Domestic Violence

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Definition

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.

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.

Quick Facts

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.

Analysis

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