Domestic Violence

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21-55% of Asian women report experiencing physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner during their lifetime.

Facts and Stats Report (2015)

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.

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.

Power and Control Wheel developed by Domestic Abuse Intervention Programs (
Domestic violence is gendered: 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.

Graphic from 2008. Data from Ho CK. An Analysis of Domestic Violence in Asian American Communities: A Multicultural Approach to Counseling. Women & Therapy. 9(1-2): 129-150.


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.
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.

Resources on Domestic Violence

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.

Domestic Violence Hotlines

National Domestic Violence Hotline
1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or online chat

Love Is Respect
1-866-331-8453 | Text ‘loveis’ to 22522
or online chat

StrongHearts Native Helpline