What is domestic violence? | United Nations (2023)

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What is Domestic Violence?

domestic violence, also called "domestic violence" or "intimate partner violence", can be defined as a pattern of behavior in any relationship aimed at obtaining or maintaining power and control over an intimate partner. Abuse is any threatening physical, sexual, emotional, financial or psychological action or action that affects another person. This includes any behavior that frightens, intimidates, frightens, manipulates, hurts, humiliates, blames, hurts or hurts someone else. Domestic violence can happen to anyone, regardless of race, age, sexual orientation, religion or gender. It can occur in a variety of relationships, including couples who are married, living together, or dating. Domestic violence affects people from all socioeconomic backgrounds and educational levels.

Anyone can be a victim of domestic violence, regardless of age, race, gender, sexual orientation, creed or class.

Victims of domestic violence can also be a child or another relative or family member.

Domestic violence typically manifests itself as a pattern of abusive behavior towards an intimate partner in a relationship or family relationship where the perpetrator exercises power and control over the victim.

Domestic violence can be emotional, physical, financial or sexual in nature. Incidents are rarely isolated and often increase in frequency and severity. Domestic violence can result in serious injury or death.

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you are being abused

Read the following questions to think about how you are treated and how you treat your partner.

Recognize the signs of domestic violence

Your partner...

  • Blaming or making fun of you in front of your friends or family?
  • Do you leave your achievements aside?
  • Do you feel like you can't make decisions?
  • Do you use intimidation or threats to achieve compliance?
  • Say you're nothing without her?
  • Do you treat them roughly: grab, push, pinch, push or hit?
  • Does he call you multiple times at night or drop by to make sure you're where you said you were?
  • Do you use drugs or alcohol as an excuse to say hurtful things or verbally abuse you?
  • Do they blame you for how they feel or act?
  • Does he sexually pressure you for things you're not ready for?
  • Do you feel that there is "no way out" of the relationship?
  • Does it keep you from doing the things you want to do as a B. Spending time with friends or family?
  • Trying to keep you from leaving after a fight, or dropping you off somewhere after a fight to "teach you a lesson"?


  • Are you sometimes afraid of how your partner might behave?
  • Do you constantly apologize in front of other people for your partner's behavior?
  • Do you think you can help your partner change if you just change something about yourself?
  • Do you try not to do anything that might cause conflict or upset your partner?
  • Do you always do what your partner wants you to do instead of what you want?
  • Do you stay with your partner because you're afraid of what he would do if you broke up?

If any of these things are happening in your relationship, talk to someone. Without help, the abuse will continue. The first cry for help is a bold step.

Always remember...

  • NO ONE deserves to be abused. Abuse is not your fault. You are not alone.
  • DO NOT worry about the threat to your visa. We have information about visa options for your situation.
  • DON'T WORRY if you don't speak the local language. We can help you in several languages.

performance and steering wheel

Physical and sexual assaults, or threats to commit them, are the most obvious forms of abuse and domestic violence, and are often the actions that bring the problem to the attention of others. However, the habitual use of other abusive behaviors by the abuser when reinforced by one or more acts of physical violence configures a broader system of abuse. While physical assaults may be one-off or occasional, they create fear of future violent attacks and allow the perpetrator to take control of the victim's life and circumstances.

The Wheel of Power and Control is a particularly useful tool for understanding the general pattern of abusive and violent behavior that an abuser uses to gain and maintain control of their partner or other victim in the home. Often, one or more violent incidents can coincide with a variety of these other types of abuse. They are less easily identified but firmly establish a pattern of intimidation and control in the relationship.

(Source: Developed by the Domestic Abuse Intervention Project, Duluth, MN,https://www.thedulithmodel.org/)

emotional abuseit involves undermining a person's self-esteem through constant criticism; belittling one's abilities; attribution or other verbal abuse; harm the couple's relationship with their children; or not allowing a couple to see friends and family. You may be in an emotionally abusive relationship if your partner:

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  • He insults you, insults you or criticizes you all the time.
  • He doesn't trust you and acts jealous or possessive.
  • Try to isolate yourself from your family or friends.
  • Track where you go, who you call, and who you spend time with.
  • He doesn't want you to work.
  • Controls finances or refuses to share money.
  • He punishes him by denying him affection.
  • Wait until I ask your permission.
  • Threatening to harm you, your children, your family or your pets.
  • Kind of humiliates you.

psychological abuse: involves inducing fear through intimidation; threats of physical harm to self, partner or children; destruction of pets and property; "mind games"; or force isolation from friends, family, school and/or work.

Financial or economic abuse: means making or making a person financially dependent, maintaining full control of financial resources, preventing access to money and/or prohibiting him from attending school or employment.

mistreatment: Consists of injuring or injuring the partner by hitting, kicking, burning, grabbing, pinching, pushing, punching, pulling hair, biting, refusing medical attention or forcing the use of alcohol and/or drugs or using other physical violence. You may be in a physically abusive relationship if your partner:

  • Damages property when enraged (throws objects, hits walls, knocks down doors, etc.).
  • Poking, hitting, biting, kicking or choking.
  • Leaves you in a dangerous or unfamiliar place.
  • It scares you for reckless driving.
  • Use a weapon to threaten or harm him.
  • Forces you to leave the house.
  • lock him in his house or prevent him from leaving the house.
  • Prevents you from calling the police or seeing a doctor.
  • hurt your children
  • Use physical violence in sexual situations.

sexual abuse: consists of forcing a couple to participate in a sexual act when the couple does not give their consent. You may be in a sexually abusive relationship if your partner:

  • He accuses you of cheating or is often jealous of your outside relationships.
  • He wants you to dress sexually.
  • Sexually insulted you or called you sexual names.
  • You have ever been forced or manipulated to have sex or engage in sexual activity.
  • Holds you tight during sex.
  • You want sex when you're sick, tired, or when you beat yourself up.
  • Hurting you during intercourse with a weapon or objects.
  • Engage other people in sexual activities with you.
  • Ignore your feelings about sex.

Persecutionincludes any pattern of behavior that does not have a legitimate purpose and is intended to harass, annoy or frighten the victim. Typical stalking activities include repeated phone calls, unsolicited letters or gifts in the mail, surveillance of the victim's workplace, home, and other locations. Persecution usually escalates.

for survivors

  • Nobody deserves to be abused. Abuse is not your fault. You are not alone.
  • Contact the Critical Incident Stress Management Unit (CISMU) if you are concerned that you may be experiencing abuse or fear for your safety or the safety of your children.
  • If English is not your first language, you can request a language you are more comfortable with by contacting CISMU for assistance.
  • can also be seensupporting organizationsto identify and contact an appropriate resource for your assistance (US and international).
  • Read as you canProtect your digital privacy.

For interested employees: How can you help?

How can you help victims of domestic violence?

  • Listen and believe the abused person so they know they are not alone.
  • Encourage them to seek assistance through a confidential hotline to get in touch with a professional in the field.
  • Express your concern for him/her, show support, and offer referrals to available resources.
  • If you have not been contacted directly but have reason to believe a colleague may be in an abusive relationship, contact your organization's attorney or ombudsman >

To use: Be aware that a survivor will often make several attempts to leave the abusive relationship before succeeding.

For an abusive partner: are you an abuser?

  • If you find yourself abusing your partner, there may be resources in your community that can help you stop the abuse. HeNational Domestic Violence Hotlinehas a number of resources that can help. Although this is a US hotline, the tips and information can be helpful no matter where you live.
  • Please be aware that domestic violence not only violates the United Nations Code of Conduct, it can also be a criminal offense under the applicable laws of the duty station where you work.
  • Domestic Violence: How to Respond?
  • What is Domestic Violence?
  • supporting organizations
  • Know your legal rights
  • digital security
  • security planning
  • common questions
(Video) Indigenous victims of domestic violence


What is domestic violence in simple words? ›

Domestic violence is violence committed by someone in the victim's domestic circle. This includes partners and ex-partners, immediate family members, other relatives and family friends. The term 'domestic violence' is used when there is a close relationship between the offender and the victim.

How does domestic violence affect the nation? ›

Domestic violence affects the victim, families, co-workers, and community. It causes diminished psychological and physical health, decreases the quality of life, and results in decreased productivity. The national economic cost of domestic and family violence is estimated to be over 12 billion dollars per year.

What is domestic violence in the world? ›

Domestic abuse, also called "domestic violence" or "intimate partner violence", can be defined as a pattern of behavior in any relationship that is used to gain or maintain power and control over an intimate partner.

Why is domestic violence a big deal? ›

Today domestic violence is acknowledged as a serious, violent crime and part of society that harms women, increases child abuse, reduces medical resources, and endangers the lives and welfare of officers.

What is domestic violence in 100 words? ›

It includes hitting, punching, choking, slapping, and other kinds of violence. Moreover, the abuser also denies the victim medical care. Further, there is emotional abuse in which the person threatens and intimidates the victim. It also includes undermining their self-worth.

What is domestic violence in human rights? ›

Any harm, injury to health, safety, life, limb or well-being or any other act or threatening or coercion, etc., by any adult member of the family, constitutes domestic violence. · Any woman who is, or has been in a domestic or family relationship, if subjected to any act of domestic violence can complain.

How does violence impact society? ›

Violence scares people out of participating in neighborhood activities, limits business growth and prosperity, strains education, justice, and medical systems; and slows community progress.

How does domestic violence affect society as a whole? ›

Children who are victims of abuse ill do more poorly in school and relationships and carry those outcomes into society, future relationships, and the job market. Homelessness is another result of domestic violence due to fear, financial pressures, mental instability, or inability to care for oneself.

How are people affected by domestic abuse? ›

Victims experience anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, inability to trust others, flashbacks, eating and sleeping disorders, and emotional detachment. Considering or attempting suicide has been reported in 16% of victims, and self-harming in 13% of victims.

Where is domestic violence most common in the world? ›

According to various national surveys, the percentage of women who were ever physically assaulted by an intimate partner varies substantially by country: Barbados (30%), Canada (29%), Egypt (34%), New Zealand (35%), Switzerland (21%), United States (33%).

What are the main causes of violence? ›

Individual Risk Factors
  • History of violent victimization.
  • Attention deficits, hyperactivity, or learning disorders.
  • History of early aggressive behavior.
  • Involvement with drugs, alcohol, or tobacco.
  • Low IQ.
  • Poor behavioral control.
  • Deficits in social cognitive or information-processing abilities.
  • High emotional distress.

What is the most common type of violence in the world? ›

Domestic violence

It encompasses all physical, sexual, emotional, economic and psychological actions or threats of actions that influence another person. This is one of the most common forms of violence experienced by women globally.

Who is affected by domestic violence the most? ›

Women between the ages of 18-24 are most commonly abused by an intimate partner. 19% of domestic violence involves a weapon. Domestic victimization is correlated with a higher rate of depression and suicidal behavior. Only 34% of people who are injured by intimate partners receive medical care for their injuries.

How does domestic violence affect quality of life? ›

Psychological abuse usually takes place with the physical abuse and the consequences of such abuse include mood disorder, anxiety, posttraumatic stress disorder and attachment disorder. Domestic violence can also result in increased adverse psychological and behavioral outcomes such as smokingand suicide.

How does domestic violence affect the lives of its victims? ›

Domestic violence affects one's thoughts, feelings and behaviors and can significantly impact one's mental stability. Increased anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and depression symptoms are commonly observed among survivors of domestic violence.

What are five main types of violence? ›

Using these as a basis, we shall distinguish five inter-related types of violence:
  • physical violence.
  • verbal violence (including hate speech)
  • psychological violence.
  • sexual violence.
  • socio-economic violence.

Did you know facts about domestic violence? ›

Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women – more than car accidents, muggings, and rapes combined. Every 9 seconds in the U.S. a woman is assaulted or beaten. Every year, 1 in 3 women who is a victim of homicide is murdered by her current or former partner.

What are 3 types of violence? ›

Physical violence occurs when someone uses a part of their body or an object to control a person's actions. Sexual violence occurs when a person is forced to unwillingly take part in sexual activity. Emotional violence occurs when someone says or does something to make a person feel stupid or worthless.

What two rights are violated by abuse within a relationship? ›

Domestic violence and sexual abuse violate victims human rights to life, health, personal freedom and security, as well as their right not to be tortured or exposed to other inhuman, cruel or degrading treatment, as guaranteed by the UDHR and other international laws.

Is domestic violence a mental health issue? ›

Domestic violence is a serious public health issue that impacts survivors on a physical and mental scale.

Is domestic violence a crime in us? ›

In 1994, Congress passed the Violence Against Women Act ("VAWA"). This Act, and the 1996, 2000 and 2005 additions to the Act, recognizes that domestic violence is a national crime and that federal laws can help an overburdened state and local criminal justice system.

Why is violence a social issue? ›

The crime and violence is a social problem, which has unfavourable effects on the physical and psychological health conditions of the individuals. Within educational institutions of all levels, these acts compel individuals to drop out, before their educational skills are honed.

How does violence affect human behavior? ›

In general, both cross-sectional and longitudinal research finds that exposure to violence places young people at risk for persistent academic underachievement3, physical health problems (e.g., difficulty sleeping, headaches, heart disease, immune disease4,5), mental health problems (e.g., depression, anxiety, post- ...

How can we stop violence? ›

Tips for Youth to Stop Violence
  1. Tell someone. If you are the victim or are witness to violence, tell someone. ...
  2. Take all violence and abuse seriously. ...
  3. Take a stand. ...
  4. Be an individual. ...
  5. Take back the power. ...
  6. Remember, putting others down doesn't raise you up. ...
  7. Wrong. ...
  8. Be a friend.

What social factors influence domestic violence? ›

Risk Factors for Intimate Partner Violence Perpetration
  • Low self-esteem.
  • Low education or income.
  • Young age.
  • Aggressive or delinquent behavior as a youth.
  • Heavy alcohol and drug use.
  • Depression and suicide attempts.
  • Anger and hostility.
  • Lack of nonviolent social problem-solving skills.

How does abuse affect your life? ›

Maltreatment can cause victims to feel isolation, fear, and distrust, which can translate into lifelong psychological consequences that can manifest as educational difficulties, low self-esteem, depression, and trouble forming and maintaining relationships.

What abuse happens the most? ›

Nationally, neglect is the most common form of abuse.

Three-fourths (More than 75%) of victims were neglected , 16% were physically abused, and 9% were sexually abused , and 0.2% are sex trafficked.

What is the most common form of violence in the US? ›

Dating Violence

In fact, it is by far the most prevalent type of youth violence, and it impacts our nation's youth regardless of gender, race, socioeconomic class, or sexual orientation.

What is the most common form of domestic violence in America? ›

Most Common Forms

Physical Abuse: This can include actions such as pushing, restraining, slapping/punching, kicking, scratching, etc. Emotional Abuse: Typically, emotional abuse begins verbally.

What cultures have the most domestic violence? ›

Although completely accurate numbers are probably not available, researchers generally agree that among ethnic minority groups in the United States, Blacks are the most likely to experience domestic violence—either male-to-female or female-to-male—followed by Hispanics and then Whites.

Who are the main victims of violence? ›

While abuse can happen to anyone, women are by far the most frequent victims and men are the most frequent abusers. The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that 95 percent of the assaults on partners or spouses is committed by men against women.

Which are the 3 main warning signs that someone may be an abuser? ›

Warning Signs of an Abusive Person
  • Jealousy and Possessiveness. Wants to be with you constantly. ...
  • Controlling Behavior. ...
  • Quick Involvement. ...
  • Unrealistic Expectations. ...
  • Isolation. ...
  • Blames Others for Problems. ...
  • Blames Others for Feelings. ...
  • Hypersensitivity.

What are the two causes of abuse? ›

What causes child abuse
  • isolation and lack of support — no family members, friends, partners or community support to help with the demands of parenting.
  • stress — financial pressures, job worries, medical problems or caring for a family member with a disability.
Mar 21, 2018

What does abuse do to a woman? ›

The psychological effects of this can be far-reaching: eighty-five per cent of abused women indicate that they have experienced some type of negative emotional effects including anger, fear, becoming less trusting, suffering from lowered self-esteem, depression, anxiety, shame and guilt.

Which group faces the highest risk of abuse? ›

Chronological age of child: 50% of abused children are younger than 3 years old; 90% of children who die from abuse are younger than 1 year old; firstborn children are most vulnerable. Low self-esteem: Neglectful parents often neglect themselves and see themselves as worthless people.

Where does abuse happen the most? ›

Abuse mainly occurs within the close social environment

This includes relatives, friends and family acquaintances or even employees in educational, leisure and sport facilities. Children and adolescents suffer sexual violence within their nuclear family in most cases.

What day has the most domestic violence? ›

1 This study found that domestic violence reports are higher than the normal daily average on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day, with New Year's Day averaging 2.7 times more incidents of domestic violence than the normal daily average.

What type of relationship has the highest domestic violence rate? ›

Two new studies conducted by researchers at Sam Houston State University looked at how domestic violence affects people who've had at least one serious same-sex relationship and found that they were more likely to encounter domestic violence than heterosexual people.

Why does domestic violence affect mental health? ›

Domestic violence is associated with depression, anxiety, PTSD and substance abuse in the general population. Exposure to domestic violence has a significant impact on children's mental health. Many studies have found strong links between poorer educational outcomes and higher levels of mental health problems.

What are the 4 main types of violence? ›

Forms of violence
  • Physical violence. Any act which causes physical harm as a result of unlawful physical force. ...
  • Sexual violence. Any sexual act perfomed on an individual without their consent. ...
  • Psychological violence. Any act which causes psychological harm to an individual. ...
  • Economic violence.

What are the 3 phases in the domestic violence cycle? ›

There are three phases in the cycle of violence: (1) Tension-Building Phase, (2) Acute or Crisis Phase, and (3) Calm or Honeymoon Phase. Without intervention, the frequency and severity of the abuse tends to increase over time. Over a period of time there may be changes to the cycle.

What are the two most common types of abuse? ›

The second most common type of child abuse after neglect is physical abuse.

What are the two main types of abuse? ›

Types of domestic violence or abuse

psychological. physical.

What are the 4 most common causes of violence? ›

Other factors which can be causes of violence include:

Having low self-worth. Experiencing abuse or neglect. Witnessing violence in the home, community, or medias. Access to weapons.

What are five common acts of violence? ›

Psychological violence (also referred to as emotional or mental abuse) includes verbal and non-verbal communication used with the intent to harm another person mentally or emotionally, or to exert control over another person.
Collective violence
  • Physical violence.
  • Sexual violence.
  • Psychological violence.
  • Neglect.

What are 2 effects of domestic violence on victims? ›

Domestic violence affects one's thoughts, feelings and behaviors and can significantly impact one's mental stability. Increased anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and depression symptoms are commonly observed among survivors of domestic violence.

Where does domestic violence occur the most? ›

More than 60% of domestic violence incidents happen at home.

What is the first stage of spousal abuse? ›

Phase 1-Tension Building

In the first phase, tension builds in the relationship. Victims report their partners becoming increasingly irritable, frustrated, and unable to cope with every-day stresses. The abuser may lash out at the victim at this time, but generally stops and becomes apologetic.

What is the cycle of an abuser? ›

Summary. The cycle of abuse is a four-stage cycle used to describe the way abuse sometimes occurs in relationships. The stages—tension, incident, reconciliation, and calm—repeat themselves over and over again if the abuse follows this pattern.


1. Domestic Violence in Afghanistan: Sosans Story
(United Nations)
2. Choctaw Nation: Domestic Violence Prevention Program Project
3. Domestic Violence and Religion
4. The Intersection of Medical Marginalization & Domestic Violence | United Nations | Annmaria Antony
(Annmaria Antony)
5. Violence against women: Spain's fight against domestic abuse
(FRANCE 24 English)
6. Domestic Violence in Honduras
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