani battered women report being stalked by an intimate partner.
Intimate Partner Violence and Help-Seeking (2011)
Domestic violence is gendered: In the U.S., 1 in 4 women and 1 in 9 men have experienced contact sexual violence, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime and reported an IPV-related impact. Among female survivors, 73% reported at least one impact, compared to 36% of male survivors (CDC: NISVS 2010-2012 State Report).
Domestic violence is more than a series of violent incidents on an identifiable cycle. It is about living in a climate of fear and disempowering restrictions that threaten and affect one’s selfhood, psychological well-being, health, economic independence, and emotional availability for parenting.
Stress and marginalized identities are not the cause or explanation for domestic violence. Women have the same life experiences and stresses: they come from violent homes, they have childhood histories of abuse, neglect or abandonment, they get cut off on the freeway, they get high or drunk, they get fired from their jobs, they juggle economic hardships, etc. Women are socialized in cultures with legacies of colonialism, live in war zones, endure racism, deal with new cultures as immigrants and face societal and linguistic barriers. And yet, women by and large do not resort to physical abuse. Non-abusive men are also subject to the same stressors. Women and non-abusive men do of course have personal and inter-personal difficulties, psychological problems, feel depressed, lack parenting insights, have inadequate job skills, are constrained by poverty, but cope without resorting to violence. Finally, men who do not have any of these difficulties or deficits, batter. It is important therefore, to de-link external factors as the root causes of domestic violence.
Two Significant, Differing Dynamics In Asian Homes
Domestic violence is a universal problem, but its cultural expressions differ. Drawing attention to such differences can serve to confirm stereotypes because nuanced complexities are hard to convey; but advocacy that is not rooted in cultural contexts is even more problematic.
Multiple Batterers, Single Victim
- Perpetrators can include marital family members: husbands, mothers-in-law, fathers-in-law, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, ex-wives, new wives; and/or members of a woman’s natal family – her parents, aunts, uncles, adult siblings.
- Multiple batterers may act separately, each using different types of abuse.
- Multiple batterers can act together, playing different roles in one incident.
- In-laws may encourage or support domestic violence, but not perpetrate it themselves.
- Multiple abusers may use coercive control tactics; exercise micro-controls on daily movements – monitoring, tracking, and reporting on them; exert power and control from afar through texting, webcams, other technologies.
Push & Pull Factors
- Pull factors are behaviors and statements that ‘pull’ or lure her back into the relationship by offering apologies, reassurances and promises to change.
- Push factors are meant to ‘push’ her out of the relationship, rather than draw her back in.
- Asian women report feeling pushed out of the relationship or marital home (with statements such as “leave the house, give me a divorce, I can always find another wife”) more frequently than they are pulled or enticed back into it.
- Push and pull factors affect how survivors make decisions, especially about leaving.
Resources on Domestic Violence
Statistics from published and unpublished studies on prevalence of abuse, domestic violence, types of abuse, attitudes towards domestic violence, help seeking attitudes and experiences, service utilization, health and mental health consequences, exposure to family violence in childhood, and domestic violence related homicides.
This training curriculum on serving API domestic violence survivors addresses dynamics such as violence over the lifecourse and multiple batterers.
Lifecourse Experiences of Intimate Partner Violence and Help-Seeking among Filipina, Indian, and Pakistani Women, 2010
IPV often recurs over the lifecourse and survivors’ decisions to seek help are shaped by their history of positive and negative experiences of help-seeking, and because their preferred and actual sources of help change over time. Using the Life History Calendar to interview 143 Filipina, Indian and Pakistani domestic violence survivors, this research enhances our understanding of help-seeking over the lifecourse and makes recommendations for system responses to domestic violence in Asian communities.
Ethnic-Specific Factsheets on Domestic Violence
Ethnic-specific compilations of statistics on domestic violence, sexual violence, stalking, and help-seeking in Asian communities in the U.S.
Technical Assistance & Training from the Domestic Violence Resource Network (DVRN)
Battered Women’s Justice Project: civil, criminal and military justice systems.
National LGBTQ Institute on IPV: a project of the Northwest Network of Bi, Trans, Lesbian and Gay Survivors